Player Profile: David Zamora

Soccer players are an interesting athletic breed. With thin, sinewy bodies they run for 90 minutes straight, at one moment lulled into an attentive jog as they watch the play on the other side of the field, and in the next they dart off, as fast as a cheetah to pursue a misbehaved defender or a breakaway play. In almost all countries, except this one, soccer players are gods among men. And, even though American soccer players do not get nearly enough media attention compared to athletes of other sports, as soccer acquires a growing fan base in the US,  local communities are beginning to recognize the sheer talent of these men and women.

Since 2007, soccer in San Luis Obispo has turned heads in the community. The Cal Poly men’s soccer team qualified for the NCAA Big West Conference Tournament’s field of 48 in 2008, for the first time in 15 years, and clinched a trip to the semifinals at the end of the 2009 season. In the face of such media attention, the Cal Poly men’s soccer team has become somewhat of a legend, standing on its own against the football and basketball teams as a force to be reckoned with.

Once player that has consistently distinguished himself on the pitch since his arrival at Cal Poly in

Junior Forward David Zamora

2007, is Junior Forward David Zamora. Born on July 4, 1987, the Costa Rican native has been a powerful force for the Cal Poly squad and has been earning the Mustangs high numbers for three consecutive seasons.

For Zamora, soccer may as well have been his first word. Soccer is the national sport in Costa Rica so it was a constant presence in his life from an early age. Zamora says that before he was even able to walk he had acquired a collection of soccer balls as presents, and he says it was only natural that, as soon as he was able to run, he joined his older brother and his cousins on the field. There is even a picture out there somewhere of Zamora at age two kicking a ball to his brother who was playing goalkeeper.

With so much soccer in his daily life, Zamora followed the natural course of many talented boys his age and played soccer for his primary and secondary school teams. He also had the chance to play for the youth teams of two of the biggest professional teams in Costa Rica, Saprissa and Alajuela, and gained on-the-field experience that most young American soccer players only dream of.

Zamora’s first San Luis Obispo experience was during a recruiting trip in the Fall of 2006, and it seems as though his first impressions of the Central Coast were an indicator of his inevitable future with the Mustangs. “I just loved the place,” he says, “beautiful mountains, the beach minutes away and the weather was awesome. It reminded me of back home.” Zamora also identifies with the small town feel and says it reminds him of the one he grew up in. Of the city itself he notes that “there is everything you need, but [can] still maintain a certain tranquility that you don’t get in a big city.”

When it came time for recruitment, Zamora did his research before taking Cal Poly into consideration. He says knew from the start that the program wasn’t ranked but that the recent installation of Head Coach Paul Moocher, who was coming from a successful D3 program at UC Santa Cruz, and who had been a player for the MLS and Austrian soccer league, intrigued him. “Even though there were better programs that wanted me,” Zamora says, “I knew that here at Cal Poly I was going to be part of something different.”

Zamora couldn’t have been more right in his prediction for success, and he says that his outlook has only changed for the better. He acknowledges that since he’s been with the program, his coaches and his team have changed Mustang Soccer’s reputation across the country. “My first season we were ranked at number 10 in the nation,” Zamora points out, “we have broken several school records in the last three years and have [even] made it to the second round of NCAA playoffs.” And even with all of these accomplishments on the board for this successful team Zamora says that there’s a long way to go and plenty of room for improvement.

In terms of his individual involvement with the game Zamora says his favorite part about soccer, besides scoring goals, is the passion that a sport can bring [out] in a person, a team, and even a country.  In terms of his personal game, he considers his strongest skill to be that ability to score goals and maintain offensive possession of the ball. In terms of what he needs to work on he says that he would love to be faster as well as improve the defensive side of his game.

With spring season less than a month away Zamora has some thoughts on how the team can improve their level of play to be ready for strong opponent. He feels that the team needs to work on developing their style of play, which is possession based. In terms of next season Zamora, has set his eyes on the Big West prize. “I’m looking forward to be able to win our school its first Big West title and personally score more than ten goals in the season. I’m four goals away, “ he says, “so accomplishing that would be a great thing to do.”

When it comes to his future outside of soccer, Zamora, who is a Business major and believes that the program will give him the right tools to go out into the real world and work in any kind of industry, wants to go back home and help his family run its construction company. However, don’t expect his soccer pursuits to end upon graduation from Cal Poly. When asked if he could see himself going pro he says, with an air of mystery, “I’ve been working to get some opportunities after I graduate but we’ll see what happens.”

Coach Profile: Jeff “Ziggy” Korytoski

Jeff "Ziggy" Korytoski -- Cal Poly Men's Soccer Assistant Coach

Those that have played soccer know, and those that haven’t most likely can’t fathom, the amount of time that goes into being involved with the sport. Any soccer mom can tell you that her job is tough, but it’s often not known how much time goes into being involved with the inner-workings of the game. Being a soccer player is one thing; countless hours of drills (from minute foot work to full-field possession), countless drops of sweat and countless bruises, scrapes and injuries are elements that are expected of a dedicated player. But being a soccer coach is another thing entirely.

