USMNT's Nicholas Gioacchini says he has 'plenty of time' to earn place for 2026 World Cup and dreams of Champions League success after St. Louis City SC
Nicholas Gioacchini, 22, has embarked on a globe-trotting career course that many Americans don't know about. He already has professional experience in the United States but also in France with Caen and Montpellier. He played internationally in the 2021 Gold Cup for the Stars and Stripes and feels he has plenty of time break back into the team before the 2026 World Cup.
After a few months spent with Orlando City last season, the forward is regaining his form with expansion club St. Louis City SC and one day hopes to find his way back to Europe where he dreams of competing in the Champions League.
GOAL reporter Marc Mechenoua interviewed Gioacchini in French about his career. A translation from Dan Bernstein is provided below...
Saint Louis City fans may not know it, but at 22, you have had a globe-trotting career. Can you tell us about it?
I'm from Kansas City, Missouri, where I lived for eight years. Then I moved to Italy where my father is from, he comes from Parma. I spent four years there where I played with a small club called Audace and another called Milan Club, close to AC Milan. And then we returned home to the United States where I spent three and a half years in Washington. In Maryland, we lived in three cities. I joined the Cerritos club where I learned grit because it was very physical. Then I started with the DC United U15s but I only spent three months there.
In your journey, there is also France…
I had a personal trainer in the United States who trained me once a week and when I was 15 he asked me if I wanted to go to France. Europe has always been my goal and so I said yes. Luckily, my parents were also looking to expand their family business in France. I went to Red Star (which plays in the French third division and has long been in the second) to do some trials. I stayed there for three months but they failed to validate my license and in the process I did some trials at Paris FC (which plays in the second division) where I spent two seasons before signing as a pro trainee in Caen (which plays in the same division and was in Ligue 1 when he signed).
Your dream is always to land back in Europe...
Yes. My dream is to play in the Champions League. I'm American and in our culture when we have something in mind we want to see it through. I want to do what I've always wanted to do since childhood. I talked about it a bit with Mamadou Sakho but especially with Roman Burki (who played in the tournament with Dortmund) and what comes back is this entrance music that gives you a once-in-a-lifetime adrenaline rush. It made me want it even more.
You also have some selections with the USMNT, we imagine that the next World Cup is in the back of your mind...
Yes, but I don't think about it much. I'm focused on what's happening today so the World Cup is not in my head yet. Before thinking about that, I really hope to come back to Europe before the World Cup. I will certainly think about it more one or two years before the start of the competition. There is still plenty of time.
What do you remember from your experiences in Italy, the United States and France?
In the USA, I learned my toughness with Cerritos. It was a team of South Americans with a different environment than you can find here. In Italy, I experienced the passion for football. They live this sport like a religion, it also forces you to give everything on the field. And in France, I picked up the tactical and technical aspect. You are surrounded by very talented young people who have impressive technical freedom. They have fun with the ball.
There was a time when in Caen it went rather well with 10 goals scored over two seasons. What caused this dynamic to break down?
It's true. There was the departure of Pascal Dupraz which had an effect. He was the one who started me as a professional. After he left, I couldn't find playing time with the new coaches and the new management. There were a lot of changes and I was no longer a target for the club. It made me lose a lot of confidence.
Pascal Dupraz gave you a lot of confidence?
Yes, it is also thanks to him that I had this confidence on the pitch. If I had a bad game, he reassured me and kept me for the next game. He told me that I was going to have playing time and that I was going to score goals. He was almost like my father in Caen. After his departure, the reserve coach (Fabrice Vandeputte) stepped in and then Stephane Moulin took over the management of the team. I was not his player so it was more complicated and that's when I left for Montpellier.
After a stint at Montpellier, you left Europe to go back to MLS. Why this choice?
I thought it was time to go home. I had already been in France for seven years. The last few years, I struggled. So I said to myself that it would be good to go and take the experience in the United States, that it could help me. Financially, it was also more interesting than what I could have in Ligue 2. My goal will always be to come back to play in Europe and I told myself that to get there, I need one or two years with full confidence in MLS, it could make me bounce back in Europe.
You have already traveled a lot. Does this make you want to stabilize your situation?
Yes, that was one of my goals. I was like a wanderer in football. When you move a lot, you can't find a rhythm and I said to myself that I had to find a club in which I will play without problem for one or two seasons. I wanted to find a stable place. I believed that this stable place could be in Orlando because they are the ones who came to me by contacting my brother on Instagram and then by connecting with my mother. But I arrived at the end of the season in a difficult situation with a team pecking order already in place, a coach who did not trust me and only six or seven players who spoke English because there were a lot of Latino players.
You arrived in November in Saint Louis and you have four goals and an assist already. How do you feel?
I see myself finishing the season here for sure. Even if I have good statistics during the summer transfer window, I have to find a place where I am stable. At least one season here, then we'll see what happens in the winter or summer of 2024. That would be a good plan. But I still have to focus on my club for a few months to do one or two seasons.