David Drucker // Staff Writer
FIU senior Luis Betancur received an unexpected email from the Puerto Rico national soccer team while walking on campus.
Puerto Rico wanted to talk.
The island’s national soccer team had been keeping tabs on Betancur since he played for its U20 team as a senior in high school. Since then, the striker had led an FIU soccer team to a conference championship as its leading goal scorer, and his homeland noticed.
“I was like, ‘What?’” Betancur said. “I texted the coach, and he told me about everything that was coming up.”
His FIU teammates Patrick Lopez and Darren Rios received a call from the coach.
“He said they were trying to get a scrimmage with the United States,” Betancur said.
One month later, Betancur and his fellow Panthers found themselves in a friendly against the United States national team.
Betancur entered the match determined.
Betancur said: “I was confident the entire game, but USA center back John Brooks is just too big and too strong. I tried beating him down the line a couple times, but he was holding me away with just one arm. I told myself that the next time I got the ball, I was just going to shoot.”
Opportunity knocked for Betancur in the 41st minute when he received a quick pass at the top of the box. With two defenders off to his right, Betancur quickly corralled the ball and rocketed it straight into the upper right corner of the net.
In an instant, the FIU Panther had scored a goal.
“I wanted to go to the crowd and celebrate,” Betancur said. “It was 2-1 though, so we were close and unfortunately I couldn’t.”
The United States would go on to score another goal and hold on for the 3-1 win. Although Puerto Rico took the loss, the team’s fans didn’t forget who prevented the shutout.
Betancur said: “After the game though, there were just hands. They were asking for my cleats, they were asking for my shirt. People were taking pictures and asking for autograph.”
This new level of attention might become familiar to Betancur in the near future. The senior has aspirations to play professionally, and his Panthers also have a reputation to defend after winning Conference USA last year.
Betancur said: “It’s not going to be easy [to repeat]. If we want to win it again, we’re going to have to work much harder. Before we won, no one knew what we were capable of, and now that we’re conference champs, they aren’t going to underestimate us.”
For now, scoring a goal for home is something he can cherish for a while.
“In the press conference right after the game, [USA Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann] said it was a beautiful goal,” Betancur said. “Those words from Klinsmann, he’s a legend.”
For more of Betancur’s thoughts, check out this video: