VALENCIA, Spain -- Levante defender Shaq Moore says he's patiently waiting for the U.S. national team to call after playing against the likes of Lionel Messi in La Liga.
Moore is trying to make it in Europe the hard way. Now 21, the Florida native went abroad as a teenager and is proud to compare himself to the "canteranos," the homegrown players who go through the youth squads of Spanish teams.
After many ups and downs three years into his venture, Moore has made eight appearances for Levante this season, including a start against Messi and Barcelona at the Camp Nou in January.
And after playing nearly 40 friendlies with the U.S. under-17 team and appearing at the Under-20 World Cup in 2015, Moore is hoping his time in Europe will help him earn a first-team spot with the senior national team.
"I want to focus on getting better every day here with Levante and hopefully the national team will come," Moore told The Associated Press at Levante's training center outside of Valencia. "Maybe sooner, maybe later, but I know if I'm patient, it will come."
Moore, the son of a former Trinidad and Tobago international, made the move to Europe despite having a chance to stay in the U.S. with FC Dallas on a homegrown contract, and knowing he could easily be forgotten back home if he didn't get to play much in Spain.
"Obviously, being a little bit farther, maybe they can't see as much games, as much everyday routines as I'm going through," he said. "But I think I'm in a good place right now, a good environment. It's a good league, I think the word will get around eventually."
A right-back, Moore decided to "test the waters overseas" after getting a first glimpse of Spain in a tournament in the Canary Islands with the national team's under-18 squad. He attracted the attention of some Spanish clubs and returned for a trial before eventually signing with third-division club Huracan Valencia in 2015.
"It was kind of a big jump, especially because it wasn't one of the biggest clubs, so there was a lot of risk, something that I wasn't really sure if I wanted to do," Moore said. "But I was like, 'You know what? It's a risk I'll take.'"
His hope of making it in Europe took a big hit when Huracan were expelled from the league because of financial irregularities, keeping him without a salary and facing an uncertain future.
"It was a sticky situation and not something ideal you would want as your first professional experience," Moore said. "You are always thinking, 'Maybe you should have done this or that ...' But I just wanted to stick it out. I knew mentally, if I stayed in it, if I was strong enough, I knew it would turn around eventually."
Moore then spent time with second-division club Oviedo after leaving Huracan, then signed with Levante in 2016, spending time with the team's "B" squad. He made his Primera Division debut last year and recently extended his contract with Levante until 2020.
"If you can make it in La Liga, then maybe you can play anywhere in the world," Moore said. "In the U.S., maybe I would have been too comfortable coming from the youth teams and coming up. I just wanted to fight it out with the best."
Moore's biggest moment in Europe came earlier this year when he started against Barcelona and faced Messi, which he called "a big reward in itself."
"Just being here, the training sessions, the atmosphere, the stadiums, everything..." he said. "Just the other day, watching [Real Madrid's Cristiano] Ronaldo play, just being in a locker room watching him walk right by me. All that little stuff, it kind of plays with your head and you just know that if you keep working, you can actually get there."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.