Jaden Servania bounced around elite MLS Academy programs and committed to Wake Forrest University before finding his place at Birmingham Legion FC. A native of Birmingham, Servania has excelled with his hometown club over the past few seasons. From signing a USL Academy contract in 2019 to inking a professional deal a season later, Servania has proven himself a valuable asset for the club at just 20 years old.
Servania sat down to chat about his soccer journey leading him home to Birmingham and how it has felt to represent the Puerto Rican National Team as they compete to play at the FIFA World Cup.
Question (Q): Why did you leave an established MLS academy to join a USL academy?
Jaden Servania (JS): I was originally going to school at Wake but then my COVID year hit and that got in the way of a lot of things so I wasn't sure if there was going to be a season. I decided to train with Legion for a little bit and then they had invited me to sign an academy contract there, and I thought that was a great opportunity because I knew they were playing for sure that season. And then things went pretty well for me, I'd say. Pretty good season and I signed my first professional contract so I was really excited.
Q: Was it a difficult decision to pass up playing college and going to college to play pro?
JS: It was difficult but at the same time it was easy. All my life I've been dreaming of being a professional soccer player so it's something I've learned as a little kid. It wasn't too tough for me but I still want to get my degree, someday.
Q: How does it feel to play for your hometown team?
JS: It feels great. I get to see a lot of people I grew up with actually being home is a great feeling because both my parents had me and my brother here, so we grew up here. I lived here until I was 14 when we moved to Dallas. So getting to represent the state, it's a great feeling.
Q: What did you like most about the USL Academy system?
JS: It was a big thing because when I had decided not to go to Wake, I signed the academy contract, and that still gave me eligibility to go back to school. So that was a big thing for me because I was still up in the air of whether I'm going to go to school. If I signed a contract, and I had a really good season so I ended up saying.
Q: How has Birmingham helped you develop on and off the field?
JS: The first thing is they're really welcoming. So, when you first get there it's not really intimidating, but training is tougher than in the academy. The speed of play, it's a lot more difficult. It's a group of really good guys and the staff is really good to help you get adjusted really quickly so I think the people around you help you grow a lot. It’s really only been up from there.
Q: Have there been any specific players that have taught you a lot during your time at Birmingham?
JS: There's been a couple of players, the whole team actually. I don't want to single anyone out because a lot of the guys I'm really close with. But there everyone has made some sort of impact whether on or off the field.
Q: What have you learned from your brother’s path and other players from Alabama that we now see in the pro ranks?
JS: Growing up, it was always competitive but that helped a lot. Being able to compete against my brother gave me an edge when competing against kids my age. I was able to learn from his mistakes as he's older than me, I get to see what he's going through and he teaches me and tells me how to adjust, and it’s helped a lot.
Q: What have you learned from seeing the different pathways available?
JS: Seeing that these players have different opportunities is very promising for me. Also for the other young guys that are watching, it shows that anyone can get this opportunity and if you make the best of it and are prepared, you can make that jump quickly. So very, very exciting actually.
Q: What do you think the presence of Legion FC and its USL Academy team will mean for young Alabaman talent?
JS: I think, for these kids and local kids here, being able to have a professional team to watch and grow up and admire, gives them motivation and pushes them to be the better player. I've been helping out around with some of the local teams here and the kids are really excited. So, hope that helps them, maybe when they want to do the same thing as me.
Q: What have you been doing at the local level?
JS: Sometimes I go help out with some local clubs that I grew up playing with. I know some of the staff so I'll go and help out with trainings and say hi to the kids and just show my face to give back. I was once here and I know what that feels like. I think it's good for them, pushes them to the next level.
Photo courtesy of Federación Puertorriqueña de Fútbol
Q: How does it feel to play for the Puerto Rican national team?
JS: My mom's from Puerto Rico so all her family is very excited every time I go there to play. They always want to see what I'm doing, and they want to see me play. I played for the U17 team in Florida, when I was 17, for the U20 CONCACAF Championship. I didn't think I was going to get that call up to the men, but then two years later I did. I was able to play in the World Cup qualifiers so it means a lot to me and my mom and my family all together.
Q: What has been your favorite moment when playing with Puerto Rico?
JS: In the U20 CONCACAF Championship, we're in Florida. Our first game was against the US so I was playing against my brother. It was great for my family, who flew down to watch that game. It was a great moment I’ll never forget.
Q: What is your goal for your soccer career?
JS: For me, personally, in my career, I just want to become the best player I can be. Whether I end up in MLS or Europe or stay where I am, I just want to be the best player I can be. When I was little, I always wanted to be in the World Cup so hopefully, that will happen soon, but right now I have to keep working and getting better at the player I am.
Q: What advice do you have to any kids making their way through the academy ranks hoping to make the jump to pro?
JS: When you go train with a first team or your USL pro team, one big thing is just have confidence in yourself. Everyone's going to mess up but have the confidence to win the ball back and do it again.