Vancouver Whitecaps’ forward Erik Hurtado woke up early in the morning and flew in on his off day to hang out with groups of kids during the Caps Summer Soccer camp Thursday at Marshall Field.
“I really enjoy seeing the smiles on their faces,” said Hurtado, who turns 25 in November. “It reminds me what soccer is all about.”
Hurtado is in his third season with the Whitecaps and was their first-round pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.
“I remember flying back to Virginia when I was a kid to spend time with my grandparents and attend these types of camps,” said Hurtado. “They were always the most fun.”
Hurtado grew up in Portland after his family moved him and his younger brother and sister from Fredericksburg, Va. when he was five.
The Whitecaps’ forward signed 110 posters and a few mini soccer balls for athletes in the camp.
“As I was signing the posters it hit me, theses guys are going to have me on their wall and that’s pretty cool,” said Hurtado. “Growing up, my favourite players were international guys. We never had local players come over and visit us.”
Growing up, Hurtado was a huge Ronaldinho fan with his bedroom wall plastered with posters of the 2002 World Cup champion.
After signing the posters, he spent about 10 minutes fielding a barrage of questions from groups of kids.
Hard-hitting questions such as; “What is your favourite goal celebration?” Or, “What would you be doing if you weren’t a soccer player?”
Hurtado has scored five goals in his 24 games started, and loves to bust out dance moves on the pitch with his teammates.
Growing up in the U.S., one of Hurtado’s favourite parts about Canada is the food culture. He claims he would be a chef and specialize in ribs.
Last year, the Whitecaps sent captain Jay DeMerit to the Vernon camp.
“Jay was a great guy to play with. He always gave me great advice on soccer,” said Hurtado.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder’s biggest message to kids was work on their ball skills. He was always kicking a ball at a wall (outside his house) growing up.
David Broadhurst is the head coach for the Okanagan Academy Centre and has been running these camps for seven years. He was thrilled at this year’s turnout.
“We had 107 kids this week. That’s a lot for the first camp of the summer,” said Broadhurst.
The camp ran two hours a day from Monday to Friday. The Whitecaps return for another camp Aug. 4-7.
“We want to inspire these young kids by bringing in professional soccer players for them to work with,” said Broadhurst.
Hurtado’s career really took off once he signed with the Santa Clara University in Calif.
While running a blistering 4.328 40-yard dash in college and playing for the Broncos, he became friends with Julie Johnston, who just won the women’s World Cup with Team U.S.A.
“I was actually able to catch their (U.S.A) match against Nigeria at B.C. Place,” said Hurtado. “That’s an amazing accomplishment and congratulations to all of them.”
The American team edged Nigeria 1-0 in their final round robin match. He was unable to attend the final.
Hurtado doesn’t have a ton of international experience other than playing for the men’s national U18 team for a pair of friendlies in South America.
“The World Cup has always been a dream of mine. I think it is something each player should work towards,” he said.
The Whitecaps sit second in the MLS Western Conference at 10-7-2. They took on Sporting KC (7-3-6) tonight at B.C. Place.