If you blink, there is a good chance you are going to miss Azteca FC founder, owner, and coach Rose Shoen.
Between a day job in the finance sector, coaching two Sacramento-based men’s teams in the San Francisco Soccer Football League (SFSFL) as well as the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) and coaching several Azteca FC youth teams while running the entire program, Shoen has become adept at squeezing every ounce out of a day to fulfill her goals.
“The vision I have involves mentoring and developing young minority and underprivileged kids and providing educational and soccer opportunities which give them structure to succeed in all areas of their lives,” Shoen said.
When Shoen is in your corner, she will push you and stay on top of you constantly to go above and beyond any ceiling you had previously set for yourself. She won’t accept anything less, and she won’t allow her players to either.
“You can count on Rose to make you a better person, soccer player and a better student,” said Adrian Lopez, who played for Shoen when she was located in Reno, Nevada several years ago.
“I met Rose when I was 16 and, to be honest, I didn’t really like her. I didn’t like how hard she was on me – I didn’t like how she was always trying to control what I did off the field, not knowing she was only trying to push my abilities and open doors for me. Rose somehow knew I was going through some tough times and she took me under her wing. She would pick me up to go to practice and, even though I did not want to go, I always texted her to say that ‘I’m outside.’ She never gave up on me. She would always say that she saw a lot of potential in me.”
Lopez’s story has played out repeatedly over the course of Shoen’s young coaching career. She has coached and led numerous players out of extremely difficult situations to college careers and, more importantly, success in life.
After playing four years of varsity soccer at Earl Wooster High School in Reno, Shoen graduated and almost immediately immersed herself into the administrative side of organized soccer.
After playing one season collegiately at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, Shoen returned home and began coaching in the winter of 2010.
She has not stopped since.
“In high school, I saw that there was this whole Latino sub-culture of soccer in the US,” Shoen said. “I played in leagues with super talented Latinos and it was beautiful. I was on the No. 1 Women’s League in indoor northern Nevada. I knew it was a culture I wanted to work with immediately.
“I coached and managed and started a small business called Soccer Academy and saw all these talented players who did not understand the system when it came to college and college recruiting. I worked with these players constantly from 2011-2013.”
During this time, Shoen also co-managed a professional indoor soccer team and got to see the process of running a soccer club from the inside – marketing, advertising, community organization, etc. Here is just a partial list of some of her other activities during the same time:
Head Coach of indoor youth futsal teams ages U7-U15 for El Sol Soccer League in Reno
Head Coach of Legacy FC Boys U13, U17, U18 and U19
Shoen took all that experience with her to California in 2013 and immediately immersed herself in the Sacramento area, taking over as general manager of the Bay Area Rosal professional arena soccer team in October of that year.
At the same time, Shoen founded Azteca FC in August 2013. The club has been progressing forward rapidly ever since, joining the SFSFL in 2015 and UPSL in 2017 after competing in the Central California Soccer League in 2014 and 2015.
“If you want to prove yourself as a young coach in a men’s league, get your men’s team out there consistently for 22 Sundays over a six-month period. Good luck,” Shoen said.
“It is a lot of work. You’re dealing with guys still in college who are leaving toward the end of the season and guys who have just left. You constantly need to fill in your holes. There are JuCo [junior college] guys, guys who never went to college, D-II and D-III guys, guys who come from the pirate Mexican leagues. You need to pick them up at 5-6 in the morning, take them to the game, feed them and bring them home. You can’t go halfway on this or it will fall apart quickly.”
That dedication and loyalty to her team, which Shoen established right away, has not been overlooked…or forgotten.
“There will never be another person who will invest as much as she will,” former player Jesse Garcia said. “From the championships I’ve won to the smallest things like simply filing a college application, I owe to her. Being an individual who was trapped in a social environment and a system that led to mediocrity, she creates hope to aspire to greater things.
I came from a household of poverty – toxic environments and people who dedicate their life to just working and make a living. Rose has shown me that there is more to life than just existing – I need sacrifice to prosper.”
Garcia followed Shoen’s tenets – what has become known as The Rose Method – and he saw the fruits of his labors. He graduated high school with an advanced diploma, got a full ride to play soccer in college and now has a successful career in the business world.
“I owe many things to Rose,” Garcia said. “I owe all the accomplishments to her, but belief is the greatest thing she has given me.”
