Rentería's journey from Caracas to CLB

Crew striker displayed a passion for soccer from a young age

Emilio Renteria celebrates his second goal against Vancouver

Photo Credit: 
Jamie Sabau - Getty Images

Growing up in baseball-mad Venezuela, Columbus Crew striker Emilio
Rentería stood out. Many of his friends found themselves drawn to the
diamond, but Rentería knew at an early age that his passion was
elsewhere.

“My father used to play baseball, too,” the Crew striker explained,
"but from my home, I saw this soccer field, so I was never really
interested in baseball, only soccer."

A family friend, Feliciano Bueno, saw talent in the Rentería and made a suggestion that changed his life.

“He took me out of the barrio and to the center of the town, where there were soccer schools,” Rentería said.

He was eight years old at the time.

“You’re leaving your mom and your friends, so obviously you get
scared,” said Rentería, now 26. “I was very lucky I always had my
friends back in the barrio where I could stay in contact with them and my mom, and they gave me good advice through the years.”

Rentería's faith and family have helped him through any rough patches
along the way. On his new white Blackberry, the striker has two
screensavers he alternates — one is his girlfriend, the other is Pope
John Paul II.

His exploits in the Caracas academies caught the attention of
Venezuela’s soccer federation and he became a regular on their youth
teams and, eventually, the full side.

Rentería began his pro career at age 17 in Spain’s second division back
in 2001. He spent three years there before returning home to
Venezuela’s first division, eventually signing with the Crew in August
2009. The move to the US had its challenges – he is still not
comfortable speaking to the media in English – but he was better
prepared than some international players.

“It wasn’t as difficult because I was used to traveling quite a bit on
my own,” he said. “The biggest thing now is still missing my family.”

Rentería struggled a bit in his first season in MLS. After arriving in
August 2009, he scored two goals in five games played. The next season
wasn't much of an improvement, as the striker tallied five times in 19
matches. This year, however, he's on pace to surpass his combined totals
of the previous season.

In six games in 2011, Rentería has scored four times, all in the past
three games, to move hime into a second-place tie on the MLS scoring
charts. He credits the support from his girlfriend’s recent one-month
stay as a reason for his good play. Not bad for a player who was a
center back as a kid.

“I was scoring on free kicks and corners, so they put me in the
midfield and I kept scoring, then the coach said go to forward,” he
said.

Rentería is known for his booming shot but this season he’s scored off a
header, with the left foot (the first of his career, he claims) and two
penalty kicks.

Coach Robert Warzycha likes the way Renteria has progressed since joining the Crew.

“He’s more mature and reads the game much better,” he said. “He’s
allowing his teammates to help him. He’s not trying to turn and go
through four defenders. He’s actually dropping the ball, not as often as
I would like to yet, but he’s doing much better than when he came.”