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Sueño MLS: Young center back Oscar Aragon books finals berth after 16-hour drive from Houston

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – He probably made the biggest first impression in Sunday’s finale.

Tall, composed and with a knack for the ball, center back Oscar Aragon stood out – literally and figuratively – right away in the final leg of Colorado’s Sueño MLS presented by AllState, hosted at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park last weekend.

The 16-year-old out of Magnolia, Texas, stood out in a different way, too. He made perhaps the longest journey of anyone playing on Sunday – a 16-hour cross-country trek from his Houston-area home to get to suburban Denver.

Aragon took off a day from school on Monday – OK, that’s not so bad – and had his whole family join him for the adventure, one that has now culminated with a trip to Los Angeles next month to take part in the finals of Sueño MLS.

And if you saw Aragon’s quiet smile on Sunday, you know it was worth every mile traveled for him and his family.

“My reaction was like ‘We did it,’” Aragon said on Sunday, referencing his family. “When I came and I saw a lot of people, I was like, ‘Wow, it’s cool.’ I had to give it all I had.”

Aragon’s two sisters giggled as they rolled around in the grass while their older brother had his photo taken and spoke to reporters. It was unquestionably a family trip – in fact, it was his mother was the one who signed him up for the competition in the first place. And when Aragon’s name was called on national television on Sunday, His parents and sisters all let out a simultaneous, unmistakable cry for joy.

It didn’t take long for Aragon to justify his mother’s decision to pack up the family and send them to Colorado. On Saturday, as the 264 competitors duked it out for the final 26 spots on Sunday, the 6-foot-2 Aragon quickly made a name for himself as a rock-solid central defender, unafraid of going after the ball, just like his role model, Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid and the Spanish national team.

“I just love his dirtiness,” Aragon said of Ramos. “He goes to the ball.”

Quiet and serious, Aragon said he plays soccer every day back in Texas. He plays for Magnolia High School and Houston-area club Texas United, helping provide the experience he needed to win the trip to LA.

And while he arrived with big expectations, if for no other reason than to justify the inevitable bickering of two 16-hour car rides between Texas and Colorado, it was his attitude – and the support of his family – that allowed Aragon to earn his trip to California.

“When I saw a lot of competitors, it looked impossible,” said Aragon, a Houston Dynamo fan. “But I knew inside of me that nothing’s impossible.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.