Player develops skill in Mexico

Two years of playing soccer in Mexico has made Rico Patrocinio a smarter player.

RICO PATROCINIO of the Penticton Pinnacles under-21 men’s team gets some air during a Pacific Coast Soccer League Reserve Division regular season game. Patrocinio joined the team after playing in Mexico.

RICO PATROCINIO of the Penticton Pinnacles under-21 men’s team gets some air during a Pacific Coast Soccer League Reserve Division regular season game. Patrocinio joined the team after playing in Mexico.

Two years of playing soccer in Mexico has made Rico Patrocinio a smarter player.

The 19-year-old South Okanagan Youth Soccer Association product left home in 2011 to join the Estudiantes Tecos under-16 youth team in Guadalajara. Patrocinio returned to Penticton after completing a season with division two Club America and will go back Aug. 20 to play for the division three team. In the time Patrocinio has been away, he has won two championships in Mexico and lost two. Pretty good seasons he said.

“It’s very competitive. It’s not quite as rough as here,” said Patrocinio, who rejoined the Penticton Pinnacles under-21 men’s team in time to help them win the Pacific Coast Soccer League Reserve Division Challenge Cup in late July. “More skillful. It’s different than here. There is more skill involved and there is not so much roughness and speed. It has different virtues. I like that.”

More mature now, Patrocinio said he looks to just keep improving. His goal is to net a university scholarship in Canada at the University of British Columbia or stay in Guadalajara. Right now he has three to four teams interested. Patrocinio hasn’t just gained on the field. Away from it, he’s learned a new language and made new friends.

“I have a whole new culture,” said Patrocinio, who misses Penticton. “I wasn’t into it the first year. I was trying to fit in. Feel like I was wanted.”

While in Penticton, Patrocinio was embraced by the Pinnacles coaches and players. Coach Paulo Araujo said Patrocinio brought speed and skill to the club.

“He’s a guy that can hold the ball out on the wing,” said Araujo during the Pinnacles season, adding that he brought a possession game, especially in the attacking zone.

Normally a centre mid, Patrocinio was asked to play as a right back to fill a Pinnacles need. Patrocinio, who scored two goals in his seven games, said he played well even after starting the new position. As a right back, he enjoyed more space, but also said it was tiring at times to run up and down the line.

“I enjoyed coming back and playing for the team,” he said, adding it was exciting to help the men’s team win its first ever championship. “I’ve wanted to do this since I have lived here. It was good to come back and actually win something.”

Days after the championship win, Patrocinio still couldn’t believe they had done it. “It still really hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said, wearing the medal during the Pinnacles championship ceremony at the Penticton Soccer Club.