He would also be the first person in his family to attend a four-year college.
It seemed everything aligned for Duarte, who had help from his older siblings, and his high school and club coaches. Duarte is the third-youngest of eight children, and his older brothers and sister prodded him endlessly when Duarte would walk in the house, worn out from soccer practice.
“They’d help me collect my things,” Duarte said. “‘Are you done with your FAFSA? Are you done with your applications? Are you done with everything?’ It was good that they were there to help me.”
Duarte’s 19-year-old brother Pedro played soccer for Estancia and advanced to play for Golden West.
His sister Rebecca, 20, went to Orange Coast College.
But everyone had their eye on Duarte.
Duarte’s brother Rene, 25, helped Eric with his college application essays.
“He’d sit with me and help me with what my thoughts were,” Duarte said. “He’d ask me questions like he was interviewing me, but it was really helping me with my essay.”
Rene has since moved to Houston, but he still calls to needle his little brother about the process. For the family, Duarte’s not just an example. He’s a trailblazer for his younger siblings.
“There’s that pressure on me, but I try my best to play through it and study and stuff like that,” said Duarte, who has scored six goals in seven Orange Coast League games. “I think it’s good because it helps me play better. It helps me work harder on the class and on the field.”
That pressure sometimes translates to yellow cards, and both Estancia athletic director Tim Parsel and Coach Gannon Burks admit Duarte’s passion can translate to problems. They’re hoping he’ll grow out of it.