By Miguel Dominguez
East Los Angeles College soccer head coach Eddie Flores and assistant coach/goalkeeper Richard Santos recruited four international players, three of the four are from Argentina.
Goalkeeper Santiago Pagnutti, right back Joaquin Toledo, and center midfielder Ramiro Hermida. French midfielder, Mathias Barbera, is the fourth international player for the Huskies.
“We had to make sure that ELAC was the right fit for the players, when it came to their education, and we had to make sure they were the right fit for our soccer system as well. We took a gamble on the players and vice versa,” said Santos.
Aside from the education, the players were also interested in the city and living conditions at ELAC.
The players were attracted to the city of Los Angeles, but they all complained about the weather when they arrived.
“I had to pour water on my cleats because it was hot,” said Pagnutti in Spanish. In Argentina, it was the winter season when they left in August. In Los Angeles it was the summer season when they arrived.
Pagnutti “came from a legitimate goalkeeping academy in Argentina,” said Santos.
Pagnutti said one of the main reasons why he chose to come to ELAC was because of coach Santos. He took the time to reach out to me, said Pagnutti.
We figured Santiago was the right fit for us after we had several conversations with him, said Santos.
All four players were not only attracted to the city of Los Angeles but the photos they saw of the stadium and the field was another reason they wanted to come to ELAC.
“I thought it was an awesome stadium,” said Toledo in Spanish. “It was the perfect field to play soccer,” said Hermida in Spanish.
Hermida comes from the academy of Boca Juniors. Boca Juniors is a well-known team in Argentina where the soccer legend Diego Maradona played for before moving to Europe.
Hermida has been in the Boca Juniors academy since he was eight years old.
He left the academy at 16 years old to focus on school. “I made lots of sacrifices, I had to travel a lot and was away from my family while I was at the academy,” said Hermida.
“Ramiro has a high level from Boca Juniors, and it shows on the field. He sees the whole game,” said Flores.
As a midfielder, Hermida considers himself as a better passer than a defender. His role models are Argentinian midfielder Fernando Gago and Spaniard players Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. All three of Hermida’s role models are known for their great passing abilities.
“If it happens then I’ll stick with soccer,” said Toledo when asked about his future. Outside of soccer, Toledo’s interests are gastronomy and culinary arts. Toledo plans to become a business administrator. He also plans to have his own restaurant.
French midfielder Mathias Barbera is the newest acquisition to the Huskies soccer team. Barbera planned to go to a university, but it all changed due to COVID.
Barbera contacted coach Flores in August. “Coach (Flores) accepted me quickly and got everything turned in to be on this team” said Barbera.
“On film he is spectacular, but can he get adjusted to our system? We are going to find out” said Flores about Barbera.
Barbera’s goals are to have a winning season with ELAC and play soccer at a university. Barbera’s dream team is Football Club Barcelona. FC Barcelona because my parents lived in Barcelona before moving to Toulon, France, Barbera said.
None of the players have gone to a sporting event in Los Angeles, something that they all plan to do soon. They did try to go see a Formula 1 race in Long Beach on Aug. 24. “When we arrived at Long beach, we realized the race was on Sep. 24 and not on Aug. 24,” said Pagnutti as he laughed.