Rockford Raptors kick it to the national playoffs

Coach Nick Roman knows each raptor having helped train them since they were just pre-teens.
Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 10:37 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - “This tournament to us right now is the make or break of our season,” said center mid Aiden Montes. “It means everything to all of us.”

Montes plays for the U-16 Rockford Raptors, which will soon compete in the Elite Clubs National League playoffs. To him, soccer is life, having been a part of the sport since he was a little boy. He now devotes every free moment to it with the goal of becoming the next Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Come home, do homework, train, come back out to train with the team and then go to bed, and then repeat,” he said.

Add a trip to Greensboro, North Carolina, to the list. This season, the team finished in the top three in its conference and qualified for the national competition. Even better than the footwork on the field is the bond between the players.

“I wouldn’t want to be out here with any other group of guys,” he said. “They’ve become a family to me. We’re not only a family on the field but also off the field. These are a group of guys that I’m willing to spend all my time with.”

Forward Dasha Curiel believes the team’s hard work during the COVID off-season will pay off with a tournament win and a trip to the national championship in St. Louis.

“Besides soccer, we’ve always been together and in the field we’re always together,” Curiel said. “No matter if one falls, we always pick one up, and so we’re always there for each other. I think communication and hard work have been our biggest strength this year.”

Coach Nick Roman took over the team two seasons ago, but he knows each raptor having helped train them since they were just pre-teens.

“I grew up playing for this club,” Roman said. “I grew up in Belvidere, so for me this is a special thing to be able to help the club I played for. I know the boys want to represent the community.”

The raptors play for the gold Saturday and are confident their soccer family will kick it all the way to nationals.

“We’re just super proud to be a part of Rockford, to represent Rockford,” Roman said.

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