Before every kickoff, Minnesota United FC defender Francisco Calvo kneels, closes his eyes and raises his arms in the air.
The routine sticks out, as every other player on the pitch is standing in formation, ready to start play. But Calvo, 24, began doing his prematch ritual when he started playing professionally in 2011 in his native Costa Rica, and it has followed him since.
"I always like to pray to God, to all the game and for the competition and for all my teammates," Calvo said Wednesday after practice. "I feel when I don't do that, it's like, no, I don't play well. But [also] if I don't do that, I miss that."
"All the rituals, I have, I believe so much in God, and I believe if you are with him, you are always going to be in good spots, and you're going to have a lot of good things in your life," Calvo said. "So my life is all around that."
The starting center-back said he listens to music to help him concentrate ahead of road matches as well, everything from Christian music to reggaeton.
While his method has stayed the same, Calvo said the team overall has seen "a lot" of improvement over its six matches so far. The players now just have to work on eliminating individual defensive mistakes, which Calvo said is "difficult" but can happen through a lot of internal reflection the week before the next match.
"We are still working on it, and we are getting close," he said. "We are getting close to what the coach wants and what we are going to do every game."
Note: Everyone was present at United practice Wednesday, with just midfielder Bernardo Anor (leg injury) and defenders Joe Greenspan (on loan) and Thomas de Villardi (Achilles injury) absent.