Defying the Odds: Tony Alfaro Is Living Inspiration for Every Division II Athletecsudhbulletin September 26, 2018 0 COMMENTS
By Victor Munoz
Tony Alfaro touched his first soccer ball at age 6. At that moment, he said he knew all he wanted the rest of his life was to play soccer.
Alfaro, now 25, made that desire a reality, not only playing the game but excelling at it: first with the CSUDH men’s soccer team and then in the professional ranks of Major League Soccer. But those notions were beyond the comprehension of the 6-year-old Alfaro. He just knew that he loved playing for the sheer joy.
But he also knew something else early on in his adolescent career: he hated losing. His competitive switch was always on. And Alfaro would need that switch to be on to help transition into both the university and professional soccer levels.
Alfaro’s competitive mindset helped him overcome the fact that Division II soccer, the division CSUDH competes in, is not a particularly fertile field for the MLS—nor is most collegiate-level soccer. According to the NCAA, the probability of bouncing from NCAA to the professional level in soccer is 1.4 percent and from that, fewer than 10 percent are from Division II.
But Alfaro is one of the rare few who did make it to the MLS. Today, the 25-year-old is a member of the Seattle Sounders, joining the team only a few months after graduating from CSUDH in 2015.
“Coming out of a smaller school you have less of a chance to make it because you will forever be the underdog and the unknown person,” Alfaro said. “I was that person, but I also did always believe that no matter where or who you are if you really want something anything is possible.”
Alfaro played high school soccer for Santa Barbara High school. He chose to attend CSUDH from a combination of the soccer program’s reputation, its location, and timing.
“Getting recruited wasn’t a specific thing in my calendar for me it just kind of happened in a tournament at South Torrance High School,” Alfaro said. “After that things became more real.”
In his four years at CSUDH, Alfaro, a center-back, played 71 of 75 games, most of them starting. As a senior, he was named a First Team All-American by the NSCAA. He earned honors such as the CCAA Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-West position. As team captain, he started all 21 matches for a team-high 1,954 minutes. He scored six goals, including game-winning goals against Humboldt State and Chico State.
But although he enjoyed an exceptional season as a senior, his expectations were not high for the MLS SuperDraft, held on Jan. 14, 2016.
He wound up being picked seventh in the second round by the Seattle Sounders. With a smile from ear to ear Alfaro walked to the podium and gave his thank you.
Alfaro was one of two Division II players to be drafted in that 2016 draft. The consensus among MLS reporters analyzing the draft seemed to be that Alfaro was a good pick, but wouldn’t make an impact until at least the 2018 season.
Once again, Alfaro defied the odds. On May 28, 2016, in the 40th minute of play, he made his professional debut substituting injured player Brad Evans. Alfaro made six appearances and one start as a rookie. He was a piece in the puzzle of the Seattle Sounders first-ever MLS championship.
“[My first season] is unexplainable, the feeling I got from everything I went through was surreal…. almost like a fairy tale,” Alfaro said.
Winning the MLS Cup was the highlight of Alfaro’s rookie campaign. In the 2018 season, Alfaro has seen action in four MLS matches and in 11 games with Seattle Sounders II, the Seattle Sounders reserve team.
Today, Alfaro is one of the 35 players from that 75-player draft still in the pros.
And he says he owes a great deal of his success to his experience at CSUDH.
“The relationships I built with people [at CSUDH] shaped me in a way that made me the strong person I am today,” Alfaro said.
Alfaro offers this advice for athletes who dream of following his footsteps, whether wearing cleats or not.
“Every day work towards that dream,” he said. “Intake both negative and positive feedback because they both fuel that drive to become better and get to where you want to be.”
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