BELL GARDENS, Calif. — When 16-year-old defender George Zuniga first stepped on the pitch of the Bell Gardens Sport Complex last Saturday, he had no idea what would come next.
But by the end of the first day of the Chivas USA trials for Sueño MLS 2012 – presented by Allstate, he had experienced a unique, “priceless” day on the field.
“Just the fact that I had the opportunity to participate in Sueño MLS, I feel like I’ve accomplished something important,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “I feel that I’ve gained a certain experience that just can’t be matched to high school or club soccer.”
On Saturday evening, he was selected by the Chivas USA academy coaches to be one of the 30 finalists to take part in the second day of trials. He admitted to a few rough patches throughout the weekend but in the end did what he could to pull through.
“I had a bad start at the beginning of the tryout, made a couple of mistakes and also hurt myself so there was little time for the scouts to see me,” Zuniga admitted. “But I think in the end, I redeemed myself. I’ve never been the kind to give up, no matter what the obstacle may be.”
Zuniga’s father, who has closely guided him throughout his soccer career, as well as coached him with a local Carson club team, was very vocal about his son’s competing against some of the best in SoCal. He constantly reassured his son and himself throughout the day. “That’s my boy,” he said often.
“To be honest, it was quite overwhelming and exciting to see my son going up against some of the best youth players I’ve seen,” Zuniga Sr. said. “I never had these types of opportunities as a child and to be able to live my dream though George brings tears to my eyes.”
A loyal fan of Chivas de Guadalajara, the younger Zuniga plays defense at Warren High School. He says his grandmother is his biggest fan.
“My grandma has become a sort of a lucky charm,” Zuniga said.
As far as Zuniga’s potential goes, Chivas USA Development Academy Assistant Coach Jose Vasquez highlighted Zuniga’s composure.
“He did his job in the back, and he was organized well, very consistent,” Vasquez said, “and that’s something you don’t see much in a 16-year-old.”