A skillful attacking midfielder, Luis Silva is exactly the playmaker that fits into United’s system. With an incredible ability to connect the midfield with the forwards, slot dangerous balls through gaps in opponents’ backlines, and find the net himself, Silva, at the young age of 24, has proven a difference maker thus far.
“He makes other players better because he’s able to do his job very well, because his positional awareness and his technique with the ball are very good,” said Assistant Coach Josh Wolff.
“I think we have plenty of players that can create opportunity,” said Silva. “I am happy to be the guy that brought that spark and hopefully; we can keep that going.”
“That spark” is evident to anyone watching a D.C. United game. The passion he plays with is almost tangible. Silva explained one motivator continually runs through his mind, propelling that passion; “Always remember where you come from.”
“We come from a small town in Mexico, and my mom had struggled a lot. So, it would be nice to be able to help her out with everything,” Silva said.
At a young age, Silva and his family moved to Los Angeles, California, and that’s where he fell in love with the game. As with every relationship, sometimes love isn’t enough; he needed the support of others, as well as the guidance of loved once.
“Growing up, it was a little tough because I didn’t live in the nicest neighborhood. There was a bit of violence around me in middle school and high school with gangs,” Silva recalled. “My mom and uncle would do whatever they could to keep soccer and school a priority.”
Watching several friends go “the wrong way” made it harder for Silva, just a high school student wanting to hang out with his friends.
“There were times when you are tempted to do things like that. There are guys that want you to party or ditch,” he said. “But, then you have good surroundings, other good friends who are really into soccer too. I was playing soccer 2-3 hours a day, so that kept me really busy.”
Becoming a good soccer player didn’t just happen, though. Silva didn’t leisurely kick a ball around to stay out of trouble, away from gang violence. His passion was there since the age of five. Both of the young midfielder’s uncles played a large role in shaping the young man we see take the field on game days in that No. 12 D.C. United jersey.
“I started playing soccer thanks to my Uncle Oscar. He came from Mexico. Well, that, and the World Cup came in ’94, and it was like soccer fever here in the States,” Silva remembered. “But it was my other Uncle, Lionel, he is the one in my high school years. He helped me a lot, knowing that I really didn’t want to go to school. He forced me and kept pushing me to be successful in school, and that is pretty much how I got good grades to go to college.”
But the sacrifices his mother made to provide for him and his two younger sisters have not been forgotten amongst the vivid memory of his uncles’ influences.
“My mom was always trying to provide, working two jobs—we wouldn’t even see her most of the time because she needed to put food on the table. My mom always pushed for an education. She wanted me to be the first in the family to go to college.”
Silva played four years at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was named to the All-Big West First Team three times, as well as being recognized as a MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist after his senior year.
The young midfielder’s growth in character and outlook is evident in speaking with him about his childhood and family, but his growth as a playmaker is evident in the numbers. After walking on as a freshman, Silva scored only one goal and registered four assists. During his sophomore campaign, Silva produced four goals and five assists. The trend continued, as he netted six goals and assisted on four during his junior year. Then, in his final season, Silva scored an impressive 17 goals and registered 10 assists.
But statistics aren’t everything, especially for a midfielder. According to D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper, Silva possesses all the qualities off the field that make him a “perfect fit.”
“He’s a great guy in the locker room, and he’s been very well-received, obviously, by our staff and our fans,” Kasper said.
For Josh Wolff, Silva’s soccer IQ is what makes him special. “He’s a very soccer-savvy player. He’s getting in good spots, he’s able to deal with difficult situations, and his finished product around the box is very good. He’s very education for a young attacker.”
For Silva, though, it’s more than making the correct run, putting the right weight on a pass or choosing to shoot rather than pass. It’s about more than just the game.
“Soccer got me the opportunity to go to school and to get a degree, and I was fortunate and blessed to become a professional soccer player,” he said.