It’s a safe bet that no one on the current U.S. national team roster had a crazier week before arriving in Philadelphia than Jorge Villafaña.
It might even be a safe be that no one in the soccer world has had a week quite like the 28-year-old outside back.
Villafaña and his wife were robbed at gunpoint last Friday in Torreon, Mexico, where Jorge plays for Mexican club Santos. The thieves took a sum of money equal to around $20,000, as the couple were leaving a currency exchange store.
The day before, Jorge played for Santos at home in the first game of Mexico’s spring season playoff final series. The following Sunday, Santos won the title by edging Toluca on aggregate goals. And the day after that, Villafaña flew here to join the national team’s training camp.
“A crazy roller-coaster,” he said. “You never think it’s going to happen to you, until it happens. … At the end of the day, they took whatever they took and I’m just happy that me and my family, we’re okay.”
He readily acknowledges that he’s fortunate to not have to worry about his finances. Soccer players in Mexico get paid very well. (Though that also makes them targets.)
“The money comes and goes,” he said. “Two days later I lifted a cup with my club. That was something nice. You always, as a player, want to lift trophies, and it’s one more in the books.”
Villafaña also won a MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers in 2015, and helped the U.S. win last year’s Concacaf Gold Cup. The Anaheim, Calif, native is one of just three players who’ve won Liga MX and MLS titles, following fellow Americans Omar González and Hérculez Gómez.
It’s a terrific resume for a player whose pro career began when he won a talent scouting competition run by Univision and MLS back in 2007.
“It’s a great accomplishment, to put your name in history,” Villafaña said. “It never gets old, that feeling — it feels like your first one.”
Villafaña made his national team debut in January of 2017, and has 16 national team caps heading into this weekend. He’s likely to earn another when the U.S. plays Bolivia on Monday at Talen Energy Stadium (6:55 p.m., Fox Sports 1 and UniMás).
His Gold Cup experience and club pedigree make him a leader on a young roster. Though he isn’t much of a shouter, he has embraced being a teacher of what the national team’s culture should be.
“You can be a veteran and show leadership with the way you play and the way you carry yourself on the field,” he said. “You’re representing your country. A lot of kids of younger ages would like to be here, you know? It’s an honor. … You have to take advantage of it and treat it like it’s going to be your last camp.”