January 27, 2006

Decision Time for Eastlake’s Ortega

By John Philip Wyllie

Decisions, decisions. That is what talented Eastlake High School football and soccer star Daniel Ortega will be facing in the next few months. His performance on the field and in the classroom has given him many options. Now he must consider each one carefully and decide which path to follow.

“I’ve been offered a scholarship to attend (perennial powerhouse) UCLA on a soccer scholarship and I am talking to Stanford right now about a football scholarship,” Ortega said Tuesday following a Titan soccer practice.

During the football season, Ortega emerged a one of the county’s elite place kickers, routinely nailing field goals from more than 40 yards. For his efforts he was tabbed as a first team All-Mesa League selection. At the moment, he captains the Titan soccer team and fills the crucial role of attacking midfielder.

“Daniel is in the top two percent of the kids his age that I have coached,” said Titan pilot, Scott Burress. “He can easily play at the next level with a little work. He has some intangibles that other players don’t. He is able to create things on his own and it seems that he can get a shot off whenever he wants to. He’s able to create goals for his teammates as well.”

One of the problems with having a player of Ortega’s caliber is that he is in demand elsewhere and must be shared. Through the years, Ortega has played on various state and national teams and as a result has missed quite a few of his high school matches. For a time, he was in the national residency camp in Braedenton, Florida competing to play on the U.S. U-17 national team.

“I have been on the state team since I was 11 or 12 and I have also played for the Far West Regional team. From there, I entered the national pool and in the second semester of my junior year I was in the residency program with the national team in Florida. I lived there for a semester and I was training for the U-17 Youth World Championship, but I came down with (mononucleosis).” That ended that opportunity, but not Ortega’s desire to pursue a career in soccer. “I’m still with the state, regional and national teams and every so often I get a call-up.”

Ortega is one of several Titan players who are subject to call-ups from various state and regional teams. The ever changing lineup has made it difficult for Burress, but he wholeheartedly supports the program. Playing short-handed has made it difficult to win at times, but Eastlake hopes to be in the hunt for a league championship. Ortega believes they will be.

“We have a really good team here this year. I think it is the best we have had in the last four years. It is a young and small team, but we have a good connection with each other. Our goal is to win league and the ultimately win a CIF title. We’ve never won a league championship in soccer, so we have a lot to overcome.”

“The sky is the limit both for this team and for Daniel,” added Burress.

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