The strategy that Shoen employs involves tough love and two-way loyalty. Unlike many amateur sides around the country, Shoen expects her team to practice once a week.
“If I’m paying, you need to be at practice,” Shoen said. “It is a 2-2 1/2-hour session and it is important for us to have it. It is what we do as a program. I always keep us in good standing, I always pay on time and I always attend or send a proxy to all league meetings. Every player on our teams is hand-selected by me.”
That tough love has produced solid results in both leagues which Azteca FC currently competes. The SFSFL, founded in 1902, has three divisions – Premier, Majors, and First, and employs a promotion/relegation system. Azteca FC was promoted once to Majors before going right back down. However, Shoen’s team was promoted again before the 2018 campaign, and move up again after a standout season.
“Back-to-back promotion is pretty good for us,” Shoen said. “Promotion/relegation truly shows what you are doing on a year-to-year basis.”
Azteca FC finished second in Majors, going 17-4-1 and leading the league in goals scored with 82 and goal differential at +54. It will move up along with league champ SF Battery, which Azteca FC swept during the season.
In its first year in the UPSL last fall, Azteca FC finished third in the Wild West Blue Division with a 4-1-3 record, narrowly missing out on a playoff spot, losing out to FC Sacramento on goal differential by one goal. Azteca FC defender Justin Walmsley was named to the league’s Best XI.
“Growing up, I was not the most talented, so I became very detail-oriented,” Shoen said. “I study the game obsessively and I have a hard time letting go of losses.”
That obsession and determination are just part of a detailed dossier that put her in the position to succeed when very few look like her in the coaching box.
Shoen is the only known female owner and coach in the UPSL, USL, NPSL or MLS.
She was the only female coach in her last coaching license class.
She often gets misidentified as one of the players’ wives or girlfriends at matches.
“I am not going to let that get in the way of what I am trying to accomplish,” Shoen said. “I have already shown that it is possible to be a pretty, educated, and powerful female in the finance sector and the men’s soccer world. My guys know that I will do anything for them and that loyalty extends both ways.”
Shoen earned that loyalty and trust by always being there. She’s been to the weddings. She’s been to the hospitals when injuries occurred. She has been to graduations – like Lopez’s – when others cannot make it. She forks over money for highlight videos and anything else to get her players exposure.
“You cannot buy that type of loyalty,” Shoen said. “You need to be there for them if you want them to buy in to what you are trying to do.”
She has earned that loyalty from countless players, including Lopez.
“A young man like myself, coming from the ghetto with gang-related issues and drug dealings as things I grew up with, with no father figure and not being close to [my] family, I felt that if I worked hard and proved my worth to her, she would do anything to get me a college offer,” Lopez said.
“When I received her text saying I was going to college, I was in class and I ran out and into the parking lot. To this day, I don’t know why I ran there, but I was full of emotions and Rose is the one to blame. She is an extremely understanding person, always willing to help and will never let you go through tough times without her wanting to get you out of your worst situations. I will forever be thankful for Rose and I will always thank God for allowing me to be coached and mentored by Rose as I don’t believe there would have been anyone better to do it.”
Oh, and by the way, Shoen is still getting the job done on the field as well. She has played against the likes of USWNT legend Brandi Chastain and Brazil’s Sissi, and she recently completed her fifth season with Primero de Mayo of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL).
Shoen was named to the PAC North All-Conference team along with teammates Rachel Roberts and Jacqueline Catano, a younger goalkeeper mentored by Shoen who is now playing, on scholarship, at Dominican University of California.
“I know that my method works – I have seen it countless times now,” Shoen said. “My core philosophy involves sending players involved with our club to College ID camps, professional academy tryouts, ODP tryouts and push them toward the ECNL (Elite Clubs National League) and DA (US Soccer Development Academy). I know how to navigate the collegiate world and get players where they can reasonably go.”
“Rose showed me the way,” Garcia said. “You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. Surround yourself with people that have a winner’s mentality, regardless of how hard life can be.”
And that’s it. While discussing soccer and her ultimate goals, Shoen steps away for a board call for her day job. She has had four days off since January 1st and shows no signs of slowing down. The youth of Sacramento, and the men that flock to her club can be thankful that is the case.
- Brian Burden