#NPSL2MLS: Carlos Mojica Finds Success with Columbus Crew
Carlos Mojica has had quite the journey. He was born in San Salvador, El Salvador and moved to the U.S. when he was just 11 years old. Mojica grew up in Medina, Ohio and graduated with honors from Cloverleaf High School in 2006 before going on to earn Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Kent State University.
His career in soccer saw him work as a journalist for CentroDeportivo prior to spending time with AFC Cleveland and the NPSL office as a Communications Coordinator. These experiences helped prepare him for his current position with the Columbus Crew, which he joined as the Communications Manager in 2016.
Mojica is a winner, having claimed two national titles during his journey. The first came in 2016 during his tenure in Cleveland, followed by an MLS Cup title last year with the Crew. The latter was a special moment for so many people, including Mojica.
“Honestly, it was nerve-wracking,” Mojica said. “What I mean is that during the match even when the Crew was up 2-0, I kept thinking we still had a long way to go. It wasn’t until I rewatched the game on TV a few days later that I realized that our third goal – which I thought we had scored in 60th-minute – actually came very late in the game. But, during the match, the minutes after that third goal felt like an eternity. Having grown up as a supporter myself, I kept thinking about everything the supporters and the club had been through the last few years and how this was the reward for them. It was an emotional moment.”
Joining the team on the stage where the trophy was presented was an unreal opportunity.
“When I joined the team on the stage, watching the trophy be like the ending of a movie,” Mojica added. “I was trying to take it all in and enjoy it because moments like that one are gone in an instant. In fact, if you look at some of the photos, you can actually see that while everyone is jumping around and raising their arms I’m just staring off into space, because I’m watching the confetti come down. It was very surreal.”
Mojica’s first championship was also a rollercoaster of experiences and emotions.
“I feel lucky that I’ve been able to be part of two of the greatest fairy tale stories in American soccer,” Mojica added. “With AFC Cleveland, just reaching the final was wild enough. During the semifinal, our match was delayed and nearly canceled due to inclement weather. For us to win in New Jersey and later find out we were going to host the national championship on our drive back – less than seven days out – felt like something out of a movie.”
Winning it all in 2016 was special for its own reasons. Coming out on top of a league that has over 90 teams is quite the accomplishment.
“When the final whistle blew, I remember running onto the field,” Mojica continued. “I just jumped with joy along the team because, at that level, so much is done out of sheer love for your community, which made it very meaningful. So having been able to win championships with both of the soccer clubs that I have worked for – both from my home state – means a lot to me, not just on a professional level, but as someone who has seen soccer grow in the U.S. over the last two decades. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t tear up for both of those championships.”
While his university studies focused on something other than soccer, the beautiful game still proved to be a perfect fit.
“I actually didn’t know that I wanted to work in soccer until I started working in soccer,” Mojica said. “I’ve been a soccer fan since I was very little, but it wasn’t until 2013 that I became involved in the sport. That year I was asked by Jorge Martinez to write an article for his magazine, CentroDeportivo. Jorge liked what I wrote and asked me to keep writing for him. After working as a reporter for a few years, I decided that I wanted to be on the club side of things because I wanted to feel part of a team. AFC Cleveland gave me my start and then the NPSL was kind enough to hire me for a communications coordinator position, which allowed me to transition into my current role with the Crew. I’ve always liked the idea of telling stories, and soccer allows me to do that without being stuck in an office all day.”
Spending time in a successful club like the Crew has helped Mojica learn a number of valuable lessons.
“The main thing that I’ve learned since joining the Crew is that there’s a lot more that goes behind the scenes than people may realize,” Mojica said. “People from all departments are working incessantly to do things that often go unnoticed until they aren’t done. Working with the Crew has also made me continuously improve my standards because you have to be able to give a good account of yourself with media members and supporters as a representative of the club.”
He cherishes the opportunity to work with world-class athletes, coaches, and staff on a daily basis.
“I think seeing what the players, coaching staff, technical staff, and support staff do on a daily basis makes you appreciate just how much time and effort they put into the sport,” Mojica said. “People see the players during matches, but what they don’t see is how much time the coaches spend refining their tactics or the late nights after a tough loss when players aren’t getting home until maybe 1:00 am. Being in sports is a big commitment and both our players and staff are consummate professionals.”
Mojica has the privilege of preparing for the opening of Lower.com Field.
