Now that we are getting closer to the playoffs in MLS, we thought it would be a great idea to start introducing you to some players who may not be on your radar, but who we think deserve to be.
As the San Jose Earthquakes were the first team to make it into the playoffs (and as they are my team) I want to write this inaugural post about a Goonie who is extremely influential on the field this season, but perhaps little known outside of San Jose.
Name: Rafael Baca
Club: San Jose Earthquakes
Rafa Baca is a perfect example of the grit and work ethic of his team. His journey to MLS was by no means the traditional one. Despite having a standout playing career at Loyola Marymount University, he was not selected in either the MLS SuperDraft or Supplemental Draft in 2011. Instead, he traveled up to San Jose and began training with the team. He was signed on July 8, 2011, after several months of training, and made his MLS debut the next night as a sub in San Jose’s draw against the Philadelphia Union.
I love Rafa because he is not a physically imposing player; however, he can hold his own against bigger players and works his butt off to keep possession for his team. He has a way of spinning out from under players, almost before they have realized what has happened, with the ball at his feet. He has also contributed directly to the score sheet, with 1 goal and 3 assists this season.
Equally as important, in my eyes, Rafa is an integral part of the personality of this team. During the Stanford edition of the California Clasico, there was a time or two when David Beckham and he got into it a bit. Did Rafa back down? No way. No matter that he is only a second year professional and Beckham is a global icon. No matter that he makes a tiny fraction of what Beckham makes. No matter that Beckham has a few inches and a few more years on him. Rafa, in that moment in that game, considered himself every bit David Beckham’s equal.
Off the pitch, he is a very sweet guy who I have seen (literally) give away just about every piece of his uniform to young fans that the team handlers will allow him to. Plus, I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s single (but don’t quote me on that!). This kid has the will and the talent, and I am excited to see where his career takes him–figuratively! I selfishly want to keep him in San Jose!
Biographical information from SJEarthquakes.com