CARSON, Calif. – Many great inventions in history have been discovered accidentally. Scientists have had accidental breakthroughs. Artists have stumbled on techniques. Musicians have haphazardly found a classic melody.
But finding your own talent rarely happens this way.
This is the story of Heriberto Becerra (pictured above, far right), one of the goalkeepers selected to participate in the four-day national finals of Sueño MLS – Presented by Allstate, which take place at the Home Depot Center, May 9-12.
Becerra, 17, resides in Fontana, Calif., and was selected by Felix Fernandez as the best goalkeeper of the weekend event out of 41 hopefuls at the LA Galaxy stop of Sueño MLS. He will now contend for the Allstate “Good Hands” top goalkeeper award to be named El Portero Allstate – against two more 'keepers at the finals.
But how Becerra even came to become a goalkeeper is a fated story.
“I was about four," he recalls. "We had a team. I was a forward, I was good at it, too. But our goalkeeper didn’t show up one game."
Although still a small child, Becerra had an idea about what might be. It was a moment that would shape his soccer trajectory.
"I thought it could’ve been fun to play goalie," he says.
But fun was not what it turned out to be when he donned the gloves and jumped in goal. Playing goalkeeper was enjoyable, of course, but it was also more than that.
"It turned out I had potential," he says. "From then on, I always thought that if I were to make it, then it was going to be goalie."
Becerra’s trail as a goalkeeper has not been easy. Opportunities for advancement -- starting roles, academy trials, bigger clubs -- have been scarce. But his objective has always remained intact.
“When I was 10, I played for a team called Arsenal here in California," he recalls. "I also played for AB Miller High School, just for a season, but I was never given the opportunity I wanted. The coaches would rotate us goalies every game. I would play only three or four games that season; I have always had bad luck with sports. I have had bad games in front of scouts.”
Those bad games and bad luck have not led to a bad attitude. Becerra, a strong presence on the field, likens his game and mindset to his favorite player, Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas. He admires the Spanish international's leadership, and Becerra hopes he can show his own leadership skills during the finals.
Will fate smile on the forward-turned-goalkeeper finally?
“Nothing is promised," he says. "I want to get to the top of my game. I’m going to work hard to get it. I’ve had two surgeries, two concussions. I missed out on a lot of opportunities. Maybe now, though, it's changing.”
The winners of Sueño MLS will be revealed on a live broadcast of Univision's Republica Deportiva on May 12.