FRISCO, Texas – With a smile plastered on his face, Livan Aguirre walked over to the makeshift bleachers to find his mother.
The two exchanged a big hug and had a short conversation in Spanish before Aguirre had to get back on the field for the second round of the Sueño MLS competition.
“Coming from where I’m from, I was very nervous at first to be competing here in Dallas, but once I saw that everybody was the same as me, I told myself I could do it,” Aguirre said. “I just put it in my head, and everything came through.”
Born in Brownsville, Texas, a border town in the southern-most reaches of the state where more than 90 percent of the population is Hispanic, the rising goalkeeper naturally developed a love for soccer at an early age and began playing at just three years old.
During his early soccer career, Aguirre helped lead his club teams to the Texas state championship three times and posted shutouts in each match. Aguirre realized he had his ticket – an undeniable talent to prevent balls from going in the back of the net – to get out of a city where the median income for a family is below $25,000.
When Aguirre first heard about Sueño MLS, he knew he could compete with the big boys. His parents had confidence in their son, and despite tight finances, made the long haul to Frisco.
“It’s going to be crazy if I make it past the second round because my family made so many sacrifices to get me here,” Aguirre said. “We had to drive 10 hours to come to Dallas and move things out of the way all for me to be able to compete this weekend. Personally, I’ve made so many sacrifices to try to develop as a soccer player, and it’s all going to come together here at this competition.”
Although high school teams from the Rio Grande Valley – the region of Texas where Brownsville is located – have claimed soccer state championships in the past, the culture and financial situations often prevent teenagers from living out their soccer dreams. Aguirre wants to break that chain and put his hometown on the map.
“Everybody back in Brownsville is very excited for me. All my friends, all my family, and even soccer players from around the city are so happy for me,” Aguirre said. “No one has the opportunity to compete in an MLS tryout. My Facebook even started to go crazy because this is the first time somebody from Brownsville is doing something big in soccer.”
Still, moving ahead in the competition is a tall task for a 14-year-old, even one who has already competed against kids that were three or four years older than him. But somehow, the underdog from the valley persevered and found himself in the second round of the Sueño MLS competition.
“It was very hard because I had to compete against people that were way older than me,” Aguirre said. “Some of them were 17 and 18, and I’m only 14, so it was difficult”
During the three-hour long scrimmage on Sunday, he proved he belonged. Aguirre, who is still in middle school, stopped shots from some of the fiercest young strikers in the nation and showed of his athleticism by diving around and knocking balls away with both his hands and feet.
“Livan caught our eye because of his foot skills. In modern soccer, a goalkeeper with good foot skills is very important,” said FC Dallas Academy coach Francisco Molina. “It’s not just saving balls with their hands. Mostly every coach teaches their goalkeeper to play with their feet.”
If Aguirre advances to the next round, he will be able to compete for the Allstate “Good Hands” top goalkeeper award – El Portero Allstate de Sueño MLS – in the national final against two other city winners.
“The competition was hard, but I just tried my best,” Aguirre said. “I feel I did everything I needed to do and now, I’m hoping for the best.”
Aguirre said if he doesn't advance, he'll still be happy he got the opportunity to defy the odds and compete in a Major League sponsored event.
But ask his city, parents, or even his competition, and they'll all tell you he's already a champion.