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Q & A With Hugo Casillas:

No regrets for former Eagle

SOCCER: Casillas says leaving Estancia to play professionally in Mexico was right move for him.

February 02, 2009|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza

Imagine being a sophomore in high school and getting offered the chance to join a professional men’s soccer club.

What would you do?

Hugo Casillas took the chance of a lifetime.

Casillas left Estancia High after his freshman season in 1996-97 and went to play in Mexico.

A lot has changed since then.

We caught up with the former Eagles star at the Estancia boys’ soccer alumni match Saturday.

Casillas just turned 27 and still calls Costa Mesa his home.

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The 5-foot-5 wing said he’s preparing for the upcoming professional soccer season with the Minnesota Thunder in the United Soccer League First Division.

Question: What’s it like to play with some of your former Estancia teammates?

Answer: It bring backs memories. It reminded me of the 1996-97 season. I’ve seen people I haven’t seen since I left. I finished my freshman year and I left in the middle of my sophomore year, a little bit before the season. I played one year and we lost in the semis in [the] CIF [Southern Section playoffs]. The 2000 team, the year I was supposed to graduate, Estancia had an amazing team. The Eagles won CIF. I missed it.

Q: Did the former players show you their CIF Southern Section Division IV championship rings at the alumni match?

A: I haven’t seen them. It was either a CIF title, or [professional] soccer in Mexico. I will never give up anything for that opportunity.

Q: How tough a decision was it for you to leave high school for the professional ranks?

A: I’m happy I left. I went for my dream to play professional. When I left here, there was no [Major League Soccer]. High school soccer and college was all there was. I wanted to play pro and that’s why I left.

I went to Guadalajara, Mexico. I decided to leave everything and go play soccer over there. I played for Tecos, six, seven years over there.

Q: Were you guaranteed anything when you arrived in Mexico?

A: I was lucky. A scout asked me if I wanted to try out. I did. I went straight to Tecos and after a week they offered me a contract with the third team. I started playing there for a year. After that year, they moved me up to the third division. I only played five or six games and they moved me up to the second division and I played a full season there. After that season, the major league coach saw me, and he moved me up to the major team in Guadalajara, the Tecos. There are three [Primera Division] teams in Guadalajara, Atlas, Chivas and Tecos.

Q: What was the experience like?

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