Hungry Hurtado

Rookie works on his defence as he gets set to begin pro career

Vancouver Whitecaps FC rookie Erik Hurtado hopes his breakaway speed launches his Major League Soccer career off to a strong start – but he’s promising he’s more than just a runner.

Standing at 5-foot-9, Hurtado isn’t the tallest player in the world – but at 180 pounds, the Beaverton, Oregon, resident feels he brings a unique combination of pace, strength and skill.

“With most players, they have one big attribute,” Hurtado told MLSsoccer.com this week. “Especially with speed players, they’re really fast, but you don’t see a lot of really fast and powerful players with foot skills.

“Players who have finesse on the ball and slip people in…I’m fast when I need to be, but I can also dribble the ball and pass the ball and slip people in and create space for my teammates.”

Hurtado was listed as a striker going into the draft, but has played on the right wing in addition to playing up top during his college days – in Vancouver he’s expected to compete with new signing Paulo Jr. for the starting right midfield position.

While confident in his attacking abilities, the 22 year old admits playing as a winger means he’ll have to become more of a two-way player.

“I’m going to be going up and down the field – I do have work I need to do on defence, but I think my speed helps me out,” Hurtado said.

“If I have an open mind to learn the defensive roles in my position, then I think it’s going to be hard for teams to break me down on the right side.”

But, it’s not all about defence. Hurtado is here to help the attack, and he’s champing at the bit to see if head coach Martin Rennie deploys him alongside fellow speedsters Darren Mattocks and Kekuta Manneh in an MLS match.

“We’re all really fast players,” Hurtado said. “A defence can maybe stop one fast player by shutting them down, but it’s going to be really hard for them to stop two. Then, I don’t know if they’ll be able to stop three – because if you have three options going forward with that kind of pace, it’s going to be pretty dangerous and there’s going to be a lot of goalscoring opportunities.”

The 'Caps selected Hurtado with the No. 5 pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, and he’s hoping that by the end of the year, he’s in consideration for some silverware.

“I’d like to get rookie of the year,” Hurtado said. “That’s my goal right now…if I am rookie of the year, that means I’m scoring goals, getting assists and I’m helping my team win as many games as we can.”