Friday, December 17, 2010
Goalkeeper Diego Restrepo is returning to the country of his youth as he attempts to win a job with Colombian club America de Cali.
Restrepo recently capped off a college career where he manned the pipes for the University of Virginia Cavaliers for two seasons after spending his freshman and sophomore years at the University of South Florida.
The native of West Palm Beach, Florida was a surprise omission from next month's MLS combine however all is not lost for Restrepo who says an opportunity has arisen with one of South America's most renowned clubs.
"I leave next week to go to Colombia where America de Cali has invited me for their preseason camp," Restrepo told YA. "The assistant coach there in Cali has been asking about me and I have a realistic chance at earning the number one spot. Their number one keeper just quit the team and their number two is older so I have a good chance."
Prior to his trial with the four-time Copa Libertadores finalists, Restrepo will spend this weekend in Las Vegas for a mini-combine organized by the Seattle Sounders.
However by the sound of Restrepo's voice, one gets the feeling that his desire deep-down is to earn a contract with the South American club.
"I would like to end up with America," he affirmed. "I don't know why I didn't get invited to the MLS combine, but that's OK. I grew up in Colombia and lived there until I was 12. I have family there and there is great passion and a great tradition at the club."
America has won the Colombian league 13 times, including as recently as 2008, and is a stalwart in continental competitions.
The chance to play in tournaments like the Copa Libertadores or the Copa Sudamericana is a big reason why the Venezuelan-born Restrepo is trying his luck in Colombia.
"This is a great opportunity for me to play in the Libertadores or the Sudamericana, two of the biggest tournaments in the world," he noted. "I've always dreamed of doing that."
Prior to his senior season with the Cavaliers, Restrepo was able to spend some time training in Europe with a couple first division clubs.
The 22 year old found that experience to be tremendously rewarding and helpful as he headed into the 2010 fall season.
"During the summer I got to train for two weeks with Lokeren in Belgium and then about three weeks with Deportivo de la Coruna in Spain," said Restrepo. "I trained with Deportivo's first team a couple times and got some great feedback from their coaching staff. Unfortunately since I don't have a European passport I couldn't pursue anything in Spain but still it was a great experience being at a club like that even for just a short time."
Restrepo will land in Colombia just after the New Year and will start camp with America on January 3rd. He will have just over a month to impress the club brass in Cali as the Colombian season will start back up in February.
There figures to be plenty of pressure on the American goalkeeper to perform once he arrives in Colombia not just to try to earn a contract with the club, but also to impress in front of family and friends who are eagerly waiting his arrival.
"People in my family down there like my cousins are excited about it and have been talking about me so I need to be ready... Plus, I'm traveling on a one-way ticket so I really hope it works out," he chuckled.
Restrepo was a first team All-American selection at Virginia and has also particpated with both the US Under-17 and Under-20 national teams.