Wheeling siblings have World Cup dreams
Fourteen-year-old Alondra Arreola sits on the couch, but her feet move in sync with the ball, following the action of the World Cup soccer match on the television screen.
Meanwhile, her brother Luis, 15, imagines what it would feel like to be there on the field, in front of hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide. "I think about what I have to do to get there," he says.
The Wheeling siblings might actually have a shot at their dreams. Both are soccer standouts who've already caught the eye of national team recruiters from the U.S. and Mexico.
Luis, who just finished his freshman year at Lake Forest Academy, has taken part in two U-15 U.S. national team training camps in Carson, California. He's been offered a place on the soccer team at Shattuck-St. Mary's School in Minnesota, part of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy program, and has drawn interest from international soccer clubs.
Alondra, who will attend Lake Forest Academy next year, was among a few dozen girls -- out of hundreds who took part in tryouts in the United States -- invited to compete for a spot on the Mexican national team.
The siblings are close but uber-competitive, both on and off the field.
"She's always challenging me," Luis says.
"I do it with everything, even board games like Monopoly," Alondra says.
They play for FC Athletico, a local soccer team coached by their father, Luis Arreola, who also runs a home-based video camera business. Their mother, Elva, is a librarian at Indian Trails Public Library in Wheeling. The family also includes 9-month-old Ruben.
The siblings started playing soccer at ages 6 and 7 through the Wheeling Park District, mostly so the younger Luis could improve his basketball footwork. Until then, Alondra had dabbled in tap dancing and ballet.
After a year, they joined a more competitive team, and the following year their father started FC Athletico, mostly because of philosophical differences, he said.
"It was more about winning and more about picking the better athletes, guys that can run faster, kick harder, that are bigger physically, than the guys with skills," he said. He also wanted his players to practice four times a week, rather than twice.
Luis fell in love with soccer immediately.
"I have played every day since I was 7. I never stopped, I just keep on going," Luis said.
Alondra's love for the game came along more slowly.
"Once I got into it, I saw that after exercise you get this great physical feeling," Alondra said. "Also just being able to play with my brother motivated me, especially seeing how much he liked it."
Alondra, a midfielder, enjoys developing plays, while Luis, a forward, loves the glory of scoring.
U.S. U-15 soccer coach Hugo Perez spotted Luis in September when he played in the final round of a nationwide traveling soccer tournament, Sueño Alianza.
Luis didn't make the cut for the U.S. team after camp but has great potential, Perez said.
"He's a good player," Perez said. "He has good height, physically he is very good. Technically I would say he needs more work, but he's still young, he's still growing. Sometimes they need more time to get their bodies settled; they need more coordination."
The experience at the U.S. training camps motivated him to work even harder, Luis said.
"There's a lot of competition there. You get to see the top 30 kids in the whole nation," he said. "I learned I needed to keep on working."
Shattuck-St. Mary soccer coach Bob Moullin said he hopes Luis will decide to formally apply for the program, for which he's been offered a spot. "We are very interested in him. He's one of our top recruits," he said.
Meanwhile, Luis said he hopes he'll also have invites to join a professional club in Europe or Mexico. His father said Luis already traveled to Mexico and Germany and now is planning a trip to Spain.
Chicago-area talent scout Jorge Noval, of Future Players España/USA, said Luis was invited in late July for a tryout by the team Valencia CF, which plays in the top tier La Liga in Spain. "He's a very talented player," Noval said.
Alondra, too, was noticed by Spanish scouts, Noval said.
Luz Navarro, of the Mexican Federation of Association Football, said it turns out that Alondra is a year younger than required, so she couldn't follow through with her initial invite to the Mexican national camp this year. "She impressed people there (at the tryouts in Chicago)," she said.
Their father has always been their hardest coach, the siblings said.
"Obviously he's going to push us the most," Alondra said. "He really wants us to succeed."
Luis agreed. "He always tells us, 'I wouldn't yell at you guys if I didn't see you guys have potential.'"
Besides excelling on the field, the siblings have always worked hard in school.
Alondra, who describes herself as a perfectionist, has a 3.8 GPA on a 4.0 scale. Luis, who says he's more relaxed, used to match his sister's academic results, though his GPA dropped a bit this year because of his soccer-related travels, he said.
The siblings also have musical talent -- Alondra plays the saxophone while Luis plays the trombone.
"Luis is funny, humble, responsible and a quiet leader," Lake Forest Academy Assistant Athletic Director Becky Arrowood said. "He leads by example in what he does, and his work ethic as a soccer player is unquestionable."
Paul Makovec, the academy's head soccer coach, said he's excited about Alondra joining this year. "She is a strong athlete with great promise on the soccer field as well as in the classroom."
The siblings are clear they want to become professional soccer players but say they also want to graduate from college, and possibly study medicine.
The secret to being a great soccer player is, well, not so secret, the siblings say.
"It's determination," Alondra said. "You can still go to practice and be all lazy, but you're not going to improve."
Luis agreed. "A lot of repetition, practice, and never giving up," he said. "And you can't do anything without passion."
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The scoop on the ArreolasLuis Arreola
School: Lake Forest Academy
What's on your iPod? I listen to music on my phone. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, a little rap and R&B.
What book are you reading now? My favorite book is "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom.
Who inspires you? Brazilian soccer player Ronaldinho. He's just so creative. He's like a little kid playing in the field, he does whatever he wants.
The three words that best describe you? Tall, dark and handsome.
School: Lake Forest Academy
What's on your iPod? I listen to music on my phone. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, a little rap, Beyoncé, Shakira.
What's your favorite book? I just finished "Insurgent" of the "Divergent" series by Veronica Roth.
Who inspires you? Marta, the Brazilian soccer player. She seems like a leader, always scoring goals.
The three words that best describe you? Vibrant. Fun. Determined.