International players pursue same goals at ELAC

By Stephanie Guevara

Vicente Herencia, Edson Jimenez, Kevin Rodriguez and Gustavo Sliva come from four different countries to pursue the same goal in the United States that couldn’t be fulfilled in their countries.

Herencia, Jimenez, Rodriguez and Silva opted to play for the East Los Angeles College men’s soccer team because they found the opportunity to earn an education and play soccer.

Herencia,19,  a freshman defender from Santiago, Chile became fascinated in college soccer through his older brother.

“It had been my desire since I was 15 years old to came to the United States because my brother came to South Carolina to play soccer and study,” Herencia said.

Herencia said he had the opportunity to travel to South Carolina with his brother, see him play and visit his dorm.

After being exposed to his brother’s environment, Herencia took the initiative to look for a way to come to the U.S.

Herencia heard about ELAC through mutual friends and coaches. “The coach (ELAC head coach Eddie Flores) spoke to my parents and cleared everything to them. After that, I came here,” Herencia said.

Although Herencia is still getting back to rhythm, after suffering an injury that kept him out for a while, he said he is optimistic in achieving great things with the soccer team.

In Mexico, Jimenez tried to pursue a career in soccer, but it became impossible.

Jimenez, 22, is a freshman midfielder who came from Guadalajara, Mexico, formed part of Jaguares de México, a soccer club from Chiapas Mexico. He left  the team because it was in a terrible position athletic wise.

“In Mexico, I was playing for a team, but nothing else was going to happen because it was bad. I came here to look for a team where I could play. I found ELAC and saw the opportunity to play and study, since I was also studying industrial engineering in Guadalajara,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez in the Spring took a soccer class.

He approached the soccer coaches and asked them how he could get on the team.

“We saw him in the class and he was just special. He was doing things however he wanted and taking down players. Everything resulted because he was just being himself in the soccer classes,” men’s soccer assistant coach Ricardo Raygoza said.

Jimenez said his long term goal is  to pursue a career and play for a soccer club.

Rodriguez had a different process at ELAC.

Freshman forward Rodriguez, 19, came from Santa Barbara, Honduras three years ago and played for Augustus Hawkins High School.

He tried out for the men’s soccer team, but was recommended by a friend to Raygoza.

“Kevin was presented to me by a soccer mutual friend. He called me and told me there was a kid (Rodriguez) who was super good, talented and fast. He told me ‘If you don’t take him someone else will’,” Raygoza said.

Rodriguez said he found his motivation in playing soccer through school.

He learned in high school that in order to play for the team he had to earn good grades.

Rodriguez said he didn’t have that in Honduras.

“Over there (Honduras) there aren’t the same opportunities as here. In Honduras, if I wanted to play, I didn’t care about going to school. I would play and practice the whole day. When I entered high school here, I joined the soccer team and realized I had to earn good grades to play soccer. That motivated me into being good academically,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez’s biggest goal for this season is to win a title with ELAC. Remembering his loss last year in the California Interscholastic Federation final motivates him in wanting to win the South Coast Conference.

Silva found a place closest to his native Sao Paulo, Brazil in Los Angeles.

Freshman defensive midfielder Silva, 20, left Concordia, Kansas after a year of playing because he wanted to play in California.

Raygoza said Silva adapted to Los Angeles and ELAC fast.

“We are still impressed on how he had it to the team. One day it was really hot, but he never stopped running. He kept on pushing himself and harder. He worked as hard or harder than other guys just to be on the team. That’s what we need on the team and that’s why we love him,” Raygoza said.

Silva wants to pursue a career in business if soccer doesn’t work out for him.

He plans on staying in California for as long as he can.

Herencia, Jimenez, Rodriguez and Silva have no problem adapting to the team. They said team has become part of their family.

“We have our little arguments here and there because not all of us root for the same soccer team. One player might be talking about how Real Madrid is better and another one might yell across the locker room Barcelona or Manchester United is better, but that’s how we get along,” said Rodriguez.

Assistant coach David Garcia said all four players adapted well to the team.

“A couple of injuries have limited the playing time of some of the player, but other than that their animic side is very high. They seems happy and very social, which are very good signs,” Garcia said.

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