Sciaretta's Scouting Report
Pasadena Native Dennis Flores Debuts for Club Leon
Bolstered by Alianza de Futbol Hispano, Flores, 20, jumped from a local league in Southern California to Club Leon, one of the most storied franchises in Mexico. Brian Sciaretta spoke with the talented midfielder.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedIN A COUNTRY WITH A POPULATION north of 300 million and an unrefined structure for developing young soccer players, it is not unheard of for players to escape early detection. Dennis Flores is one such player, and is just now beginning to step into the spotlight. Despite never having represented the United States internationally at any level, the 20-year-old Pasadena, Calif., native made his Liga Mx debut for reigning Apertura champions Club Leon last weekend in a 1-0 loss to Veracruz. “It was a night to remember,” Flores told American Soccer Now. “It’s what I’ve been dreaming of for a long, long time. I was nervous but I was ready at the same time. It was basically a full stadium with 27,000 people. I’m not used to that.” So how did Flores get to this point after being overlooked for so long? Still playing locally in California in 2011, he was encouraged to try out with Alianza de Futbol Hispano, which is the largest organization in the United States with the goal of developing Hispanic soccer at the amateur level. Alianza boasts that it is free for its players and is not plagued by the common “pay-to-play” problems that can limit access to players from low income households. And it was through this opportunity Flores credits his opportunity to go from local leagues in Pasadena to one of the top clubs in Mexico. “To be honest, I don’t think I’d be here if it wasn’t for Alianza,” Flores said. “Before this, I was just at home playing soccer. This opportunity came, it’s worked out. It’s a great organization. Everything is free. Some of my friends told my Dad about it. He told me to sign up, so I did. I went to the showcase and I went all the way to the final. There were a lot of scouts from Mexico that came to watch. I was invited to try out for a few teams and I came here to Leon and they liked me. I’ve been here ever since.” Mexican clubs have been actively seeking ways to identify young Mexican-American players in the United States and Alianza showcases are well attended by Mexican scouts. Joaquin Escoto is a director at Alianza and helps coordinate the tryouts and showcase events. Flores has become a success story for the organization and his picture is now on the organization’s website. For Escoto, Flores represents what the organization wants to achieve and this year it wants to uncover similar players. “We’re not a team,” Escoto said. “We’re a showcase and we give Hispanic kids a chance to be seen in front of top scouts for free. We don’t represent them. We just want them to have a chance. Just because they don’t have the money to pay doesn’t mean they can’t play soccer. Alianza breaks the barrier. It’s 100% based on your soccer skill. That’s why we’re special. This year we’re going on a 10-city tour and we expect over 5,000 players." "We’d love to find 20 more like Dennis.” Flores' path was not a cakewalk, despite Alianza’s help. When he signed up for Alianza he was among the older players in the group. He went to the organization’s showcase in San Francisco and attracted the interest of a few Mexican teams, but at the time he was 18 and some clubs were looking for younger players. Alianza was able to secure a two-week trial with Club Leon and Flores impressed. He joined the organization and, after impressing in friendlies, has been training with the first team since November. With his Liga Mx debut now behind him, Flores is bullish on his future. He is a natural central attacking midfielder and is training well these days with the club. He's aware that the pressure is now on his shoulders to keep it up, and he welcomes the challenge: “It all comes with it. I’ll get used to it.” “I practice with the first team now but I never expected for my debut to come so fast,” Flores said. “Afterward the coach told me I had a good game and that I got the debut out of the way. I think this is only the beginning to my career. I am just going to learn from the big players we have here too. I am going to go out there each and every day and just give it my all to get better.” Flores has only recently emerged into top levels of soccer so the topic of international soccer is new to him. He is eligible for both the United States and Mexico since both of his parents are from Puebla, but he has never played for either country. Growing up, he watched soccer from Europe, Mexico, and MLS. As for which country he would prefer to play for, he indicates no preference, instead stating that either country would be an honor. Born in 1993, he is eligible as a U-23 player for the 2016 Olympic team. “To be honest, I was born in the United States so I have love for both the United States and Mexico,” Flores said. “It would be an honor to represent either one of those countries—whoever gives me the opportunity.” Before the Olympics are even discussed, Flores will have the opportunity to prove himself at an even higher level as he has been named to Club Leon’s roster for the prestigious Copa Libertadores, which will crown the champion of South America. Leon is in a group with Flamengo, Emelec, and Bolivar. “It’s crazy,” Flores said when thinking about the Libertadores and all that he has achieved in recent months. “I can’t even believe it. I always knew I had the potential to play at a high level." "I just thank God, Alianza, and all the people who helped me get to where I am today.” Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.
March 13, 2014
March 13, 2014