The game-winner that Erik Hurtado ’13 scored against the Columbus Crew on May 10 was the kind of stunner that explains why they call it the Beautiful Game—a 20-yard strike that curled round the diving goalie straight into the highlight reels.
It was an emphatic end to a year of frustration. Since being drafted fifth in 2013 by the Vancouver Whitecaps, Hurtado had endured a scoring drought that would have been unimaginable at Santa Clara, where his strength and pace dominated defenses. But as a pro, the 2012 West Coast Conference Player of the Year was goalless—and seemingly sliding into more of a role as supporter rather than star.
Then came the rare start against Columbus and a shot that reminded everyone that Hurtado was far more than just blazing speed: “As soon as it left my foot, I was like, ‘Oh my God, yes. Thank you, God,’” he told journalists.
The taste of success seemed to unleash him. Two weeks later in Seattle, a speeding Hurtado took a pass down the right flank, juked two defenders to the ground and ripped the ball into the roof of the net. “Do you like your ankles?” sports blog SB Nation asked, teeing up video of the highlight. “If so, steer clear of Erik Hurtado. Because he will break them.”
The rocket was voted the MLS goal of the week, easily beating superstar Landon Donovan’s knock-in to break the MLS’ all-time scoring record. The next week, Oregon native Hurtado scored in front of family and friends in Portland with more to follow. Going into the World Cup break in June, the white-hot striker had hit the back of the net in five straight games.
Inevitably he cooled, but the point had been made. Hurtado could perform with the best in the land, no surprise to those who watched him at SCU. “With his natural tools, he is only scratching the surface of his potential,” says Eric Yamamoto ’90, MBA ’95, the men’s associate head coach.