Emilio Huerta has brought an impressive combination of championship experience, pedigree and leadership to the San Jose Earthquakes U18 Academy team.
It shows on and off the field.
He’s having an exceptional debut season after making the switch from the St. Francis High School-Mountain View varsity team.
He’s been so good that Quakes academy technical director Chris Leitch only wishes Huerta had made the jump a year or two earlier.
“He scored goals in his first games with us,” an impressed Leitch said. “He’s committed to San Diego State, and we’re continuously getting calls from colleges asking about him.”
Leitch knows how tough it is for varsity stars like Huerta to leave their high school teammates behind. He also believes strongly in what the academy program has to offer: top coaching, top competition, and excellent exposure to college recruiters.
Huerta, who carries a 3.03 GPA at St. Francis, seems like a poster player for the academy program, which emphasizes academics, character and top-flight soccer.
Consider academy coach Marquis White strongly in Huerta's camp.
"He's one of the kids that we need to have as an example. He's a hard-working kid with good grades," said White. "Emilio comes to practice every day and does his thing. He's not about flash. He's a team player. A lot of these kids come from teams where they're the stars. You've got to learn how to deal with people. It's not always about you. Emilio is a great kid. He's selfless, a great player, and he does it on and off the field."
“It was a tough choice to leave my high school team,” said Huerta, who played three seasons at St. Francis, where he helped the Lancers to a Central Coast Section title as a freshman and a West Catholic Athletic League title as a junior.
“I have a lot of friends on the team, and I feel like I developed a lot there, but the Quakes give me a better opportunity for my future,” Huerta continued.
“I feel like I accomplished my mission in high school. But playing with the academy allows me to consistently play at a higher level. High school games were tough; the teams in our league were very physical. At this level, the flow of the game is way better.”
Huerta has visions of making the national team, of traveling the world and playing before thousands of fans. He wants to score goals against the best that his sport has to offer.
But wait a minute … he’s already done that.
As a member of the U14 U.S. national team, he was invited to a camp in Boston, where he tested himself against the best competition in the United States in his age group. Tournaments in Orlando, Fla., and Guadalajara, Mexico, only added to his development.
“The level of competition at those events was crazy … so many good players,” Huerta said. “It was great to be able to compare myself with some of the best players in the country, and the world.”
Huerta recalls one trip to Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
“Playing in front of a stadium full of kids and teenagers was an amazing experience,” Huerta said. “But I’d have to say the game in Guadalajara is my favorite soccer memory so far. I scored two goals in my first international game. Playing for the National Team was like a dream come true; someday, I’d like to get back on their roster.”
Recently, Huerta and his relatively new Quakes teammates went to the Winter Showcase in Sarasota, Fla. -- an experience that did for the team what road trips tend to do.
“It was special for me, playing with a new team against great competition,” he said. “It really brought us together.”
Huerta has enjoyed success at every turn.
During a brilliant junior season at St. Francis, Huerta had 10 goals and eight assists as the team captain. He made first-team all-WCAL and was an ESPN High School Gatorade Player of the Year candidate.
After graduation, Huerta is off to San Diego State, where he plans to major in kinesiology to facilitate his interest in physical therapy.
“I love the location, the feeling that I get when I’m there.” he said. “It just feels like the right place for me.”
Five or so years down the road, he hopes to get back onto the national team, and if that doesn’t work out, he will play wherever the game takes him.
“I love the game, and it would be awesome to get back on the National Team, but I’ll play anywhere -- Europe, the United States, South America, Mexico…I just want to play,” he said.
With his passion for the sport and strong academics, Huerta seems well on his way to success in soccer and in life.