A friendly rivalry: Timbers U-23s teammates Evans, Hurtado bringing out the best in one another
The University of Portland and Santa Clara University men’s soccer teams are familiar foes as West Coast Conference (WCC) rivals. For two players, that familiarity has gone far beyond their two annual matches.
Portland-area natives Erik Hurtado (above, right), a senior at Santa Clara, and Steven Evans (above, left), a junior at Portland, spent a second summer playing together for the Portland Timbers U-23s in 2012. After successful seasons in the Premier Development League, both players are having standout collegiate seasons this fall, albeit for rival schools.
Entering the final week of the WCC regular season, Hurtado and Evans share the goal-scoring lead in the WCC, deadlocked at 14 goals. The pair is tied for fifth in the nation in goal scoring and also rank first and second, respectively, in the conference in points.
Over the years, the Evans & Hurtado players have developed a friendly relationship despite often being on opposing club, high school, and collegiate sides. The source of that friendship can be traced back to their time with the Timbers U-23s team.
While finding success as teammates may have helped each player improve their game, when their college teams match up, the summer becomes just a memory.
“We’re friends, but on the field the other team is the enemy,” said Hurtado.
Evans agreed saying, “When we play each other it’s all business, we both want to win.”
Not to be out-done, both Evans and Hurtado have shined with their respective college teams in their head-to-head matchups this season. In the season series between Portland and Santa Clara, Hurtado scored two goals, while Evans has tallied three goals, including one in Portland’s nationally televised overtime win at Santa Clara on Oct. 26.
The two players praised the Timbers’ U-23 program and its staff for how it helped them prepare for their collegiate season.
“After the summer, I felt fit, I felt strong, and having that confidence was huge,” said Evans. “Head coach Jim Rilatt pushed me a lot. The attitude that he instilled in us was to practice like you are in a game, to work as hard as you can.”
The Timbers’ development team has also helped prepare young players for the jump to the professional level, an opportunity Hurtado and Evans both hope for.
“The Timbers U-23s taught me about coming to practice ready every day,” said Hurtado, who scored 14 goals over two seasons with the Timbers U-23s. “It definitely helped me become more disciplined and mature in my game. There’s so much more to it than just playing the game.”
Both Evans and Hurtado are quick to stress the importance of team success as the focus of their collegiate season, but both have racked up an impressive list of individual accolades this fall. The 2012 WCC Player of the Year may be the capper and both are deserving candidates.
“He wants the (WCC) Player of the Year and so do I,” said Evans.
While it’s too early to say who will win the award, for Timbers U-23s fans, it is likely be a familiar face.