Media coverage highlights the successes and struggles of the elite soccer player, but what about the successes and struggles of the elite soccer coach? Not only are they involved in all the “coachy” stuff like tactical theory, speed, agility and fitness training, but they also have to have all the mental, physical and emotional discipline of any surgeon, engineer, pilot, or army general.

At a recent morning practice at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Jeff “Ziggy” Korytoski, Assistant Coach of the Men’s Soccer team, was at the top of his coaching game. During a drill that emphasizes quick, one-touch possession, Korytoski frequently stopped the game to encourage his players to work on tighter passing, look to space for their open teammates, and be tighter on their mark. Some instances required harsher words and a louder tone, but it was evident that this man knew what he

Korytoski looks on from the sidelines of a drill emphasizing possesion at a morning practice on the Cal Poly turf fields.

was talking about and that he knew what he was doing. Though some of his players gave him attitude when he called offside or out-of-bounds, there was a reverent respect for this man that was hard to ignore, and an air of importance that was casual and unassuming, yet noticeable.

When many people think of coaching I’m sure the vision of the pudgy, baseball-cap-wearing youth soccer coach, hands flailing and epithets flying, comes to mind. However, coaching at the college and elite level is a profession, and these men and women take it very seriously. I mean, how could they not when soccer has been an integral part of the majority of their lives?

Korytoski’s background makes him a prime candidate for the position he occupies with the soccer program today. Born in Springfield, MA, he moved to Sonoma, CA, located just outside of San Francisco, and attended middle school and high school at the local public schools. Sports aptitude was a given since the age of five, and along with soccer he played baseball, basketball, golf and ran track.

Korytoski eventually moved up to the more competitive level of soccer play and played Central Midfielder and Sweeper for the Sonoma Heat. After graduation he attended Santa Rosa Junior College where he captained a successful team that qualified for the State tournament in two back-to-back seasons, at the end of which he received All-Far West honors for his level of play. Korytoski transferred to UNC Wilmington and played all 21 games of his junior season, quite an accomplishment for any soccer player at the college level. California welcomed him back to its soil in 1999 and after a stint with the U-23 Cal-North Player pool that took him all the way to the National Semifinals, he found himself in the coaching realm.

While his player resume is quite impressive and representative of a strong work ethic and love of the game, Korytoski’s coaching roots run just as deep. “I began coaching in college and have done so ever since”, he says. He began as Assistant Coach at Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa, California and led them to the North Coast Section (NCS) Final Four in 2000. His coaching stints have ranged across the country, from Penn State, to Ohio, back to Santa Rosa and finally here in San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly.

Korytoski, who’s favorite part of soccer is the “tactical matchups and pressure to win every game”, arrived in beautiful SLO County in 2007 and has been working alongside fellow assistant coach Ryan Hopkins and Head Coach Paul Holocher to make the men’s team a shining star on the Central Coast. He says his favorite part about coaching at Cal Poly is the atmosphere of the games. “The players are fantastic,” he says, “and I believe we have the best student body and community in the country.”  His most memorable soccer moment was the team’s 1-0 win in the 2008 NCAA Big West Tournament quarter-finals against rival UCLA. And even when the instances are not so successful, such as Poly’s loss to all-time rival UCSB on a goal that was scored when the official restarted the game without alerting the linesmen or the players, he remains positive about the pure joy of being involved with the sport. Of that game he says, “It was a sell-out crowd and a fanatastic atmosphere.”

One thing is for sure, Korytoski isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Coaching is in his blood and when he interacts with his players you can tell that his connection runs deeper than his job. It’s the spirit, drive and dedication that makes a coach an excellent one, and needless to say Korytoski exhibits those qualities time he steps onto the pitch.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT SOCCER IN SLO?

Mustang Soccer Academy

I’m working with the men’s soccer program here at Cal Poly to help create a website for the MANGLERS, the university’s very own soccer hooligans, as well as design flyers, banners, and post cards for the team. Above is a web campaign that I designed for the “WEST COAST COLLEGE CAMPS” which are camps put on the Mustang Men’s team to recruit new players and showcase their talent. It’s been a fun time so far, check back for more Mustang news!

Cal Poly Men’s Soccer Frequently Asked Questions



Q:

How many players from Cal Poly have continued to play after graduation in other leagues?

A:

A number of players have moved on over the years from Cal Poly to higher professional leagues.    The Fernandez brothers, Mario and Carlos,  are now playing in Spain.   Perhaps the best story of the year though is Anton Peterlin, who was a two-year captain here at Cal Poly,  and is now playing for Everton  Reserves of the English Premier League.   He is playing with some of the best and most famous players in the world.

