Men’s soccer coach passion leads to success

Maher Kawash, Staff Reporter

Men's soccer coach Kiki Lara is introduced as the new coach on March 10, 2015.
Jason Howell
Men’s soccer coach Kiki Lara is introduced as the new coach on March 10, 2015.

Eastern men’s soccer coach Kiki Lara holds a passion for soccer stronger than most passions people have for anything in their life.

Lara was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which is where his love for the game of soccer began.

Lara said soccer became a vital part of his life when he was just three-years-old where he recalled a special moment with his grandmother.

“My grandmother used to have us make these cool plates, and I remember the first thing I drew on mine was a soccer player with a ball and a net,” Lara said.

There is no question Lara has had a long history of soccer in his life as he began playing the sport at age five.

“It’s been my passion for as long as I can remember,” Lara said. “Honestly I don’t remember a time where I didn’t think about the game.”

Lara had a storied soccer career as he played at the University of Incarnate Word, and then went on to play professionally for the Minnesota Thunder and Portland Timbers.

Lara had a significant impact on his team in college as he was team captain from 2001 to 2003, and was named a NSCAA All-American in those three seasons.

“One of my favorite memories of my career is the time I spent at Incarnate Word,” Lara said. “We played with such a phenomenal group of guys, who just genuinely cared about the program.”

He led Incarnate Word to a 16-1-3 record in 2002, earning the school’s first ever NCAA Tournament Bid.

Lara performed off the field as well as he was a two-time NSCAA Academic All-American during his time at Incarnate Word.

Lara was a member of the Thunder from 2004-2006, then a member of the Timbers from 2007-2008.

As well as exceeding expectations on the field and in the classroom, Lara gave back to his community often, leading him to being awarded his respective team’s Humanitarian award in 2006 and 2007.

Lara had many achievements throughout his playing career, but he always had his eye on coaching.

He began coaching at age 14 for a youth soccer club named the Las Cruces Strikers.

While playing with the Thunder in 2005, Lara also worked as an assistant coach for the Washington State University women’s soccer program.

Lara would then go on to be an assistant coach for the Dayton Flyers men’s soccer team from 2009-2014.

One of Lara’s favorite coaching memories came from his time at Dayton as he recalled a moment where the team was about to be co-conference champions of the Atlantic-10, until the Flyers tied the game in the final two minutes, and immediately in overtime to become sole conference champs.

He has enjoyed plenty of success throughout his coaching career as he was also named the Mid-Atlantic Region Assistant Coach of the year in 2013.

Throughout a respectable career, Lara could not single out just one person that has made an impact on his career.

“I think there are a number of people who have made a huge impact on my career, and rather than name them, I think they know who they are.” Lara said.

Lara comes from a family of soccer as his brothers both played in college while one played at the University of New Mexico, and the other at University of Kentucky.

With the decorated career he had, Eastern brought him in with hopes of turning the struggling men’s soccer program around.

“I think EIU presented such a great opportunity to rebuild such an established program,” Lara said. “After being in the position as an assistant, it was such a great opportunity for me to take the next step.”

As there are a total of 23 underclassmen on the team, Lara’s strong teaching skills were going to be necessary for him to turn this team around.

With that being said, Lara’s first season has been a learning experience for all involved as his team holds a 2-8 record heading into some crucial conference games.

Although the team holds a win percentage of .200, many players have bought in to Lara’s approach.

“I don’t think I have met my own expectations, because I think we have lost some games that we should have won,” Lara said. “I continue to learn that winning in D-1 soccer is not an easy thing to do.”

Many guys on the team feel that Lara has already began to turn the program around in his short time at Eastern.

“Coach Lara has had a huge impact on this team in just about every way possible,” sophomore Tyler Oliver said. “He has us playing a good style of soccer that will create success now and in the long run for this program.”

Just as Lara has impacted his team in a significant way, the players have given him a strong motivation as well.

“The impact that these guys have made on me is the main motivation for me to get up every day and come to work,” Lara said. “We have a lot of guys here who want to get EIU soccer back to where it needs to be, and seeing that keeps me motivated.”

Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]