Flores parlays reality TV gig to MLS
18-year-old punches pro ticket with Sueño MLS win
Posted: Wednesday February 13, 2008 5:36PM; Updated: Monday February 18, 2008 10:38AM
Reprinted from SI Latino
It wasn't Dancing With the Stars or American Idol, but another reality show turned a regular 18-year-old Californian into a soccer pro.
Jorge Flores won the 2007 Sueño MLS -- Univision's soccer talent show that kicks off its second season on Feb. 15 -- and has since made his professional debut with Chivas USA and gotten called up for the U.S. Under-20 National Team.
Flores hadn't even heard of the show until an uncle made him sign up, though by that time he could only get a spot on the waiting list. Luck was on his side, however, as a spot opened up -- and the rest was pure talent. His tenacity and quickness on the ball, in addition to his wicked left foot, quickly set him apart in the tryouts. "The majority of the guys wanted to show off, but that's not what counts," says Flores, who was born in Anaheim and spent his childhood in Guanajuato, Mexico. "You have to help your teammate and never give up on a ball."
After being declared the winner of the competition and awarded a spot in Chivas USA's youth ranks, Flores' next job was to impress first-team coach Preki. Sure enough, he stood out in practices and earned his first MLS minutes by coming on as a substitute against the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 9 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
"I was nervous at first, but then it's an incredible experience to step on the field as a professional," says Flores, who graduated last year from Anaheim High School but was unable to attend the commencement ceremony because he was in Guadalajara playing a tournament with the Chivas USA U-19 team.
A couple of months after his MLS debut, Flores -- having caught the eye of former Chivas USA coach and current U-20 national team manager Thomas Rongen -- was called up for a series of friendly games in South America. Once again, Flores excelled, logging an assist against a reserve team of Argentine powerhouse River Plate and scoring the equalizing goal against one of Argentina's youth select teams.
"He's a prototype Hispanic player in terms of technique, skill," says Rongen, "but he has also benefited from American nutrition and strength training, and it makes him a very unique player because he has one of the highest work rates I've ever seen."
Rongen believes Flores could be a fixture in the qualifiers and hopefully in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2009, which is surprising considering that virtually nobody had heard of him until Sueño MLS.
"He didn't come through our typical developmental system, he's never really played on regional or national teams," Rongen says. "It's a very pleasant surprise to find somebody who's a bit of an unknown and who I really feel is going to be a key contributor to the Under-20s."
Meanwhile, Flores' strong performances have begun to pay off. He has just signed a professional contract with Chivas USA, meaning he's now part of the first team's 18-man roster and is going to make a lot more money than the pitiful wages he earned as an MLS developmental player last year.
On the field, he will see more playing time on the left side; and may transition from a midfielder/winger into a fullback position, just like Jonathan Bornstein did so successfully with the Goats.
And though his mind is clearly set on the upcoming season with Chivas USA, as well as future tournaments with the U-20s, that hasn't stopped Flores from imagining what else is out there for him -- and feeling the pull of his mother's homeland, the country of his childhood. "My next dream is to play in Mexico," he says.
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