By John Philip Wyllie
After a nearly disastrous 0-4 start, the San Diego Sockers have at last turned their season around. Currently 8-8 and in second place in the Western Conference standings, the Sockers are poised to make a run at the playoffs as the season heads into its fourth month. The team’s upward turn has been due in part to the play of former Cetys Universidad star, Mauricio Alegre. With eight goals and three assists, Alegre, the scrappy, veteran midfielder, is back in top form after taking a year sabbatical from the team to pursue a degree in business administration.
“Sometimes you have to make hard decisions,” Alegre explained. “Taking the year off to get my degree allowed me to get the kind of job that I needed to buy a house in Tijuana.” Once he and his wife Adriana had moved in however, his thoughts immediately returned to soccer.
“I couldn’t resist the opportunity to play again,” he said. “For that reason, I am back this year.” No one is happier about his return than Sockers coach, Brian Quinn.
“Mauricio hasn’t missed a beat since taking the year off,” Quinn said. “He has been pretty consistent since the season started. He’s a pesky kind of player that gives us a lot of energy in the midfield. (His hustle) creates a lot of opportunities for himself and the other players and lately, he has been finding the back of the net.” Twice in the last few games Alegre has come up with two-goal performances. Regaining his game fitness however, has been no easy task.
“I gained some weight (during the long layoff) and that created some problems with my speed,” Alegre explained. “I found that I couldn’t train the same way that I used to. I had to do twice as much as my teammates (in order to keep up). I knew what I was supposed to do, but my legs just wouldn’t do it. I went on a diet and that has helped. I feel better now, but I still need to lose about six more pounds.” Alegre isn’t the only one that has improved in recent weeks, the entire team has.
“We came into the season with five or six new players. We weren’t together as a team. Right now things are coming together and we have a good group of guys both on and off the field. We are scoring goals and defending a lot better. At the beginning (of the season), things weren’t too clear for some of our players, but now everybody is on the same page.”
Alegre’s on-the-field contribution isn’t the only thing he is doing for the team. As one of the team’s two Mexican-born players, he is actively involved in the Sockers’ promotional efforts within the local Hispanic community.
“We have a lot of support in Tijuana because a lot of people there know Tony (Velasquez) and I. I have been coaching kids in Tijuana (for years). At the moment, I am coaching a team in Chula Vista. My team is made up of nearly all Mexican players. (The organization) has a lot of good contacts within the Latino community.”
As a new homeowner in Tijuana that commutes everyday to play and coach in San Diego, Alegre’s life is pretty hectic, but he is not complaining. He is thrilled to be back in a Sockers’ uniform and confident the team is now back on the right track.
“Our first goal is to make the playoffs and I think that we will. We have a very solid team. Once we fix the few of the mistakes we are making we will be in a good position to go for the championship.”