Well into the offseason, Jasper Löffelsend is back in Germany after his breakout year with RSL. Having managed the rare and difficult leap from late round draft pick to every game MLS starter it’s safe to say the 25-year-old from Köln has been a hit with fans across the Wasatch Front.
Domestically, his rise has not gone unnoticed either, and Jasper was invited as a guest to interview with OneFootball Deutschland, a popular German youtube channel with over 360,000 subscribers. Jasper went into great detail about his career in the video below (German), his thoughts about MLS, and start to life with RSL. With some help from a native German speaker, we have summarized some key points and quotes of this rather insightful and in-depth interview below. The highlight of which, appears that RSL has gone ahead and activated his first year extension to keep him with the team going into 2023.
College Scholarship Offers and Education
I think I had seven offers in total or something like that. But only two were very attractive to me because they were simply top colleges that were also good at soccer. One of the reasons (for selecting the University of Pittsburgh) was that they are reasonably high up in the rankings, so that you can develop well and the other was to get a full scholarship. Because education is very expensive in the US I didn’t feel like shelling out another 10,000 for my master’s degree… It was very important to me that I complete my master’s degree. Which was the primary reason for me to go to America in the first place.
MLS Combine Experience
We had an incredible number of injuries in this combine. (The players were) Over-motivated, the planning sucked - it really wasn’t good. You got there - well, I was lucky that I was in the first group and we were beginning straight away. Everyone else just comes there, then waits and has to stay warmed up for an hour and then do a 40-yard dash like that. After the first one or two meters you can already see: ‘This isn’t good.’
So you have this combine which is used for scouts, coaches of the MLS teams to get there and to watch the players live how they perform against the ‘elite’ of college players. And everyone is over-motivated. There was this one guy who went into an insane tackle - sliding into a player from behind, the player got injured and had to leave the field and the guy trash talked him afterwards too. After which I went up to him and said: ‘Dude, are you crazy? Everyone here just saw what an (expletive) you are, how little you care if you hurt someone just to kind of increase your chances.’ And the guy still got drafted in front of me.
MLS Draft: Prospects for International Players
Nationality plays a huge role. That’s the thing, unfortunately. You have to imagine it like this: You have a very, very strict squad limit. That means for a player like me, who is an international because I have the German citizenship, it is very, very difficult to get in there, because if we are honest: You fill the international spots… with players who have experience in the top leagues or in the pro leagues, promising talents from other countries or whatever. So it is very, very rare that a player who is international and drafted makes the step up into the first team, because the spots are usually always full and then also full of very, very good players.
MLS Draft: Family watch party in Germany
So I thought to myself: ‘I’ll get friends and family, put them in front of the TV in Germany, of course I was at home too. I thought it would be a cool evening with friends and family, at some point your name would be said and you’d get a call.’ Just like you imagined it in American films.
Nothing happened in the first round. Same thing in the second round, so at some point we turned it off. I said to my sister: ‘Keep following the live ticker on your phone’ and then we played Mario Kart. I was completely done with the draft.
At some point I had my phone and my coach from college sent me a message: ‘Congratulations on the draft!’ And I took it completely sarcastically and then I wrote back like ‘Hahah funny’ and he replied ‘No, Salt Lake City just drafted you.’ After that I just looked over and said to my sister ‘Have a look at the live ticker, what does it say’ and she said, ‘Yeah, 85th pick, Salt Lake City’
Thoughts on Salt Lake City
Utah first of all: Beautiful in nature, let’s put it that way. I wake up in the morning and I think I’m in the Alps and I’m about to hit the slopes and go skiing.
Disappointment in being pushed towards Monarchs
The second day I was in Salt Lake City we had our first practice. After that they called me directly to the office and said: ‘We would like to offer you a contract for the second team (Monarchs).’ Where I then sat and thought: ‘Are you kidding me?’
It would probably have been more attractive for me to just come back to Germany. And that was also my thought for the first weeks. I was with the first team the whole pre-season, I flew to Arizona and Portland with them and trained with them there… I thought it was a shame that from day one they said that they wouldn’t even consider me as part of the first team.
On Kreilach swaying him to stay
I spoke to Damir a lot. He was the first point of contact since he also speaks German and he took me under his wing a bit. And he said he also thinks it’s a shame that they don’t consider giving me a first-team contract because they already saw that I deserved it. But he was like, ‘Take this experience with you, even if it’s just for a year. Take it with you, try and do everything possible and even after a year you can say: ‘Thanks guys, but this is just not it’’ And then I made the decision and said: ‘Okay, I’ll give the whole thing a year’s chance’
On RSL Debut
Three days before the first game, with a bit of luck I came across a situation with a team-mate who wasn’t eligible to play because he had problems with the visa, and then I was subsequently nominated. In the first game, the coach gave me my debut right away because he said: ‘We don’t know how long you’re gonna be here - I just want to give this opportunity to you.’ Which was a great gesture from him.
Differences between American and German soccer
I would say the league in America is much more athletic. As far as tactics and technique are concerned, it’s definitely not at the top level like it’s the case in Europe. Because academies in Europe clearly set their priorities there. In America you have it the other way around. They care much more about athletics, you’re basically in the gym 24/7. It was like that in college - it’s like that now. So athletic training is very, very important. I wouldn’t say it’s a faster game but a more athletic game.
Comparing MLS to German Leagues
I always say 2nd to 3rd division (German Leagues) as a standard answer because I get the question a lot. It’s very difficult, also because America is becoming more attractive for European players who, yes, are past their prime. But you also have a lot of talented Latin American players. So you have to say that the drop-off is much stronger than it is now in the 2nd Bundesliga. In the 2nd Bundesliga you consistently have very, very good or very solid players, but then you don’t have these one or two players who make a huge difference. You tend to find something like that in higher leagues, I would say, but that’s the way it is in America, you have a good basic construct of good players who I think can play in the 3rd division in Germany without any problems. But then you also have four or five players who they (the clubs) pay a lot of money for, who play at the level of Bundesliga or 2nd Bundesliga.
Current contract situation at RSL
It’s called a 1+3 contract. That’s the basic contract you get, so the club now has three optional years. The first year has now been activated, so I can now say that I will definitely still be playing MLS next year. And you can go into renegotiations, which was also advised to me by teammates and coaches because I’m currently on a minimum contract, which I’ve already outperformed with my performances. Due to the fact that I have made so many games, it should be recognized or respected in such a way that the club then gives it back to the player in the form of a new contract. Of course they don’t have to. From the business side of things I also said very clearly.. ‘You can keep me here for another three years and I’m more or less the cheapest starter the MLS has ever seen.’
I think that we definitely have a very, very good basis with the club and those in charge so that we can agree on a new contract.
On returning to play in Germany in the future
Definitely. I think because it was always such a dream that I’ve been pursuing for many, many years, I do believe that it’s definitely possible or, if an offer is on my table, that I’ll definitely think about it a lot. It’s more or less clear to me that I want to come back to Germany at some point, since I do have a strong connection to my home. As of now, I can definitely say that I’m incredibly keen if the offer comes up to play in Germany again at some point, because it’s been such a dream for me to play here in front of my family and friends.
Translations done by Durodo, native German speaker and 3rd place finisher for the 2022 Soapbox Oracle