U.S. men’s national team forward Nicholas Gioacchini left Kansas City, Missouri, at eight years old, and has started what should be special homecoming week for him.
Gioacchini, who grew up in France and plays for French club SM Caen, started playing youth soccer in the Kansas City area. He still has family members living in the city now.
As he arrived in the Kansas City area ahead of the start of the USMNT’s participation in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup, Gioacchini said the smell of the air and some familiar sights made him nostalgic.
“Kansas City is really home for me,” Gioacchini told reporters during a media teleconference. “I’ve lived in a bunch of places and on and off the pitch Kansas City is home. I feel back to where I came from and maybe eventually where I belong.”
Gioacchini was born in Kansas City and later lived in Maryland before his family moved to France. He started in Paris FC’s youth system, and the 20-year-old has played for Caen for three years.
Reflecting on his early years as a kid interested in soccer, Gioacchini said his family’s home in Overland Park, Kansas, had been surrounded by baseball and football fields. Soccer facilities began popping up around the time he moved away. Overland Park is now home to a major Olympic Development Program facility for soccer, which includes 12 fields.
“I went to one Wizards game over a span of the eight years I was here,” Gioacchini said. “That’s as far as it went in terms of professional soccer here. I played here locally … just playing for fun, not really thinking about playing professionally or being a professional one day. It was more about having fun and just kicking around with the boys.”
Gioacchini is one of six forwards fighting for playing time this Gold Cup and one of four European-based players in the 23-man roster. He made a memorable first impression with the USMNT, scoring two goals in a friendly against Panama in November 2020 in what was his first national team camp. Gioacchini made 50 appearances in all competitions in 2020/21 with SM Caen and scored nine goals as the club escaped relegation on goal difference.
Gioacchini’s inclusion on the USMNT Gold Cup roster came as a bit of a surprise given the presence of strikers Gyasi Zardes and Daryl Dike, but Gregg Berhalter made it clear he plans to use Gioacchini as a right winger, a role he has played in for Caen.
“I feel like I’m able to see the situation no matter where I am on the field, whether it’s forward or winger, and adapt to it,” Gioacchini said.
When the USMNT plays its first Gold Cup match on Sunday, Gioacchini will see how far soccer has come in Kansas City since the Wizards’ humble beginnings, and he expressed some interest in one day returning to his home town.
“It’s just the home where I also wanted to bring back this pride,” Gioacchini said. “I see soccer has developed extremely over the last 10 years. I just want to keep it that way. Hopefully, maybe by the end of my career, I can bring back some culture and some diversity to the place in terms of soccer.”