The best way to describe his game is comprehensive.
From the first whistle to the last, from one goal line to the other, and from the beginning of his career to its end, Memo Arzate covered all the ground he could. As a midfielder, he was allowed to roam wherever he saw fit. He rarely overstepped his boundaries, and when a play needed to be made, he rarely was without the ball.
Arzate, who is currently wreaking havoc for the Portland Timbers of the United Soccer Leagues – considered to be the minor leagues of professional soccer – consistently did the one thing that marks a great sportsman: He made his teammates better. There were times this year when it seemed his foot was made of gold and his eyes were otherworldly, able to see beyond the matrix of the soccer field.
He found goal scorers at the sixth-greatest rate this nation has ever seen at the collegiate level, and this year, Arzate led the nation in assists per game with 0.82. He has collected a copious number of awards and honors, but what speaks loudest about the Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., native is how his teammates and coaches revered him.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever played with,” senior forward Neil Jones said after a win over Northridge this past year. “Hands down.”
This coming from a guy who played one year earlier with Rob Friend, the top career goal scorer at UCSB. Arzate was probably one of the best players a lot of the Gauchos this past year have played with. It was just a shame UCSB could only have him for two years.
In those two years, though, Arzate helped his team accomplish more than it ever had in two years. The Gauchos lost just six regular-season games and won three NCAA Tournament games in those two years, while Arzate broke the career assist record in the Big West. This year, Arzate led Santa Barbara to the Sweet 16 and matched his own school and conference single season mark of 18 assists from 2002.
Arzate was drafted by the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer this year but is now playing in Portland, Ore., to develop into an MLS starter.