“Preparing to move into a new stadium is very exciting,” Mojica said. “Talking about a new stadium is one thing, but actually seeing it come to life from essentially nothing is quite another. Every time I go to the stadium, there’s something that’s different from the last time that I was there. The amount of detail that has been put into the stadium by the Haslams, Johnsons, and Edwards speaks to the vision that they have for the Crew. Personally, I believe that it is going to be one of the best stadiums in North America as far as soccer venues go. There’s even going to be a tifo-rigging system that was made with the supporters in mind, and I can’t wait to watch them use it.”
He was quick to point out the continued importance of the Historic Crew Stadium.
“Historic Crew Stadium is always going to hold a special place in the hearts of both Columbus and U.S. soccer fans,” Mojica said. “It was the first soccer-specific stadium in the league and that alone ensures its place in history. It’s the home of Dos A Cero And it was only fitting that our last match there ended in a 2-0 victory. I’m glad that it will remain right beside the OhioHealth Performance Center and continue to be a Columbus landmark.”
As you can imagine, Mojica has a plethora of special soccer memories that he shared.
“My two favorite memories have to be winning MLS Cup and winning the NPSL National Championship,” Mojica said. “When you think about what it takes to be the best team in your league – knowing that the other teams are working just as hard as you are – it means a lot to see your hard work be rewarded. As a journalist, I was able to cover Copa America Centenario in 2016, including the final, so that was also quite special.”
Mojica knows a lot about supporter culture, and he truly understands the importance of Crew supporters.
“Crew supporters are the beating heart of the club. There’s no question about that,” Mojica said. “I remember going to my first Crew in the Nordecke and feeling both welcomed and accepted, despite the fact that I was not familiar with all the traditions. Not all supporters’ environments are like that and I think Crew supporters make our stadium a very special place to be.”
It’s special to see someone who is living their dream job, and Mojica is doing just that.
“My favorite part of my job is being around the first team and interacting with them,” Mojica said. “Being able to attend training sessions, seeing the players and the coaching staff day in and day out and being on the actual field is something that never gets old. I know that it’s something that not everybody gets to do, so I feel privileged to be able to do it.”
Mojica is a busy man most days, even more so on game days.
“Our goal as a communications department is to make media members want to return to Columbus Crew matches because of how good their experience was,” said Mojica. “For evening games, I usually get to the stadium around noon – maybe a little bit earlier – and start to get set up. Once media members arrive, we try to make the experience as easy and enjoyable as possible for them. Post-match, I’m assisting with press conferences or interviews on the field.”
Being able to speak multiple languages makes Mojica a valuable part of the Crew’s media team.
“It’s a great asset,” Mojica said. “I speak English, Spanish and Portuguese, although depending on the Portuguese speakers we have, they might tell you I only speak two [laughs]. When I joined the club one of the first trips we had was to Brazil, so speaking a little bit of Portuguese came in handy very quickly. We have a lot of Spanish-speaking players that arrive at the club, and don’t know English yet, so I serve as their interpreter and translator. Oftentimes, when players don’t speak English, their voices are not heard and their stories are not told. By translating for them, I am able to help them tell their stories. Speaking other languages has proven to be very helpful when dealing with international clubs or with international members of the media. In general, anytime that you speak more than one language, there’s no scenario in which that hurts. Especially in a sport that is as global as ours.”
Arica Kress, who previously served as the VP of Marketing & Communications for Columbus Crew SC and currently is the Head of Strategy Partnerships of Esports Engine, was quick to point out the contributions Mojica made with the Crew.
“I was fortunate to work closely with Carlos during my time with the Crew,” Kress said. “He was an asset to the team. It was great to have someone in his role that had such a good relationship with the players, positive attitude, and who spoke multiple languages. He has been involved in soccer for many years at different levels and I valued his passion for the club.”
Mojica’s contributions to the NPSL were equally impressive.
“Carlos is one of the good guys in American soccer, a true professional,” NPSL Director of Media Relations Gary Moody said. “It has been an honor to work with him. He’s someone of high character who has an infectious passion for the beautiful game. He has done so much for the sport of soccer already and his future is very bright. All of us at the NPSL are looking forward to seeing what he does in the years ahead.”
The NPSL has always been known as a development platform for players to get to the next level. We now see coaches and staff moving on to the highest levels of the game with Carlos Mojica leading the way.
Photo Credit: MLS, Brent Durken Photography, and Ken Tishenkel/ISNSoccer.com