BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, February 3, 2012
Earlier this week, American goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer signed with Universidad de Concepcion after a successful trial and became the only American in the Chilean Primera.
In 2011, Maurer was playing in his hometown of Atlanta for the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL. He then struck up a conversation with Pancho Ugarte, a 22 year veteran of professional soccer in Chile who is now a youth coach in Georgia.
Ugarte told Maurer that a coach in Chile was looking for a young goalkeeper and Maurer became interested the more he heard.
Maurer, 23, headed to Chile for his trial with Universidad de Concepcion on January 5 and everything worked out.
"It ended up where I thought it was a good opportunity so I came down here to see what it was all about," Maurer told YA from Chile. "It all worked out. Concepcion liked me and I really liked the club. We were able to work out a deal."
For Maurer, he arrived in Chile ready to compete well on his trial. Since the end of the NASL season, he had been training with players like US international Sean Johnson and Sogndal keeper Joe Bendik to stay sharp.
The hard work paid off for Maurer in his trial when he was asked to start for Universidad de Concepcion in a game against Colo Colo in the Copa Ciudad de Temuco.
With the score tied at 2-2 after regulation, the game headed to a shootout where Maurer made three saves to lift Concepcion to victory.
"I've been training non-stop since the season ended," Maurer said of his trial. "I'm feeling sharp. It's been good. The guys have been great. I've just tried to work as hard as I can and show what I can do."
The contract Maurer signed this week is for one year but the club will hold options for three additional years.
Maurer will likely begin his time at Concepcion as the backup keeper to Paraguayan Cristian Britez who was the team's first keeper last season.
Despite being the backup, Maurer will be patient and wait for his chance.
"He's the starter and he's the guy I have to beat out," Maurer said of Britez. "I'm just going to work hard and show that I'm ready if called upon. Hopefully when I get my chance, I'll do well and make the spot my own."
Universidad de Concepcion is coming off a difficult 2011 Clausura season where they finished in 14th place in the 18 team league and narrowly missed out on relegation.
The club has been in existence since 1994 but have only been in the Primera since 2003.With the struggles of 2011 now behind them, the expectations are higher in 2012
"We had a meeting in the preseason discussed that it's not just about staying in the Primera anymore," Maurer explained. "The team really wants to push for the playoffs. I think we have the talent to get to the playoffs. Once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. Everyone has high hopes."
Maurer is excited to take part in his first season in the Primera. He has yet to play in an official league game but he is very impressed on the quality of the league.
After finishing his NCAA career in 2010 with the University of South Carolina, Maurer was drafted in the Supplemental draft by the Red Bulls but did not secure a long term deal after spending the preseason with the club. He then became a regular with the Atlanta Silverbacks in 2011
After experience soccer in the United States at every major level, Maurer is impressed with the quality in Chile and feels that it is a step up in quality from the NASL.
"It's definitely a jump up," Maurer stated emphatically. "The NASL was a good league. I think the NASL is a very underrated league. But the Chilean league is a very big league and thought highly of all around the world. My experience so far confirms that."
"The players here are extremely skillful and very fast," he added. "It's very possession oriented. They know when to play direct and their long balls are always on point. It's probably not as physical as the MLS. It's very fast paced and very intelligent."
As for his future, Maurer is very content in Chile both on and off the field. He is the only American in the league and that alone has already earned him a lot of media attention among the locals.
Maurer knows that with the quality of play in the league, he is in a good position to develop his game and advance his career to a high level.
"I really like it here a lot," Maurer concluded. "It's definitely different but now that I've settled, I'm comfortable. Concepcion is a nice little city. I can definitely see myself being here for a very long time. I think it's a great place to grow my career and develop."
Maurer and Universidad de Concepcion will host Audax Italiano on Friday.