Providing a Path: Partnership with Emek Hefer (Israeli Premier Soccer League) Helps Dixon Veltri Go Pro
It’s a simple goal – provide players a path to get to the next step.
From a young kid looking to get onto the First Team when they ‘grow up,’ a high school player moving into a college program, or serving as a stepping stone to help a college athlete get to the highest level they can play – we want to play our part and help players get to where they strive to be.
Pittsburgh-native (Fox Chapel) and Pitt Women’s Soccer alum Dixon Veltri was only with the Women’s First Team (WPSL) for one season, but that’s all Coach Tommo and Jordan needed to to help her achieve her goal.
“I’ve always wanted to be a professional soccer player,” says Dixon. “I fell in love with soccer when I was a little kid and just wanted to play as much as I could as often as I could. Everyday I just wanted to play professional soccer.”
In December 2021, following graduation from Pitt with her Master’s in Sustainable Engineering, Veltri will head to Israel to join Maccabi Emek Hefer Women’s Football Club who competes in the Israeli Women’s Premier League.
*The Israeli Women’s Premier League: began in 1998 and plays in a promotion/relegation format with the league champion earning a spot in the UEFA Women’s Championship League. There are 9 teams in the top league.
The owner of Emek Hefer, Evi, has been building a relationship with Pittsburgh soccer since 2018, starting with Jordan (Daloisio) Johnson while she and Steph Harrison were managing Steel City FC.
“Steph and I met with Evi and were excited about the potential relationship between our clubs, however, that was the same time as when the board voted to move the team to Pittsburgh Hotspurs. So with everyone so busy, we didn’t get to continue the conversations much further,” said Jordan.
In the winter of 2019, when Evi reached out letting Jordan know he was in Pittsburgh, Tommo, Jordan, and Evi met up to discuss how to help each other. And when Evi reached out at the end of this summer asking about any players who they thought would be capable of playing at a professional level, they knew Dixon had been looking into playing professionally, talking to agents, and was fully capable. It was an obvious connection to make.
Evi has spent much of Emek Hefer’s recruiting efforts focused on the North American players, as the team is in its 3rd season in the Israeli Premier League and 8th season since its founding.
“We find that it’s very easy for the American players to adjust, connect, the mentality, the style,” shared Evi.
“I’m very excited for the partnership/relationship with the Pittsburgh Hotspurs. I think there’s a lot of potential in recruiting good talent here that finds themself not having opportunities when done with college.
Together with Hotspurs, we’ll be able to find the right talent and present opportunities to them. Not only with Emek Hefer but also with the relationship I have with other clubs in Europe, to help find them professional contracts outside of Israel as well.
Part of the goal of Emek Hefer is to be a platform for Israeli players. To develop them then, if they’re good enough, present them the opportunity to play in bigger clubs in Europe. If we can do that also with selected talented American players, then we’re all into doing that!”
At Pittsburgh Hotspurs, we want all players to play at their highest level — be that with our club, or helping them find a fit elsewhere. So partnerships to see American-grown soccer players excel is part of the grand plan to help get Pittsburgh soccer on the map.
“When we started our First Teams, we wanted to have that full development pathway to give Pittsburgh players a stage to play locally, yet on a National level,” said Tommo. “Yet, our path isn’t the final stopping point for all players’ abilities and levels. You have players like Dixon and Max Flick, who can help our program, while we provide them a place to compete while they get to the next level. We want Pittsburgh produced talent playing at the highest level, we’re starting to see it happen. I’m buzzing for it all.”
Dixon is that homegrown Pittsburgh talent, spending her biggest years at the cup level with Beadling Soccer Club, and her younger years with Fox Chapel and Arsenal FC of Pittsburgh.
“Pittsburgh Hotspurs have been great, Tommo and Jordan both have helped me a lot to develop as a player in the summer and mentor me to get me where I am today,” said Dixon.
“I really think that Dixon has what it takes to be a professional player,” said Jordan. “She is hard working, humble, coachable, tough and one of the most comfortable players on the ball that I’ve ever played with or against.”
“It was a short time to have Dixon play with us, but our goal is to help players onto the next step,” said Tommo.
We have no doubt Dixon will represent Pittsburgh soccer well in the Israeli Premier Soccer league.”