Aguilar Wants His Final Season to be the Best
Aug. 10, 2012
CHICAGO - The maturation of DePaul soccer standout Antonio Aguilar can best be seen in the following sequence.
Each of the last four years, Aguilar was asked in the preseason: What is your main goal?
As a freshman: "I want to make the All-BIG EAST Rookie Team," and that's exactly what he did.
As a sophomore: "I want to make All-BIG EAST"---he was named All-BIG EAST Second Team.
As a junior: "I want to be All-BIG EAST First Team"---mission accomplished.
As a senior: "I want our team to make the BIG EAST Final Four and qualify for the NCAA tournament."
It has been an impressive progression since Aguilar came to DePaul from Mt. Carmel in 2009. He had three goals and four assists for 10 points with 13 shots on goal as a freshman.
As a sophomore, he finished with five goals and two assists for 12 points and fired 18 shots on goal.
Last season, Aguilar racked up seven goals and four assists with 30 shots on goal.
But in 2012, the team is all that matters.
"I want our team to do better than what we did the last three years," said Aguilar as the Blue Demons prepare for their exhibition season opener Wednesday at Michigan. "My freshman year we beat Georgetown on penalty kicks in the BIG EAST playoffs and then lost to Louisville on PKs in the quarterfinals.
"I've made every goal so far, and now I want to play in Red Bull Stadium (site of BIG EAST semifinals in Harrison, N.J.)."
As a freshman, Aguilar was quite the entertainer with his crowd-pleasing fancy footwork. But that was more about his own individual game.
"There are still times I want to put on a fancy move in the middle of the field," Aguilar said with a smile. "But I've learned it's more effective and better for the team if I use the give-and-go. It keeps the game moving faster. I'll take a defender down the line and then cross it.
"I'm looking to get the ball on the outside and go straight at the goalkeeper. I like it. That's where I grew up playing, on the outside. When there's more space, I can use my quickness."
The Blue Demons want to give their most dangerous player all the chances in the world.
"It's great to have a player like Tony in our program," said DePaul coach Craig Blazer, whose team opens the regular season Aug. 24 at Wish Field against Illinois-Chicago. "He is a great offensive threat, and we'll try to get him in more offensive situations to take advantage of his talents.
"Tony loves to just play. Now he understands we need to use his abilities to break down defenses. Quick combination plays and get him behind the backs---get him open to shoot on goal.
"He is at his best taking on a defender, shooting or crossing. He understands that better now and is maturing tactically."
Does Blazer believe his Preseason All-BIG EAST forward can improve on last year?
"Absolutely, he can do better than last season," Blazer said. "He realizes we want to use him as an offensive threat and that we also have other attacking options. All the pressure is not going to be on him."
Except for the pressure Aguilar puts on himself.
"I've had team leaders like Alex Mangan and Matt Leinauer, and it feels like I'm following in their footsteps," Aguilar said. "I can't goof around---it's all serious at practices, games and even warming up.
"All my life I've been the quiet kid in the background. I show my leadership by my play on the field. This season I've got to start being more vocal.
"I remember Mangan's senior year and the speech he made before our last game. He talked about how much it meant to him. Back then, it didn't really hit me.
"Now, it's my senior year, and Mangan's words are hitting home---how much he loved playing for DePaul and how much he is going to miss it."
Aguilar paused and looked off into the distance.
"I don't know what I'm going to do after soccer."
As an undersized four-year-old, Aguilar used to tag along to watch his father---also named Antonio---and his uncle Alonso Aguilar play soccer. A year later, Tony played in a soccer league not far from his home in Hammond, Ind.
As the sport he loves slowly begins to slip away, Aguilar acknowledges that soccer is in his blood.
Uncle Alonso was really quick and talented with the ball. Some family members claim he was good enough to play professionally. Those same family members notice a resemblance in the way uncle and nephew play the game.
There was the time 12-year-old Tony Aguilar showed up for a soccer league tryout and the coach immediately passed him over because of his small stature. Aguilar has since become a friend to that coach, who now proclaims he learned a valuable lesson from that episode.
Aguilar was an All-State selection at Mt. Carmel and listened to recruiting pitches from Cincinnati, Massachusetts, Alabama-Birmingham and UIC.
The main reason he chose DePaul was evident in the stands last season when his parents, sister, three sets of aunts and uncles and four cousins cheered him on at Wish Field.
"I really liked it on my visit here, and DePaul wasn't far from my home," Aguilar said. "My family can come watch me play, and that was a huge part of my decision. My dad has always watched me play since I was little."
The entire Aguilar family is hoping Tony's final season lasts deep into the BIG EAST Championship tournament and even beyond.
That could happen if returnees such as goalkeeper Eric Sorby, defenders Austin Toth and Jared Blincow, All-BIG EAST Rookie Team forward David Selvaggi, midfielders Thiago Ganancio, Curtis Weir, Brian Schultz, Jake Douglas and freshmen Brian Hindle, Michael Kozielek, Drew Dempsey, Joseph Brinckwirth and Jalen Harvey come up with key contributions.
"Selvaggi had a fantastic freshman year," Aguilar said. "Toth and Blincow are back, and all of their experience will help. Thiago is going to do well this season, and a lot of the new guys are going to step into key roles.
"In my freshman year, our team had a lot of heart. Assistant coach Mark Plotkin was a leader on that team, and maybe having Plotkin coaching us can bring that energy back.
"I hope we can match that 2009 team. Those guys were super close, and we were all brothers. This year is already kind of like that. You never see anyone walking around without a bunch of teammates around him."