Men’s soccer: Barrington grad Reid Strain joins Puerto Rico national team for friendly
Barrington's leading scorer Reid Strain poured in nine goals in the last four matches heading into this week. | Joe Cyganowski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 17, 2012 12:28PM
SAN JUAN, P.R. — A lot can change in a year.
In August 2011, Reid Strain was entering his senior season with just five goals in two seasons with Barrington.
On Wednesday, the 18-year-old was scheduled to play for the Puerto Rican national team in an international friendly against world champion Spain.
“It’s amazing and I can’t believe it,” said Strain. “When I first started this, I would never think I’d be playing against Spain and playing for the national team. It seems unreal to be honest, but I’m excited and I can’t wait.”
Prior to graduating this spring, the former Bronco found the back of the net 14 times his senior season. Strain was named to the all-MSL team and IHSSCA all-sectional honorable mention.
“Sometimes you go through the routine and all of sudden it just starts happening,” said Barrington head coach Scott Steib. “I think he’s more fit right now than he’s ever been; I think he’s in better shape than he’s ever been.”
Over the winter, the striker was selected for the Chicago Fire Youth Academy following a tryout. It would not be the last team to give him a shot.
A nation trying to kick-start its soccer program, Puerto Rico posted ads in New York in February looking for any talented players with a family background from the Caribbean island.
To qualify as a member of the national team, a player must have either a father or mother and grandparents from the commonwealth and Reid’s mother, Vanessa, was born and raised there before moving to the states and attending Syracuse.
“(My parents) are one of the main reasons why I’m playing today,” Strain said. “They did everything with me, like taking me to games and practices and all that stuff. The least I can do is represent them.”
Strain’s uncle, Randy Torres, who had never even seen his nephew play in person, lives in New York and sent a video of his highlights to Puerto Rico head coach Jeaustin Campos.
The 18-year-old was then invited to try out with the U19 team at the 2012 Dr Pepper Dallas Cup XXXIII.
“It was a surprise,” said Vanessa Strain. “It’s amazing what sending a video opened up for Reid. Based on a video, that’s what started everything going towards where we are today.”
Although the team was knocked out in the quarterfinals, Strain impressed coaches at the April tournament and was invited to join the team for the Caribbean Zone qualifier for the 2013 CONCACAF U20 Championship.
“It was very special,” said Strain. “Not many people can say they get to play for a national team so just that alone is great. I’ve met a lot of great guys, there’s great coaching and it’s just a great experience.”
In three matches July 25-29, the University of Indianapolis freshman scored two goals, both game-winners, to guide Puerto Rico into the final round of qualification, which takes place Nov. 3-11, in Jamaica.
In his first match with the senior team, Strain will be available for this week’s international friendly against two-time defending European and World Cup champion Spain, in San Juan.
“Spain is the best team in the world, so it’s going to be a challenge,” Strain said. “We’re going to fight and never going to give up. We’ll give them a game for sure.”
Along his journey, Strain said that in addition to Steib, other positive impacts were former Schwaben AC coach and former Cameroon player Jean-Pierre Tokoto and head coach of the Chicago Fire Youth Academy Paul Cadwell.
“JP Tokoto was a world-class soccer player and great coach that taught me a great deal about the technical part of the game,” said Strain. “Paul Cadwell has been a great influence on me in the last year and has helped bring these talents out on the field and helped me improve my intensity when playing the game.”
While Strain will be getting a chance of a lifetime against Spain, he will meet his new squad, U Indy, for the first time following the trip.
The college freshman will join the Greyhounds a week into training and head coach John Higgins wishes he could be back sooner.
“It’s obviously not ideal,” said Higgins. “I’m obviously being a little bit selfish here and saying I would love him here for the first few days to get to know the guys and do all those kind of things. At the end of the day, part of the deal recruiting him was I’ve got a few other guys that have other responsibilities with their national team. I’m never going to stand in somebody’s way when they get an opportunity like that.”
Strain’s path may have been a quick one to the national team, but his collegiate career will have to wait until Aug. 30 against Notre Dame (Ohio) College.
Puerto Rico was to take on Spain, in San Juan, at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 15 on ESPN3.