CARSON, Calif. -- Luis Aranzazu was prepared for the final hurdle at Sueño MLS 2013, thanks to opportunities in his parents' homeland. He has spent some time training at one of Colombia's biggest clubs, and what he gained there helped prod him to the Allstate "Good Hands" goalkeeper award.
The 6-foot-4 Floridian became the third 'keeper to win Sueño honors on Sunday's “Republica Deportivo” telecast from the Home Depot Center, accepting the award from Jimmy Camacho, the top netminder from last year's competition.
“This means everything,” said Aranzazu, 17, of Pembroke Pines, Fla. “My dream becomes a reality.”
Actually, it's just a step toward his dream, but the skills he demonstrated at the D.C. United tryouts and over three days in Southern California bode well for his development into a top goalkeeper.
He's been playing in the nets since he was 11, and invitations to train each summer with Fabio Calle at Atlético Nacional in his parents' native Medellín have enabled him to grow into a solid keeper.
“When I was a kid, my family took me in every single sport: soccer, baseball, football, basketball, everything,” said Aranzazu, whose father flew to Los Angeles for the announcement. “I just kept loving soccer. Fabio Calle invited me to go to Atlético Nacional to train with him. If it wasn't for him, this would not be possible.”
Aranzazu faced tough competition from Daniel Ontiveros, 17, of Denver, and Heriberto Becerra, 17, of Fontana, Calif. Ontiveros also made the final sextet Sunday before the winners were announced.
What gave Aranzazu the edge?
“He had great performances during the games,” said former Mexican national-teamer Felix Fernandez, who worked with the Sueño keepers. “Actually, I have to say that during the training sessions, the drills, he was not the best, but during the games, his performance was great. The [separation among the keepers] was only by details, and those details made him the (ital)El Portero(end ital) this year.”
Aranzazu shut out the LA Galaxy U-16s in a 25-minute second half Friday, making a couple of big saves and expertly dealing with crosses with the sun in his eyes. He was solid again in a 20-minute stint at the end of Saturday's game with the Galaxy U-18s.
“He's so calm, has serenity,” Fernandez said. “He's good with his hands, good positioning, and he's also brave. Of course, he needs to work on some other details, but he has very good skills, and he could be, for sure, a professional keeper.”
Aranzazu receives an invitation to play with D.C. United's Academy, but Washington is a little more than 900 miles from his home, so he says he'll “have to sit down with my family” to figure out if that's the next step for him. He wants to play college soccer -- he likes the program at Florida Gulf Coast -- and then go into MLS or play overseas.
“He needs to join a [top] team,” Fernandez said. “He's already 17, at an age where he has to make decision. If he really wants to make it, he needs to make up his mind -- either go to college or [focus on] a pro career. He could do it in Colombia or in the United States. He has both chances.”