Deon McCaulay (pictured) has gotten his Atlanta Silverbacks career off to a good start. The Belize international has two goals in his first four games. (Photo: Elaine Carroll)
ATLANTA, Georgia -- Each day he steps onto a soccer pitch, Deon McCaulay does so with motivation derived from several sources.
The 26-year-old striker plays to make a better life for his family, to represent the people of Belize and to open doors for other Belizean soccer players.
“Growing up in Belize is not something that was very easy. Most young men don’t get very far in life,” stressed McCaulay. “As a kid, I didn’t even own my own football. I didn’t have shoes on my feet. I always try to think about where I come from.”
He is now a member of the Atlanta Silverbacks, signing with the North American Soccer League club in February.
“Life here is good,” McCaulay expressed. “It took a couple of games to get used to what the league is about, but I think I’ve adjusted well. There are a lot more physical players in this league.”
McCaulay previously played professionally in Belize for Kremandala, FC Belize, Belize Defence Force and Belmopan Bandits, in Costa Rica for Puntarenas and for Deportes Savio in Honduras.
He had a trial with the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer, but his current home is in a city with a population larger than all of Belize.
“I traveled to the U.S. a lot, but now I get to stay here permanently and do my trade here,” McCaulay said. “I’ve adjusted to the lifestyle. I’m grateful to be here and I’m hoping to make the most of the opportunity.”
McCaulay earned worldwide notoriety by scoring a competition-best 11 goals in qualifying for Brazil 2014, matching the totals of Robin Van Persie and Luis Suarez.
“It was one of the best times I had as a goal scorer, especially on the national team,” he noted. “It was a special time for me. When we finished qualifying and saw I had 11 goals I thought surely someone was going to catch me. I guess it was my time.”
Belize didn’t progress to the FIFA World Cup, but the team did play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time last summer. The Jaguars finished bottom in a group that contained the United States, Costa Rica and Cuba. A taste of competing in the prestigious tournament, however, has made McCaulay and his teammates hungry for more, especially with Copa Centroamericana – Central America’s qualifying competition for the Gold Cup -- coming up later in the year.
“We can take a lot of positives and some negatives from the Gold Cup,” McCaulay said. “There’s now incredible growth in football in Belize. A lot of the players are playing professionally and now we know what it takes to win. Now we always want to be in the Gold Cup.”
McCaulay knows there is pressure on him every time he steps on the field, but he embraces it and stays grounded.
“I’m always thinking about my country and where I come from,” McCaulay finished. “We’re a small country. We maybe have 300,000 people. I try to keep calm and humble. I know a lot is expected of me.”