Player Spotlight

Desevio Payne Discusses Eredivisie Debut, U.S. U-20s

The 19-year-old dual national hails from South Carolina but was raised in the Netherlands. He has started back-to-back games for FC Groningen, and ASN's Brian Sciaretta spoke to the young defender.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 03, 2015
2:12 PM
THE LATE TEENAGE YEARS are a crucial period of development for many professional soccer players. It's a time when some players burst onto the scene and make names for themselves while others get passed by and get stuck toiling in the reserves.

South Carolina native Desevio Payne, 19, is doing everything in his power to establish himself in the former category.

The defender made his Eredivisie debut for FC Groningen on February 22, against Heerenveen, and followed that up with a 90-minute performance on Sunday against ADO Den Haag. Getting his feet wet in the Dutch top flight has been both nerve-wracking and gratifying—and it's definitely something Payne hopes to do a lot more of in the weeks and months ahead.

“It was a wonderful experience making my debut,” Payne told American Soccer Now. “It was something I worked hard for. The week leading up to the game, when the coach confirmed it the day before the match, I immediately felt happy but also started feeling very nervous. Being a derby game against Heerenveen, it was an important game to win and was a fantastic opportunity to show myself.”

Groningen lost, 3-1, but Payne performed capably. Against ADO Den Haag on Sunday, Payne passed extremely well out of the back, completing 84% of his passes despite not being as involved in the attack as he would have liked. Normally a right back for the reserve team, Payne not only moved up a level—he also switched positions.

“I have played two games thus far and I thought that it went well given the position I played,” Payne said. “I could have done more attacking specifically in the second game as the space to go forward was there. But the hesitancy was due to playing at left back and having to adjust often and going with the flow. Being a player of the second team moving up to the first team would mean that you will need to adjust quickly.”

“Although I train a lot with the first team, the level in the competitive games I played was much higher,” he added. “But I had great support from my teammates and so I settled down and adjusted quickly. After that I just said to myself, 'Play the way I'm used to and it will be all right.'”

One of Payne’s best attributes is his versatility. He is able to play all across the back line and his coach, Edwin van den Looi, felt comfortable playing the teenager out of position in important Eredivisie games. Still, a permanent move to left back is very unlikely as Payne has primarily played right back and central defense throughout his days in the youth system at Groningen.

“Right back is still my favorite position, although I've played a lot at center back this season with the second team,” Payne said. “I find playing at center back was quite enjoyable at times but I think the coach sees me more of a right back as well. But if the coach puts me at left back, I will not be complaining.”

With Payne now having made his Eredivisie debut at a young age and performed well both times, there are questions about where his international ambitions are.

Payne was born in Greenwood, S.C., after his parents graduated from tiny Lander University. His father hails from Trinidad & Tobago but moved to the United States, became an American citizen, and earned a soccer scholarship to Lander. His mother is Dutch and played for Lander’s softball team.

When Desevio was just one year old, his parents decided to move the family to the Netherlands so that their son could experience his mother’s culture. The initial plan was to remain there for five years but that eventually faded and the move became permanent. Even while living abroad, however, his father was adamant that Desevio maintained his American roots. As a result, English was frequently spoken at their house and American traditions were celebrated.

Desevio has yet to return to the United States but his English is fluent and he still has family there. During the 2014 World Cup, he eagerly supported the U.S. national team—a connection his father instilled in him.

“I still do feel connected to the U.S.," Payne said. "That is where I was born and I have family there. So you will feel a certain attachment, hence the support during the World Cup. I would certainly love to go back one day and I'm sure that will happen."

As for his potential to play with the United States internationally, Payne is interested and his best bet could come with the United States U-20 team that just qualified for the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Payne has never played for the Netherlands internationally, although in 2013 he was an alternate in a U-18 camp.

U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos told ASN on February 2nd that he became aware of Payne’s progress in the Eredivisie within “the past five or six days” and that he never heard of him before that. He also added that Payne is "definitely somebody we will try to track down and see how he does in the spring."

As Ramos has acknowledged, a player’s status can change very quickly at the U-20 level. In a recent interview with ASN, he said he could easily envision a player being named to the 2015 U-20 World Cup even if that player had never part of the U.S. program before. It happened in 2013, when Alonso Hernandez, unknown to Ramos’ staff just months before the World Cup, made the team after earning first-team minutes with Monterrey.

“What I can tell you is these guys are young,” Ramos said. “They are 19, 20. So there is a very good chance that over the next two months somebody pops up on [a] first team. And if they pop up and play for the first team, it is somebody we definitely have to consider because that means they are working hard and playing against men every day.

"We need that type of talent to play with us.”

Payne is reluctant to think too much about the U.S. U-20 team and this summer’s World Cup because he is yet to hear from Ramos or anyone at U.S. Soccer. But he is becoming more interested as he sees the tournament approaching and would gladly accept an invitation to play in a U-20 camp and show what he can do. The next opportunity could come later this month when the U.S. U-20 team opens a training camp in London on March 23rd.

“I don't really think about the U-20 tournament," Payne said. "I see it come across on Twitter every so often and think, 'Well, it would be a great tournament to be a part of—playing against quality countries. But my main focus now is to develop as a player and see where that takes me.

"If it's a call up, then fantastic. If not, then just keep on improving.”

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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