HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mikey Lopez had never visited Hawaii before this week, but when he was asked to take part in Whitfield SC's Pro Soccer Camp for some of Oahu's aspiring youth players, he jumped at the opportunity.
"It's all about giving back to the community," Lopez said. "They contacted me and it was a good chance for me to expand my brand and help out over here and try to make the kids here in Hawaii a lot better so they can better their careers."
Lopez, 24, played three seasons in the MLS for Sporting Kansas City and most recently, New York City FC. He was drafted 14th overall back in the 2013 MLS Superdraft after a successful collegiate career at the University of North Carolina, where he earned ACC Freshman Player of the Year honors as a Tar Heel.
Lopez is currently a free agent after New York City FC declined the option on his contract earlier this month after making 27 appearances for the club over the past two seasons -- his agent told Hawaii News Now that he plans to sign with a MLS team for the upcoming season -- but his focus on promoting youth soccer across the country while continuing his career as a professional has never wavered.
"Being a professional is about giving back to the community and trying to help the younger generations out," Lopez said. "Obviously, I'm here and I'm a pro, and I work hard and continue to work hard to better my career but at the end of the day, my biggest thing as a pro is to help the younger generations and try to show them that they can get to where I'm at or to a higher level and try to get them to believe that making it to where I'm at right now isn't an impossible feat for everyone."
Assisting Lopez with the camp is former Rainbow Wahine forward and Waianae native Sonest Furtado, who Lopez said has been a great influence on the local community.
"It's been amazing. She's a great girl and it's been really great getting to know her and getting to know her background and seeing where she came up."
Having never been exposed to the islands before, Lopez didn't know what to expect from the boys and girls who signed up for the three-day camp. But after two days of running drills at Central Oahu Regional Park with some of the island youth, Lopez admitted he was blown away by the skill level of some players.
"The camp's in its second day and to be completely honest with y'all, there's a lot of talent here (in Hawaii). And they need to get the respect that they deserve," Lopez said. "So it's good that I'm here to try and show them that anything is possible really, because there's a lot of talent here and these kids should be able to make it to the next step."