Q:

Who is in our division of play and how many Division 1 teams are out there?

A:

There are over 204 D1 teams for the Men throughout the nation.   We play in the very competitive Big West Conference, that includes UCSB, UC Davis,  UC Irvine,  UC Riverside,  CS Fullerton and  CS Northridge

Q:

Are many of the players walk-ons or are most players recruited out of high school or junior colleges?

A:

Most all of the players have been recruited to come to Cal Poly and have usually been identified sometime in their junior year of high-school.    We have players from throughout the country and a few international players as well. We  are always open to players walking on though and this has definitely happened.   We have Spring ID days where we encourage motivated players to come out and try and impress and show their abilities.

Q:

Is there any particular high school that the coaches look at for new players?

A:

We identify players mainly from their club teams, but any opportunity to see a player is a good one.   We go to major tournaments and see the top clubs play as much as possible,  but are also trying to unearth those diamonds in the rough that may come from smaller clubs.

Q:

How much time does the team spend traveling per season?

A:

We are travelling throughout the year in some capacity, whether it is for our games in the Fall or for recruiting or even coaches education.   We are always trying to expose our players to the best competition possible.   Next year in 2010 we make a few trips, one to Colorado to play Air Force and Denver,  and a second to Indiana to play  Notre Dame and Indiana University.    These are special experience for these young men and they will remember these days of competing against the best for the rest of their lives.   We hope to one day also take an international trip so they can experience soccer internationally.

Q:

What position are we ranked nationally?

A:

In 2008 we finished the season ranked 23rd in the nation. The  highest Cal Poly Soccer had ever been ranked nationally.   In 2009 we again were a very young team with nearly have the team as freshman.  It was a year of maturing and growing and we suffered a tough beginning of the season with some tough games on the road.  We finished well in our conference though, but our season was cut short with a loss in the Big West Conference Semi-Finals.   We are working hard this off-season to again become a team that the nation takes note of.

Q:

Who is our biggest rival?

A:

Our biggest rival without question is UCSB.  It is now perhaps the #1 attended college soccer rivalry in the nation.   There is a lot of passion in this match and over 20,000 people came  to these games last year.   It is truly one of the best college sporting events in the nation when these two teams play.

Q:

Does the soccer team receive private support, or is it all state funded?

A:

We have booster and supporters for the program.   We have a state-funded budget, but we personally do a lot of fundraising so we can offer the type of program that we feel the players and school deserve.

Q:

What is the academic policy?

A:

You have to really budget your time and be devoted to academics if you are to be an athlete.  It is not easy to do both and we have the same academic policy as the normal Cal Poly students.

United States Soccer: Boom or Bust?

By Claire Raymond

STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Multifaceted analysis of soccer’s struggle for popularity in the United States.
  • San Luis Obispo locals weigh in on what they know about Soccer in the community.
  • VuVox photographic montage of the Cal Poly 2009 season.

International buzz surrounded the 2010 Word Cup on Dec. 4 when FIFA announced the initial groupings of the 32 teams set to play for the biggest tournament title in soccer. The draw, which put the United States in a bracket with England, Slovenia and Algeria, highlighted an important issue in United States soccer: viewership and popularity.

Many writers, commentators and critics of the game have pointed out that South Africa 2010 may be the tipping point for the game as a domestic institution in the US.  As sports writer Chris Lane so profoundly noted in his coverage of the draw, the World Cup will “define United States soccer for the next decade in terms of popularity.”

But why are US soccer fans and critics being so prophetic at a time when much of the world is joyously preparing for the event? The answer might lie in the fact that, when viewers were asked in a recent CNN poll if they were planning on watching one or more games of tournament play, an overwhelming 68% of viewers said they were not planning on watching any games at all. To the majority of Americans soccer is a fad, moving in and out of the spotlight, but never being able to stay for long.

As an avid soccer player and fan, it is hard for me to understand why the beautiful game, one with so much international history and vibrancy is such a failure in the United States.

photo courtesy of ChinaDaily.com

Brandi Chastain celebrates after hitting the game winning penalty kick against China at the 1999 World Cup (photo courtesy of chinadaily.com)

With the exception of a niche group of fans and followers,  much of what Americans know about soccer is Brandi Chastain ripping her shirt off when the women’s team won the 1999 World Cup , and hunky British footballer David Beckham being signed to the LA Galaxy for an absurd amount of money.

These  so-called “moments in soccer history” reflect the cultural values that make it so hard for soccer to get a leg-up (no pun intended) in this country. Americans, in short, don’t have the attention span or the time to actually embrace the sport. The idea that a soccer match can be played for 90 minutes or longer to a scoreless draw makes soccer instantly mundane to those who have never played.

