After a trade to the San Jose Earthquakes, Mehdi Ballouchy is returning to his hometown crowd at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Former Bronco All-American Mehdi Ballouchy is once again calling Santa Clara's Buck Shaw Stadium home. The seven-year MLS veteran was acquired by the San Jose Earthquakes in a deal that gave the New York Red Bulls an international player spot and a 2013 draft pick.
Ballouchy made a significant debut with the Quakes, nearly setting up a second-half goal during San Jose's 2-2 draw in a friendly game against Swansea City of the English Premier League. It was a transforming experience for Ballouchy—once a fan, now a player: “I remember going to the games back when they were at San Jose State. Even Ramiro [Corrales] was, back then, on the team. So for me to play with him now, is kind of weird to be fair, but [the Earthquakes] were really the first team I cheered on in the MLS.”
When asked what he thought about being traded, Ballouchy expressed mixed feelings: “Getting traded is always bittersweet because you have to move right away, from friends and teammates. But once I heard that I was moving back here, it made the transition easier. I spent four years of my life training here, walking around campus, so for me that was the sweet part of the deal.”
Ballouchy arrived in the United States at the age of 16, and attended nearby Gunn High School in Palo Alto. After playing a year at Creighton University, he transferred to Santa Clara University where his soccer career took off.
Ballouchy was a First Team NCAA All-American while playing at Santa Clara in 2004 and 2005. In 2005, he was the WCC “Player of the Year” and a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, the highest individual award given in intercollegiate soccer. He helped the Broncos advance into the NCAA tournament in both years, achieving a national ranking as high as No. 4 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).
After choosing to forego his senior year of college, he was taken No. 2 overall in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft by Real Salt Lake, becoming the highest overall pick ever from Santa Clara and the sixth Bronco to be selected in the first round. Ballouchy credited coaches Cameron Rast '92, Eric Yamamoto ’90, MBA ’95, and Rusty Johnson ’01 for preparing him for the MLS: “They do a great job of building players, and they’ve built a lot of pros.” The coaching trio has produced 13 MLS draft picks in the past decade, including four first-round picks.
"I've admired his play over the seven years he's been in the league," Earthquakes manager Frank Yallop said in a club statement. "He's steadily improved since joining MLS. Mehdi's a good player, a great addition to our team, and we're looking forward to having him here in San Jose." In 2009, Ballouchy was named to the All-Decade Team by College Soccer News.
San Jose leads the MLS in goals (45) and with a 13-5-5 record and 44 points, the Earthquakes are currently the league's best team. Regardless, Ballouchy will still try to make an impact on the team: “I’m a hard worker, I’m a great teammate—I train really hard, and hopefully I can contribute where they need me. But the team is doing well, so I’m looking forward to coming in and helping the team do even better.”
The next chance to watch Ballouchy and the Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium is on Saturday, Aug. 25 at 7:30 p.m. against the Colorado Rapids.
You can read more about Mehdi Ballouchy's impressive collegiate career on Santa Clara University athletic's page.