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Inside Diego Luna’s rise: The Barca Academy, U.S. vs. Mexico, and tattoos

Formed in the desert, new father Diego Luna is ready for the next step with Real Salt Lake and the United States.

10 min read
Real Salt Lake

The first thing you’ll probably notice about Diego Luna is his tattoos. He’s cool with that.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot more that jumps out when you dig a little deeper: he helped the U.S. qualify for their first Olympic tournament since 2008 with a win at the Concacaf championship in Honduras last summer. He broke onto the MLS scene with a handful of goals and an assist in 19 appearances so far this season for Real Salt Lake. Plus, he rocks a frosted tips and mullet combo that would make even 1987 Andre Agassi swoon.

Those accolades are making the RSL and potential U.S. men’s national team midfielder a burgeoning household name in the world of American soccer. Just a few years ago, that was no sure thing.

In 2018, Luna found himself in the often-lonely throes of professional development while living away from his family at the Barca Residency Academy in remote Casa Grande, Arizona. Surrounded by miles of desert at just 15 years old, he turned to tattoos as a way to express what he was feeling inside.

“People say, ‘You won't get jobs with tattoos,’ and stuff like that. I don't really believe in that,” Luna told Backheeled. “I really have a drive that I won’t do anything but soccer for the rest of my career, and to use soccer as my life. And even when I retire, hopefully soccer will help me enough to not have to work or allow me to go into my own businesses.”

Most of Luna’s tattoos carry some kind of symbolic meaning of their own (though he does admit, some of them just look cool for the sake of it). But after the birth of his son, Manolo Angel Luna, on September 5, his life is taking on a whole new meaning. Luna says that he’s “definitely nervous” about having a baby, but, judging by the tattoos, he’s never really been afraid of commitment.

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