East soccer player advances on Olympic development team
July 30, 2016 at 11:15 p.m.
Updated July 31, 2016 at 6 a.m.
Abraham Salazar and fellow area soccer players push through an agility drill until they think they've finished.
Then their trainer, Christian Salazar - older brother of Abraham - adds extra time to the non-stop jumping exercise because Abraham paused in the middle of it.
"We're really not brothers whenever we get out here," Abraham Salazar said. "It's more of like a really strict coach rather than a relative. He works me out pretty good, as you can tell."
The work has paid off for the younger Salazar, who advanced to earn a spot on the Region III Olympic Development Program team. He received his bid after playing several games for the 1999 age group South Texas team at the Region III ODP camp July 13-17 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Abraham was already the first player from Victoria to even qualify for the South Texas team. His journey continues now that he's part of the 68-player pool comprising athletes from the Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Texas, South Carolina and South Texas state teams.
"When I got the news, I told him, it was like, 'I told you so,'" Christian said. "I knew he was going to make it. He's a hard worker; he's a great player."
An incoming junior midfielder for Victoria East, Abraham tallied an assist in South Texas' opening game against South Carolina, a 2-0 win. He was selected to play in a night game where he scored the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory.
On the second day, Abraham also earned a spot in the selective night game.
"All of it's really challenging," Abraham said. "Everybody's either just as good as you or they're even better. You actually adapt to how you're supposed to play and how others are playing against you."
Christian played at Texas A&M International, received an offer to play professionally in Chile but turned it down due to the birth of his first son, Andres. As Christian trains area players on the soccer field and at The Heat Fitness, he sees potential in his younger brother to far surpass his own soccer accomplishments.
"He has opportunities that me and my older brother didn't have, which is having that trainer, having someone who has the experience," Christian said. "The level of soccer's a lot higher now. . There's no reason why he shouldn't be the best one (of the family)."
Abraham's next round of ODP play is in December in Florida, as the Region III team takes on the other three United States regions. If Abraham impresses the staff enough, he could go on an international tour with the Region III team next spring. The cost of touring internationally, according to an ODP document, is at least $1,200 per player.
When he's not training, Abraham is doing what he can to make sure he can travel to ODP events. His part-time job helped him reach Tuscaloosa.
All the work leaves little time for leisure, something Abraham understands he has to surrender to achieve his dream of playing professional soccer.
"It's just work hard and keep going," Abraham said. "Sacrifices and dedication. And more sacrifices."