By Juan Saucedo
Daily Titan Staff Writer
Sometimes Cal State Fullerton forward Celso Alvarez takes a long look at his surroundings and canâ€™t help but smile.
Alvarezâ€™s grin is not just a representation of joy, but rather an expression of pure amazement at the fact that heâ€™s a student-athlete in the Titansâ€™ soccer program.
Alvarez, 20, finds it hard to believe that he has gone from playing soccer on the rough streets of South Central Los Angeles, to living with teammates in a house near the CSUF campus.
â€œIâ€™m very happy because when I was in high school, I didnâ€™t see myself going to college. But now that Iâ€™m here, I thank God because itâ€™s a big opportunity,â€ said Alvarez, who is a second-year transfer from Rio Hondo College.
During the moments when heâ€™s reflecting on his newfound situation, Alvarez frequently feels delighted that heâ€™s doing the thing that has kept him out of trouble since he was nine years old â€“ playing competitive soccer for a club.
Currently, Alvarez leads the team with four goals, posting a record of 4-5-1 against tough competition that includes the No. 4 team, UCLA, and powerhouse No. 15 Ohio State.
Alvarez, a junior who likes to listen to Metallica before games, said the team has taken some big steps toward improving on last yearâ€™s record.
â€œWe feel a lot better going into games than last year,â€ he said. â€œLast year, our mentality was way different because we were losing a lot.â€
The Titans have already matched the amount of victories from last year, and the team is barely halfway through the season.
â€œWe have played teams (like Ohio State) and given them good matches. We lost against them, but their coach told us that we should have won that game,â€ he said, adding that the Titans controlled the ball for most of the match before losing to UCLA.
Although the team has dominated the action in most matches, he said he feels some heat to score.
â€œItâ€™s kind of a lot of pressure for me being a forward and trying to get those goals,â€ Alvarez said.Â â€œI think I have four goals in five games, and in these past games I havenâ€™t scored, so I feel a little pressure. But I think I could come around and get more goals.â€
Bob Ammann, head soccer coach, said it took Alvarez some time to get accustomed to the new surroundings; but that this year, he seems to feel more at home.
â€œHe often looks around and canâ€™t believe that he is in Fullerton and heâ€™s playing soccer,â€ Ammann said.
He said that although Alvarez is not the most vocal leader on the team, his work ethic motivates teammates to step up their game.
â€œHeâ€™s not the guy who talks a lot in the locker room, but he leads by example,â€ he said, adding that Alvarez seems more comfortable playing with the team now that heâ€™s in his second year at CSUF.
Ammann said there are two things student-athletes need to get acclimated with when they start playing Division I soccer.
First, they need to get accustomed with the faster pace of the game. Second, they need to get used to the college life, which involves classes, homework and exams, as well as team meetings and practices.
Ammann said Alvarezâ€™s abilities have helped him play well at this level. â€œHe has quickness, and he never stops making defenders work.â€
Alvarez said his dream is to take his game to the next level with the help of the CSUF coaching staff.
â€œGoing pro is possible,â€ Alvarez said. â€œI have to keep working.â€
He said the coaching staff has helped him gain confidence in his abilities and has motivated him tremendously.
This year feels different for Alvarez because he has developed a friendship with the players and coaches. This season all the players have bonded and have come together as a cohesive unit, he said.
Jamall Farquharson, who is one of six players that live with Alvarez, said heâ€™s a great person to be around on and off the field. â€œHeâ€™s a cool guy, and heâ€™s always down to have fun,â€ said Farquharson, a forward who has played alongside Alvarez this season.
On the field Alvarez works hard, and he has a knack for finding a way to score. â€œHe scored five goals last season, and he already has four (this season). I think there will be more to come,â€ Farquharson said.
Ammann said Alvarezâ€™s maturity has also been growing since his stay with the team.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of things that Celso has to deal with that some of these players donâ€™t, and that has caused him to mature quickly,â€ he said.