CALGARY — Things have come full circle for Jordan Santiago.
The Cavalry FC goalkeeper coach is a born and raised Calgarian. He spent time in Europe as both a player, and a coach, one of the few from Calgary who have managed that feat abroad.
But, with professional soccer taking root in the city, Santiago decided it was time to come home.
“I missed Canada, and I missed Calgary,” Santiago told CanPL.ca. “I’m super happy with the way everything turned out and what I’m doing.”
And that everything includes stints at Cardiff City and Holland’s SC Veendam. It was a hip injury in his early 20s that left him doing some soul-searching, wondering what was next since he had left Calgary when he was still in Grade 11 to pursue opportunities across the pond.
“I was trialling in places and going to teams. I got offered a couple of contracts,” the now 28-year-old recalled. “But, when I was training with my old coach at West Ham United, Sam Allardyce, he sat down with me and said he saw a lot of qualities in me that I would have a bright future in coaching. They offered me a contract that was too good to say no to.”
Still young enough to be in the prime of his own goalkeeping career, Santiago served as the lead goalkeeping coach for the youth development phase at West Ham United from 2013 to 2014. The opportunity gave him a chance to hone his craft before returning to his home city and eventually connecting with Cavalry head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.
“He’s got a big reputation around Calgary,” Santiago said of the Cavs coach. “Our relationship has grown over the last year. There’s trust there, and we work well together.”
Wheeldon Jr. believes the addition of Santiago to his staff has brought the immeasurable experience of knowing what it takes to be successful away from the comforts of home at such a young age.
“He’s from Calgary, and he knows what this city is all about,” Wheeldon Jr. explained. “However, he’s also had to leave this city to pursue his professional dreams, but he’s returned with the knowledge to give back to the game. He’s young, he’s hungry, and he’ll help push the game forward.”
Cavalry’s roster features two young netminders, local product Marco Carducci, along with Niko Giantsopoulos, both of whom, according to Santiago, bring a different but equally impressive skill set.
“Marco is very technical, a good distributor of the ball,” Santiago said. “Niko can make saves that people don’t think are possible. It’s a good competition, and they have things they can learn off of each other. My goal is to see one of them with the national team in seven years for the World Cup.”
Also on Santiago’s list? To see another sport flourish and leave its mark in Alberta’s biggest city.
“Come to the first game and see if you like it,” he offered ahead of the club’s May 4 home opening date versus York9. “To have something locally that kids can go to, look up to and work to — it’s an exciting time for Calgary.”