Oscar Montoya moved to Denver from Chihuahua, Mexico when he was 10. Now 22, Montoya is currently on trial with the Colorado Rapids in Commerce City. The crosstown trip from the Guadalajara Soccer Club of Denver to the training fields at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park went through Hawaii, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Germany, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City.
Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni first heard about Montoya on Monday morning. Montoya trained with the U-18s last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but he was redirected to the first team session on Monday.
“Technically, he’s been really good,” Mastroeni said after practice on Wednesday. “His movements have been really dynamic. His work rate is exceptional. He’s tactically aware. And he’s got a hunger to him. There are a lot of things going for him. Like I said to him, it’s about not allowing the level to drop. A lot of times, a player comes in for a day, and it’s all good, and pretty soon there’s a level of comfort. But after three days, Oscar definitely has not dropped his level. We understand he’s not in ideal shape, from a fitness perspective. All things being equal, he’s done well in the three days he’s taken part in our training sessions. He’s going to Vegas. We have two games. We have a game against UNLV as well, which will predominately be the guys on trial. So he’ll probably feature more in that game. I’m really excited about seeing him in a live match to see how it translates.”
Although Mastroeni cautiously noted how trialists are extra pieces for his puzzle, he said, “I think he fits in here. He has a great mindset, great mentality.”
Montoya learned from Mexican ex-professionals who set the standard. David Campos, the founder of the Guadalajara Soccer Club of Denver and Alliance Sports Association, has helped guide Montoya from an average 12-year-old to an exceptional teenager and a disciplined young adult.
“I think this was his golden time,” Campos said, “because he went to the top of the hill for his school and his club.”
Montoya was the team leader when Chivas won the U-16 Colorado state championship in 2008. Representing Colorado, Chivas placed third in the regional tournament in Hawaii.
In 2009, Montoya led Abraham Lincoln to the Colorado high school championship game. Although the Lancers lost to Fort Collins 3-0, Montoya was voted the Colorado 5A MVP for the season.
“We played here,” Montoya said after training on Tuesday, gesturing to the stadium behind him, “and two days later I went to Tigres in Mexico.”
Salvador Gamero, currently a scout with the Mexican soccer federation (FMF), identified the left-footed attacker while scouting for Chivas de Guadalajara when Montoya was 14. Gamero had been a coach and scout for Chivas in Mexico for 23 years. Campos met him when he played for the Guadalajara club in the early 1990s. Years later, Campos invited Gamero to run a coaching clinic at the Guadalajara Soccer Club of Denver, and he scouted the club’s players as well. When Gamero moved to Tigres, he arranged for Montoya’s chance.
For more than two years with Tigres, Montoya played for the U-17s, the U-19s, the second division team, and the U-20s.
In 2011, Montoya helped the Tigres U-19 team share the Dallas Cup Super Group championship with Eintracht Frankfurt from Germany. Lousy weather forced the final game to end at the 65th minute, so they crowned both teams co-champions. Shortly after the Dallas Cup, Montoya traveled to a tournament in Germany with the Tigres U-19 group, and they won it all.
Recalling the routine in Mexico, Montoya said, “We traveled with the first team. The three games – U-17, U-20s, and the first team – are all played in the same day. After the first division game, we’d travel back to Monterrey. The U-17s and the second division trained separately. The U-20s were part of the first team. Sometimes we’d train with the first team and sometimes on our own, depending on what games we had. I learned a lot. We trained every day.”
Missing his family, Montoya returned to Colorado and started coaching while playing indoor and outdoor games. Then he played two seasons for Northwest Kansas Technical College. “I started playing for Luis Figueroe my first year,” Montoya recounted. “After one season, he left, and Angel Campos coached.”
While leading the Kansas school to the playoffs for the first time under the leadership of David Campos’ brother Angel, Montoya also laced his boots for teams in the United Premier League (UPL), the Denver Adult Soccer League (DASL), Soccer Latina, the Universal league, the Bilbao soccer league, the Soccer Martin league in Thornton, and many indoor leagues – at the same time. He scored 10 goals in one weekend, four in Kansas and six in a game in Denver.
He started coaching the U-10s for Chivas, now U-11s and U-12s. “I also helped with Lincoln when I came back from Tigres,” Montoya said. “I love soccer. If I know something, I like to show them.”
Same city, higher level
One year ago, Montoya was in Las Vegas helping win the cash tournament on the same weekend the Rapids were in Vegas for preseason. Throughout 2014, Montoya led the Guadalajara Soccer Club of Denver, as a captain, trainer, and a goal-scorer. The team won the spring division of the United Premier League, Copa Alianza, and smaller tournaments. But the big push was for the United States Adult Soccer Association national tournament because the regional and final competitions were both a reasonable drive from Denver to Salt Lake City in early June and the end of July.
Chivas won the first game of the regional tournament by a score of 21-1. That’s not a typo. They continued to roll through regionals and returned a month later, ultimately losing the national championship game 4-2.
After the summer, Montoya continued to play in multiple leagues in the Denver-metro area while coaching for the Guadalajara Soccer Club of Denver. In November, he volunteered to help coach two teams in the Olympic Development Program run by the Colorado Soccer Association. Working with head coach Marley Wilson, David Campos, and Angel Campos, Montoya helped run training sessions and traveled to Phoenix for the Region IV ODP Championships in January.
Peter Pak saw Montoya playing at the Soccer Country Indoor Arena in January and said to Campos, “Is it just me? Or am I the only one who thinks this boy plays awesome?”
Pak sits on the board of the Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club and said he would try to find an opportunity with the Rapids. Six days of training turned into a trip to Las Vegas for the local player.
Campos has watched Montoya grow as a player and coach, demonstrating discipline while expanding his soccer experience. “He’s been involved with all our soccer clinics as a volunteer,” Campos said. “I think it has been good because he has been helping different programs in the community as a coach. As a player, everyone knows him very well because he plays in many leagues for different teams. I think the impact for Oscar playing with the Rapids will be good, not only because of his talent, but for being well-known in the community. I think the impact of fans who want to go see him will mean more people will go to the stadium to watch him. It’s a really good opportunity for both, not only for Oscar playing but for the Rapids as an organization. He’s a player who developed through the system in Colorado. I’ve been coaching 15 years with the Guadalajara soccer club, and the Rapids have asked how they can attract people to support the team. I think this is a golden opportunity. Hopefully, he can show that he can stay.”