Feb. 4, 2010
NIU Media Relations
Few collegiate athletes get to meet their childhood heroes, let alone play against them. But for former NIU men's soccer player-turned-pro Luis De La Cerda, his dreams are quickly coming true.
Just months after hitting the pitch for the Huskies, the Guadalajara, Mexico native returned home to suit up for CF Reboceros de la Piedad, a team competing out of La Piedad, Mexico. Playing alongside one of his childhood idols, Juan Pablo `Pato' Alfaro, De La Cerda has already felt the impact of going pro. He played in front of over 20,000 fans in an exhibition match-up with Chivas de Guadalajara, one of the premier clubs in Mexico. The former Huskie will also line up against another childhood hero when his team takes on Cuahtemoc Blanco, a former Chicago Fire star, who now plays for Veracruz.
The Reboceros, are a second division team out of Mexico that began its franchise back in 1951. After fluctuating between the country's premier and second divisions, the team has settled into the Liga de Ascenso (League of Ascent) of Mexico's Segunda División Profesional (Second Division). De La Cerda is one of many newcomers to earn a contract for the 2010 season, and team director Jesus Martinez hopes the former Huskie's dedication will help the team to a league championship.
"We've grown tremendously with these new players that have come to strengthen our team, and I'm sure that each of them will bring something important to the objectives that we've established at the club," Martinez said. "The characteristics of these players will be in line with the philosophies of our club as intensity, strength and determination are the style of (team manager) Felix Cruz."
De La Cerda signed with the Reboceros near the end of December, and has seen time in each of the team's exhibition games as a substitute. The former Huskie mid-fielder fills in his new roster playing at both the left mid-fielder and center back positions. De La Cerda credits his time at NIU for helping him reach his goal of playing at the professional level.
"Playing at Northern really helped me follow my dream," he said. "(Former coach) Steve Simmons
, (NIU head coach) Eric Luzzi
, and (sports performance coach) Chad Bower pushed me to become a much stronger player mentally and physically, which has given me an edge that I was lacking when I first came to NIU four years ago. Most players here have amazing technical skills, but my physical preparation from NIU has allowed me to stand out as a player."
As a senior, De La Cerda was honored with a spot on the All-MAC Academic team after posting a 3.319 grade point average in finance. In his last year as a Huskie, the mid-fielder co-led his squad in scoring with six goals and five assists to tally a team high 17 points. De La Cerda played 76 career games in Cardinal and Black, notching 42 starts in four years. He returned home after leaving NIU with 13 career goals to go along with 10 assists and a Mid-American Conference Championship title.
Despite his success with the Huskies, De La Cerda understands that he is only just beginning down the path towards his ultimate goal of earning a starting spot in a professional club.
"I still have to adjust to the rhythm of professional soccer and improve my technique a little in order to be competitive and earn myself a spot in the starting lineup," De La Cerda said. "I know this season will be an experience that I will never forget and I am excited to keep following my dream."
De La Cerda and his team opened the 2010 season with a 1-0 win over Tijuana, and are 2-2 on the year. The Reboceros hit the pitch next against Cruz Azul Hidalgo. February 7.