All work and all play

They make Erik Hurtado ’13 WCC player of the year and the No. 5 pick in pro soccer’s draft.

Erik Hurtado ’13 was hardly a secret going into the Major League Soccer Combine in January. The annual event is an opportunity for the best young soccer prospects in the land to showcase their talents in front of professional coaches and executives. And this year, Hurtado, majoring in philosophy and ethnic studies, was invited along with fellow senior (and philosophy major) Larry Jackson, the WCC goalkeeper of the year, making SCU one of 13 schools with more than one representative.

An offensive dynamo, Hurtado arrived with a résumé that included 2012 WCC Player of the Year and third-team All-American honors, the fruits of a torrid season in which he led the conference in shots, points, and goals per game—and ended his career as SCU’s third-leading scorer.

“It’s just the beginning of my dream.”

Still, not everyone was a believer that his skills would transfer to the next level. He entered the combine ranked as only the seventh-best forward in the group by, the league’s official website, which predicted he could go late in the first or early in the second round.

That estimation changed once coaches got a long look at Hurtado’s speed, strength, and instincts during the weeklong tryout. Two days after the combine ended, the Vancouver Whitecaps made Hurtado the second forward selected in the MLS draft, taking him with the fifth overall pick.

He was the 24th Bronco drafted since the league began play in 1996, and he was the highest to go since Mehdi Ballouchy was drafted in 2006.

“It’s just the beginning of my dream,” Hurtado told the cameras, a Whitecaps scarf draped over his shoulders.

While pundits who hadn’t followed Hurtado may have been surprised at the combine, SCU Assistant Coach Eric Yamamoto ’90, MBA ’95 says that was always clear to people in the know that Hurtado’s talents would be in high demand. His explosiveness, power, and work ethic make him the epitome of the kind of player who thrives in the MLS.

The Whitecaps are one of the newer teams in the MLS, only joining the league in 2011. But they’ve quickly developed a strong SCU connection. NBA star and ardent soccer supporter Steve Nash ’96 is a minority owner. And veteran goalkeeper Joe Cannon ’98 has minded their goal the past two seasons.

For Hurtado, the location has more personal meaning. An Oregonian who has spent the summers since his freshman year playing for the Portland Timbers Under-23 team, he’s happy for the chance to pursue his life’s dream while staying close to his roots in the Pacific Northwest.

post-image Speed and strength: Hurtado strikes north. Photo by John Mendina
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