Hernan (Chico) Borja's performance during the first week of Team America's training camp greatly impressed Coach Alkis Panagoulias, although Borja never even stepped onto a soccer field. On crutches, his left foot in a cast, Borja nevertheless attended camp on time; after a week, he had the cast cut off and worked out.
"Chico knew he couldn't practice, but he still came to all the meetings," said Panagoulias, whose team is on the road against the Tulsa Roughnecks tonight at 8:30 (WWDC-1260). "I liked that dedication."
"I cut the cast off on a Monday and played on a Tuesday," said Borja. "That was the dumbest thing I've ever done, but I had to do it. I had to make this team."
That same competitve spirit has lasted into the regular season, and Borja leads Team America in scoring with three goals and six points, despite a nagging contusion on his right foot. Injuries have forced Borja to miss all or part of five games this year.
"I'm only playing at about 80 percent," said Borja. "We don't have enough reserve players, and I must play. I make my choice and I play with the pain."
Borja's speed and fiery personality also make him a team catalyst. Fast enough to beat most defenders one on one, Borja can cover the front line and midfield, but often appears frustrated when Team America's offense fails.
"On the field I'm in a gear I'm used to playing in, and hopefully some of that can rub off on the rest of the players," said Borja, who has taken 17 shots. "But the whole team is just playing too defensively. In practice, we don't have to play defense and we are unbelievable offensive players. But when the game starts, we fall into defense."