Former De La Salle University footballer Shanden Vergara is starting to realize his potential overseas as he makes a mark in his ongoing first season with Snow College in Utah, United States.
Once a vital creative force for the Green Archers in the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 81, the 20-year-old attacking midfielder from San Carlos City, Negros Occidental took a chance to further his development in the United States when he qualified for a scholarship with Snow College this 2019.
The academic institution, also known as the Badgers in athletic events, is competing in the Division I of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
Upon enrollment for the fall 2019 season, Shanden immediately suited up in time for the Division I conference campaign where he was utilized in different positions either in midfield or defense.
In 10 appearances, as of this writing, Shanden was able to start for seven matches scoring two goals and bagging three assists – the most for his team – as per the NJCAA official tally.
Listed as a sophomore for the Badgers, Shanden still has around two years left to compete in college or university level. And if he can continue or even surpass his current form, then he may catch the eyes of talent-scouts in the country for a shot at competing at the highest level of football in the US – the Major League Soccer.
Still in the thick of it
Though the preliminaries has just recently concluded, the remainder of 2019 is still crucial and busy for Shanden’s maiden season, with the campaign still far from done after Snow College finished strong in its conference to earn a playoffs spot.
“(Our team) finished second in the Scenic West Athletic Conference,” shared Shanden to 5th Minute of Added Time via online chat.
“The season is not over yet because there’s still the playoffs in a couple of weeks ( with schedules still to be confirmed) where we play against the top three teams of the conference for the semifinals.”
The immediate playoffs serve as the semifinals where Snow is set to face third placed Southern Nevada while conference-leading Salt Lake Community College goes against fourth placed Utah State University – Eastern.
“Southern Nevada is one of our toughest opponents in the conference,” Shanden added regarding their semifinals competitors.
If Shanden and the rest of the Badgers are able to navigate through the semifinals and final of their conference playoffs, then they will be eligible to compete in the Region 18 tournament for a shot at the “Nationals” which will be a battle-royale between each region’s best team.
In elite company
Shanden Vergara’s current promise being shown in USA’s soccer system puts him in an exclusive circle of a few modern homegrown Filipino footballers who had the rare chance of being the country’s talent exports for the beautiful game joining the likes of Freddy Gonzalez, Marco Casambre and Amani Aguinaldo, all of whom made their respective marks with The Azkals.
However, despite this impression of joining an elite circle – behind the scenes – Shanden’s path has never been easy, requiring sacrifices and immense effort to further improve himself in a foreign and competitive environment (not to mention completing the academic requirements). But if he can maintain the course and thrive in his young and upward-trending career as a footballer, he certainly can fulfill his targets to reach the next level.
“I miss my family every single day, as well as my friends. I’ve also been playing in different positions which my coach wants me to play. I played as a forward, midfielder, winger or sometimes a defender for tactical reasons. Our coach has been rotating us in different positions as he wants us to be versatile players,” Shanden shares on some of the situations where he has been put out of his comfort zone.
“My natural role has always been in the midfield or behind the striker. But I don’t mind if I play different positions for as long as I can play, where I enjoy playing the ball with my feet.”
Staying focused, yet grounded
At this moment, Shanden Vergara’s upward trajectory is showing steadiness, and has already gone quite a progression from his humble roots in San Carlos, then to the UAAP and now in the NJCAA with Snow College.
But the lad’s already inspiring rise is just beginning at the other side of the world as he is still in the early phase of his varsity soccer career in the states. Yet, it’s reassuring to know that Shanden’s focus and resolve remains the same as he reaches for his goal of carving out a career in the pro-ranks.
“My goal after college is to become a professional footballer, as it always has been my dream since I was young,” Shanden states.
In the end, despite the immense promise that currently lies ahead on his football journey, the former Green Archer turned Badger still keeps a grounded attitude knowing his opportunities are not just limited to the sport given the education he is receiving – and need to take care of – as an athlete-scholar.
“If (a career in football does not work out as planned), I will look for another opportunity which is to find a good job for my future for whatever God gives me in my life.
“His plans will always be greater than mine.”