Patrick Robertson, head coach of the Cal Poly women’s club team, notes that there is an incongruency in the sport.  “From a standard American viewpoint soccer seems pointless, random, and flimsy,” he says. If  the rest of America could see “the vibrantly creative, vividly athletic, and wildly skillful sport that all footballers see then maybe, just maybe, they could relate to its raw athleticism and precision. ” Robertson makes a good point, and one that MLS and the US Soccer Federation should listen to: soccer, as with any fledgling fad product, needs to be marketed.

In a 2007 Sports Illustrated article, Grant Wahl writes about the “Americanization of David Beckham…” or rather the “Beckhamization of America.” In his piece Wahl asks these very relevant questions: “Can one man make the U.S. public care about the Los Angeles Galaxy? About Major League Soccer? About a sport that, neither hosting the 1994 World Cup, nor harboring the greatest player ever–Pelé–could turn into the mainstream religion that it is nearly everywhere else on the planet? ”

The answer: He got the ball rolling. Beckham initiated a new breed of soccer

photo courtesy of blog.taragana.com

David Beckham shows off his new LA Galaxy jersey at a publicity event (photo courtesy of blog.taragana.com)

coverage in the United States. He was able to use his celebrity to draw record crowds, sell season tickets and most importantly fill the press box, things that the MLS , and the Galaxy in particular, was having a difficult time accomplishing.

If Beckham as a brand has been good for the catalyzation of US soccer, it’s his salary that turned the most heads. Sports fans saw a foreigner and a soccer player, of all things, drawing a salary comparable to top athletes in the NFL and MLB and they took notice. Michael Massicotte, a goalkeeper for the Cuesta College men’s team, notes that salaries are an underlying factor to the popularity of soccer in the US. “If you look at Pro Sports like basketball and football that’s where all the money is made,” he says. “Look at Lebron James and others. They’re making millions upon millions per year and the MLS has just not approached that.”

Salary may be what dissuades young people with promise  from pursuing the sport domestically. For example, the second highest paid MLS player, Landon Donovan of the LA Galaxy is under a $900,000/year contract while, according to Gahl, the lowest paid player is making a measley $17,700 — or $6,482,300 less than Beckham’s.

The MLS, with the exception of Beckham, has instated a $2.4 million salary cap, yet the most talented players in the league are hardly pushing $1 million. This may have to do with the fact that soccer is an exception to the sports team franchise. While NFL, MLB, NHL, etc., operate under closed membership and ownership, the MLS is a separate business entitiy with owners of the 16 teams acting as shareholders. This disparity succeeds in ostracising soccer, presenting it as a lesser sport, and condemning it to fledgling status indefinitely.

When it really comes down to it, the popularity of soccer in the US has its roots in this country’s roots. While evidence of soccer playing can be traced back thousands of years in most European and Asian countries, the game is young in the United States. With just 91 years of history, the US Soccer Federation is a babe in it’s mother’s arms. In juxtaposition, unofficial soccer games were hosted by fueding European townships as early as the 12th Century, and the European Football Association was the first league established in 1863.

The history of the game in America is quite possibly the single most influencial  explanation why American soccer is a “hobby” and International soccer is an “identity”. Cal Poly men’s soccer coach Paul Holocher points out that, in America, “we have five major sports: soccer, baseball, basketball, football, hockey. Our top athletes and our fans are spread out amongst several sports,  whereas in Europe or South America,  soccer is the sport you grow up watching on TV, all over the media, [playing] in the street or schoolyard and dreaming about when you are young.”

Because United States soccer is coming of age in a new-media age, it is at a great advantage. Innovations in social networking, the blogosphere, and digital news media can provide platforms for soccer coverage in a more digestible form. The careening free-kicks, filthy fouls, pristine assists, and miraculous saves which give so much life to the sport are naturally made for 90 second YouTube videos, highlight reels, and blog posts. In order to see the game flourish inside US borders the game and the culture needs to be smartly marketed, monetarily backed, and socially embraced. When that happens, soccer will go from a bust to a boom. And as for South Africa 2010? We can only hope for the best.

Click on the link to view a photographic montage of highlights from the 2009 Cal Poly soccer season


San Luis Obispo Soccer Hot Spots?

Soccer in America is almost like an underground genre of music; for those involved in the game it’s an everyday part of life, but for those who aren’t rabid soccer fans or dedicated players, soccer may be completely out of the limelight. In San Luis Obispo, soccer is just that. For people not involved in the many teams on the Central Coast, it would probably be tough to locate a store that sells soccer gear, the headquarters of the club association, or even a plain old soccer pitch. Even with Google search the results for soccer fields in SLO are sparse. Therefore,  I’ve compiled a mapped out list of a few of the main places where soccer can be seen and played in San Luis Obispo, just for future reference.