Soccer

Pro chance comes early for Pirate

cbest@newsobserver.comJuly 2, 2013 

— Plenty of high school student-athletes enter their post-secondary education lives with dreams of professional sports. The majority of them know what long odds they face in that quest.

Recent Corinth Holders High School graduate Melecio Rubio-Villagran is no different than any other athletic-minded member of the class of 2013 in that regard. He had an opportunity last weekend that may make that dream come to fruition a lot quicker than he ever dreamed.

Rubio-Villagran, a Wendell resident, traveled to Mexico City for a tryout with the U20 developmental team with the Pachuca Football Club of Liga MX, the top Mexican professional soccer league. There, he vied for a spot in the developmental ranks, akin to the minor leagues in baseball or the academy programs that are in European soccer.

After earning all-state honors from the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association while helping the Pirates reach the fourth round of the 2A playoffs last fall, Rubio-Villagran was one of five players to make it through a tryout of about 200 players in April in Mexico City. He had no idea how many players would be vying for a spot this time around.

“I felt amazed that I was selected out of 200 players there,” Rubio-Villagran said. “To hear your named called out in a situation like that. I felt I’d played well, but I was surprised when I made it.”

That camp consisted of full-field 11-on-11 scrimmage after scrimmage over two days.

Rubio-Villagran, who stands just 5-foot-5 and weighs in at 145 pounds, is used to playing against older players, having spent the past few years in Hispanic-dominated local leagues playing with his brother, Rodrigo, who is 27.

“Almost from his birth, Melecio has worked to achieve his goal of playing soccer at the highest level,” said Corinth Holders soccer coach Brent Walston, who has coached players who went on to become all-Americans and play in professional leagues, including the MLS. “Anyone who watches him play says Melecio has the speed, touch, game awareness and movement end-to-end and touchline-to-touchline that it takes to play the game at a high level. He’s as close to a complete player as I’ve ever been around. He stands out oh so much.”

Rubio-Villagran knew ahead of time the style of play he’d face in Mexico, a more flair-filled game with individual skills showcased. “They’re not into trying to keep possession,” Rubio-Villagran said. “They don’t pass the ball as much. It’s a lot of dribbling with the ball.”

It was a return to a familiar region for Rubio-Villagran, who moved with his parents (Melecio Rubio and Amelia Villagran) and brother from Uripitio in Michoacán (about two hours away from Mexico City) when he was 5 years old.

If the Corinth Holders High graduate is selected, he will stay in Mexico City and begin his career as a professional.

That would mean he will miss out on two highly-coveted opportunities for members of the class of 2013: the Clash of the Carolinas All-Star match this weekend in South Carolina and the East-West All-Star Game in Greensboro on July 22.

“I’d love to have those opportunities to play,” he said. “But this is a big thing for me if I make it. It will be an honor. My goal is to become a pro soccer player and this could be a small step or a big step in that direction.”

Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest

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