Men’s Soccer midfelder Diego Alonso did not let his circumstances keep him from pursuing his dream of becoming a professional soccer player. As a first generation student whose family immigrated from Mexico, higher education was not something Alonso considered until colleges began to recruit him in high school. Four years later, Alonso not only finished his collegiate soccer career as a captain, but as the backbone of Men’s Soccer’s midfield.
“We all trust [Alonso] and we know that. Even if we win, even if we lose,” sophomore goalkeeper Carlos Arce-Hurtado said. “He’s always the first one to put the work in. We just follow him.”
Alonso was born in Berkeley. Though he said he dreamed of being a soccer player as a child, he was not sure college would be an option.
“You don’t see many low-income [athletes] going to a school like this and getting paid to go to school,” Alonso said. “It’s a huge blessing.”
Alonso’s successful collegiate career started from the get-go.
As a freshman, he started nine of 17 matches for the Mustangs. As a sophomore, Alonso started 17 of 18 matches, and as a co-captain junior year, he started all 15 matches as a vital component to the team’s midfield.
During his sophomore year, Alonso’s team-leading five assists was ranked fifth in the Big West Conference among all players.
“[Alonso] is truly gifted and, I think, one of the best players ever to have played in the Big West,” head coach Steve Sampson said.
Alonso shines on the field in his technical aspect of play and even admitted to mimicking Eden Hazard, his favorite professional player. Hazard is known for his creative passes and fast, precise moves on the soccer field — much like Alonso’s style of play for the Mustangs.
“I’m trying to mirror my game off [Hazard’s],” Alonso said. “I try what he does during those games and do that during our games as well.”
Through his quick footwork and clever ball-handling, Alonso racked up a team-leading four assists this season to extend his career-total to 11 assists. The midfielder found success through connecting passes on the field and choosing to assist rather than score.
“It’s kind of unusual to say, but I like assisting more than scoring goals,” Alonso said. “Keeping the ball and just finding those key passes. I think that’s a big part of my game.”
Despite his passing-centered style of play, Alonso collected more shots this season (31) than all prior seasons combined, with a .414 shots on goal percentage. Alonso’s first goal of the season, against Loyola Marymount, helped lead Cal Poly to its first win against a ranked opponent in three seasons.
“He was what I would call a pure connector,” Sampson said. “But, I’ve been challenging him with his ability to get in behind defenses to be more goal dangerous.”
As a captain for the second consecutive season, Alonso led the team to their first postseason run since 2015, where Cal Poly lost in the semi-finals to Cal State Fullerton. The team finished the Big West Conference season in fourth-place. The Mustangs started conference with two straight losses, but moved on with three straight wins, beating Cal State Fullerton (3-1), CSUN (2-0), and Sacramento State (1-0) for chance at postseason competition.
Alonso’s motivation to play and do his best stems not only from his competitive spirit, but also his drive to make his family proud. The senior said his parent’s sacrifices throughout the years pushes him to succeed.
“I’m doing this for my family and my brothers that didn’t have the privilege to play soccer for a great school like this,” Alonso said. “It’s time for repaying them.”