Leon Abravanel saw his dream of playing
professional soccer slipping away. He didn't see eye to eye with his coach. His
playing time at the
Other than his college friends and the city-by-the-beach lifestyle there wasn't anything else keeping the former South Tahoe High in
Abravanel's search took him to the
"It's a second chance ... that's the beauty of the whole thing," Abravanel said. "My dream is to play pro soccer, wherever that takes me. If I had stuck at USD, I don't think my career would have ended up where I wanted to be."
After leading STHS to an unbeaten season and its first state championship in 2003, the center midfielder became an instant contributor for the Toreros. He earned a starting spot in 11 of the team's 15 matches, but his playing time dropped off substantially during his sophomore season. He played in only three matches, despite being injury-free.
"It was combination of things," Abravanel said. "The No. 1 reason, not to make excuses, was we had a bad season my freshman year and I was the only freshman starting. The coach seemed to put a lot of blame on the younger players. That's not the way to look at it; it's a team sport. I thought I played well."
Abravanel also wasn't pleased with the school's "soft" approach to the sport.
"I didn't feel like my game was progressing," Abravanel siad. "It was very laid back, not the nose-to-grinder program like
Abravanel said he considered transferring following his freshman season but delayed his decision until taking a redshirt year in 2006.
"I knew it was time to leave," he said. "We were in two different universes about where we saw my career going. I want to be a pro player, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get there."
"I don't know much about
To stay sharp Abravanel spent last year supplementing practices at USD by playing for semi-pro and men's league teams in
"I actually got in more playing time than I would have at USD," Abravanel said.
His time at home this summer has made him game ready because he joined many of the players who contributed to the 2003 state title in the Tahoe Soccer League.
"It's been an awesome experience, playing with my high school buddies. That's their league. It's always cool to play against players who you won a state championship with and had all those great memories with," Abravanel said.
Abravanel also had an opportunity to catch up with STHS coach Chris Deleon, whom he credits for much of his success.
"He's been there throughout my career; one of the reasons I am where I am," Abravanel said.
Deleon has helped Abravanel train for the past two months, working on skills he'll need for the college game as well as his aerobics and mental approach.
"Since I met
"I'm just trying to build a program now. We want to have the best season possible," said Muuss, who spent a combined 10 years as an assistant at
Deleon said the mountain region's style of play suits Abravanel.
"They play to East Coast strengths and West Coast finesse and flair.
"I'm ready to get started. I don't think I've been so focused both mentally and physically. Everything is to the tee right now and it feels good," Abravanel said.