Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Robbie Mertz started playing soccer as soon as he could walk. By the age of 3, he was playing against other children his age at his local YMCA.
By his side was his father, who would pass his knowledge of the game on to his son. To this day, Mertz is thankful for the lessons his father taught him, both on and off the pitch.
Around the age of 7, Mertz started to watch soccer on TV. He grew a liking for Arsenal F.C., and still roots for them to this day.
“I started watching soccer on TV around 2003, when [Arsenal] was really good,” Mertz said. “I followed them as they went undefeated that year, and I still like them even now. My favorite player on that team was Thierry Henry.”
Just like Henry, Mertz knows how to put the ball in the back of the net. In his rookie season with the Hounds in 2019, he netted six goals in 26 appearances. And despite not having played since November, Mertz’s mentality hasn’t changed.
“COVID-19 has changed my mindset, for sure; what we were doing three or four months ago was so normal,” Mertz said. “I think this is a challenge because whenever we come back we are expected to perform at a high level; it’s a high standard. But I’m still trying to get better each and every day, in preparation for the season.”
Taking things day by day has allowed Mertz to stay ready mentally. In this light, Mertz hasn’t missed a beat during the pandemic--he still looks to better himself both as a person and a player. This source of intrinsic motivation, Mertz says, has been in him since he was younger.
The vibe around the team is similar; as restrictions are lifted, they are working (both on Zoom and on the pitch) to grow as a unit.
Mertz believes that, despite the lack of in-person practices/training with the team, he feels closer to his teammates than ever before.
“It was definitely weird there for a while, especially because we didn’t know when we were coming back,” Mertz said. “When things shut down initially, we thought we were only going to be out for a few weeks. So for a few months there, I didn’t really see some of my teammates, which was difficult. But as we’ve gotten back, I think I feel closer to the guys, honestly. I think both in terms of talent and character, we have a great group of guys this year.”