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Posted Jun 14, 2012, 7:47 am
Sometimes students will take a semester off to travel or "find themselves," but University of Arizona sophomore Ana-Maria Montoya took this semester off for a very different reason. She's been training to play soccer for Colombia in next month's Olympics.
It's a bit tougher than a backpacking trip in Europe.
"Everyday I am pushed to my limit, not only physically, but mentally," she said in an email from Bogota. "We train twice a day one day, and then once a day the following day."
It isn't the first time the Wildcat midfielder has suited up for Colombia, whose women's team is known as Las Cafeteras. She played in the 2008 Under-17 Women's World Cup in New Zealand, where she came in as a late-game substitute in all three of Colombia's matches. She also participated in the camp for Colombia's entry in the last World Cup, but wasn't selected for the final squad.
Colombia will begin a series of pre-Olympic tune-up matches against German team FFC Turbine Potsdam on July 4. Their Olympic campaign begins with their first group match on July 25. Their group consists of North Korea, France and a team that Montoya is very familiar with: the United States.
Montoya calls playing the country she grew up in while wearing the uniform of her father's homeland "indescribable."
"It is a unique feeling," she said.
Colombia is in a tough group, but Montoya sees the team moving to the knockout rounds.
"I feel confident in Colombia's chances as we have been playing extremely well," she said. "The way in which we move the ball is precise."
Montoya describes the team's style of play as "toque toque," a lot of passes to the feet rather than in the air.
"(It's) very similar to the way Spain plays," she said.
It is not the style that one sees in American college soccer. Montoya is hoping she can bring a little toque toque to the Wildcats when they start playing again in the fall.
"Implementing the style played here is something that could really help my UofA team," she said. "As most college teams in the USA play the ball in the air, I believe it would benefit UofA soccer to put the ball on the floor and allow the ball to do the work."
Colombia opens their Olympic tournament with a match against North Korea in Glasgow on July 25. They play the United States on the July 28.
Twenty-four hours of glory
FC Tucson's win over the Ogden Outlaws last Thursday put them at the top of the division table.
Their time on top only lasted until the next day when Ventura County's 2-1 win over Orange County put the Fusion ahead of Los Tucsonenses on the table by one point.
Thursday night begins a run of three games in five days. They open with a game at home against the Los Angeles Misioneros, and travel to California to play Ventura County before playing one more against the Misioneros.
Wins against the Misioneros are important, but getting three against Ventura County when they play them Saturday would help cement Tucson's place at the top of the table.
FC Tucson assistant coach Henry Brauner looks forward to playing Ventura County for another reason: He played for them in 2009, when they won the national championship.
"It'll be fun, see the old coaching staff I used to play for," Brauner said. "I have some great memories with some of those guys, some of those coaches."
Remembering old times aside, Brauner knows that three games in a five-day span is a challenge.
"The physical side, the playing side, we'll be OK," he said. "But mentally, it's a very tough task."
"Three games in five days even at home would be a tough task," Brauner continued. "But now that we are on the road with six hours of travel, it's going to put these guys to the fire."
"If these guys come out of this with maximum points, it's a testament to their mental fortitude," he said.
Bacon moving on up...state
Pima College goalkeeper Daniel Bacon, who finished last season with 90 saves, will be playing for the University of South Carolina Upstate next year according to the school's website.
The former Sahuaro High School goalkeeper helped the Pima Aztecs to a 19-7 record and a fifth place finish in the National Junior College finals.