Fortunes can rise and fall quickly in the world of professional soccer. One minute you’re on an unstoppable upward trend, and the next you’re on the outside looking in.
Recent Cavalry FC signing David Norman Jr. has seen his career progress through a rapid series of ups and downs over the past few years. He had a phenomenal start to his career with the Vancouver Whitecaps, but the past year on the books of Inter Miami CF saw his star sputter a little.
These past few weeks, though, seem to have put Norman back on his skyward trajectory. Not long after signing for the Cavs, Norman was named to Canada’s final Under-23 Olympic Qualifying squad for the competition later this month. Finally, he’ll have another chance to prove himself.
The year 2020 was an unfortunate one across the board for Norman, who had hoped to nail down an opportunity in MLS with the Miami expansion side. Things didn’t quite go to plan, though, with injuries ultimately preventing him from seeing any game action in the entire year.
“(Miami) was a great experience for everything but the football aspect of it,” Norman told CanPL.ca this week. “Unfortunately in the third week of pre-season, which I thought was going well, I injured my ankle, which then was about three months of a bit of a misdiagnosis. We weren’t really quite sure what was happening, it kept on bothering me when I was returning to play.”
Norman finally got surgery on his ankle last May, which would rule him out for the whole MLS season. He didn’t even return to full training until Inter Miami’s season was over.
The sojourn in Florida had been an incredible opportunity for Norman — getting in on the ground floor of a new side in MLS. He revealed that he did, indeed, get a chance to meet the club’s part-owner David Beckham, whom Norman said was much more hands-on in the running of the club prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ultimately, though, it wasn’t to be.
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“I looked at it and said, hey, I’m only 22 but I haven’t played enough football in the last couple years,” Norman said. “Where’s the best opportunity gonna be for me to prove myself again? I understand the qualities I do have, it’s being able to show them every week.”
Cavalry was a logical choice. Norman had seen the CPL level already, having played eight games on loan for Pacific FC in 2019, and he knew coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. well already from his experiences with the Canadian U-17 national team.
“I feel like I’m fairly self aware and it’s just unfortunate with the two injuries I’ve had the past couple years, I haven’t played enough to show that. But I do know my qualities and I’m just ready to be somewhere that I’m enjoying my football again,” Norman offered.
“I thought (the CPL) was a very good level. I think you see it from the players that are coming to play in the league, some of the young players that are proving themselves and getting call-ups into the national team, signing deals elsewhere and doing well in other leagues as well. I want to show and get my name back on the minds of national team coaches and prove again that I am one of the top young players in the country.”
Norman already seems to be on the minds of national team coaches — he’ll be in Guadalajara with the Olympic qualifying team later this month. Regular club football, in general, is his number one objective, though. At the current stage in his career, any more extended time away from matches could damage his future prospects.
At Cavalry, it seems Norman has found a club that will be striving to fit him into its plans. Wheeldon revealed last week that he could have a trick or two in store for how he deploys Norman, in the interest of getting the best out of the youngster.
“I think I have qualities where I can play both centre midfield and centre-back,” Norman revealed. “I have over the course of my youth career, and over the course of my professional career most of it has been as a centre midfielder, but I think Tommy knows I’m confident in both positions. I think we’ll see what’s going to happen, how he sees me fitting into his team. I think that’ll come into fruition more once we get going with pre-season in Calgary.”
Above all, Norman is just excited to get on the pitch with the club he believes is the best in the CPL.
“The first thing I’m looking at is to win. Going into season, I have a mindset of a winner, and I know that Tommy does,” he said.
“I know that their club mentality is to win. That’s the first thing on my head going into the season with Cavalry, and personally I think it’s just getting myself back on that radar by having someone that believes in me in the coaching staff in Calgary. Having somewhere where I can prove it.”