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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Farias hopes he brings good luck, goals to Wings' inaugural season

BY JEFFREY LUTZ
The Wichita Eagle

After viewing Carlos "Chile" Farias' soccer-playing history, the first-year Wings franchise might have decided to pass on acquiring his services for the sake of their own security.

Almost every time Farias joins a team, it folds the next year. But the Chilean-born midfielder/forward, who was the Wings' first signee in the spring, isn't a sign of bad fortune to come, just a product of minor-league professional soccer in the United States.

Teams and leagues rarely have much financial stability, meaning players such as Farias have to look for a new job almost every season. Farias has played in virtually every corner of the country, and when he contacted Wings coach LeBaron Hollimon about joining the Wings for their inaugural season, Hollimon couldn't pass it up.

"You never know," Farias said. "I've got bad luck because all the teams that I've been (with), they fold the next season. St. Louis, Omaha, New Jersey, Monterrey, Indiana. All those years I went to play one year, good team, then the next year they don't come back."

Farias has also played short stints with franchises in San Jose, San Diego, Milwaukee, Phoenix, El Paso, Baltimore, Detroit, Harrisburg (Pa.) and Mexico. At 35, Farias is a veteran of indoor and outdoor soccer.

With so many stops, Farias has never been able to fully acclimate himself to a fan base, even though he's been his team's leading scorer several times. The Wings are hoping he can become the face of the franchise while playing well enough to keep coming back.

It was an easy decision to bring him aboard for the inaugural season, which begins tonight at Hartman Arena. Farias' signing gave the Wings immediate credibility, as Farias was named the MISL championship game MVP in 2009, when he led Monterrey to the title.

Farias found Hollimon on Facebook and was signed quickly.

"I was thinking, 'Wow, this is Carlos 'Chile' Farias,' " Hollimon said. "Once he showed interest, we showed lots of interest."

Farias came to the United States with his father, who was seeking employment, in 1990. He played soccer in Chile, and contemporaries caught on to Farias' roots and gave him a nickname to match the name of his native country.

Farias' game blossomed to the point that he was selected in the first Major League Soccer draft in 1996 when he was still a teenager.

He never played a game in MLS, but he was named rookie of the year for San Jose of the Continental Indoor Soccer League in 1996. It was his first stop on what has come to be a national tour.

Playing for so many teams brought out an independence in Farias. He said he often clashes with coaches because it's difficult to rein in his extreme competitiveness.

"I fight with them all the time," Farias said. "During the game, I fight with all the coaches. They scream at me, I scream back at them. But outside the field, it's a different story."

Hollimon is aware of Farias' temper and will only try to cool it when it becomes detrimental to the team.

"We've talked about it as a team," Hollimon said. "There's a way to be fiery and a way not to be fiery. If things go a way that we don't want them to go, then as a coach we'll have to address it."

The benefits of employing Farias might outweigh the potential drawbacks. He's a proven scorer who still possesses superior skills and experience that can benefit a new franchise looking for an identity.

The partnership might be mutually beneficial, since Farias is looking for a place to finally call his soccer home.

"We come here to stay," Farias said. "They're treating us really good. That's what where I play has to be so you don't have to worry about that. Just worry about playing."

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