For the love of the game

by Michael Lewis

If he had his way, Chile Farias would retire as a champion.

If things fall into place for the Monterrey Flash, the 41-year-old forward could very well have the option to call it a career as early as next week.

"I would love to retire as a champion," he said earlier this week. "That's what I'm trying to do right now."

The seemingly ageless Farias, whose given first name is Carlos, admitted he hasn't made a final decision just yet on his future.

"We'll see after the season," he said. "I would love to win it and retire. If there is a chance to play next season, I will play."

But first things, first. To reach the final, the Flash will have to get by the San Diego Sockers in the Major Arena Soccer League semifinals at Arena Monterrey on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. ET. The winner will host the victor of the Baltimore Blast-Milwaukee Wave match next weekend.

Farias, who has played for four indoor championship teams, has refused to take Monterrey's success for granted. He realized those opportunities don't come around that often.

"We have a chance to play at home, win a championship," he said. "You don't need more motivation than that. Some players play for 20 years and you have a chance to win a championship when the start of your career, go for it. Don't leave anything on the outside that you're going to regret after you're playing. We need to go and beat a good team in San Diego."

To say the 5-6, 160-lb. Farias has been around the indoor soccer block and then some would be an understatement.

Born in Santiago, Chile, Farias has played for 16 teams in five professional leagues -- Continental Indoor Soccer League, National Professional Soccer League, World Indoor Soccer League, Major Indoor Soccer League and MASL.

Over the past 22 years, Farias' teams have taken him from one end of North America to the other.

In chronological order:

San Diego Sockers, Harrisburg Heat, Arizona Thunder, Baltimore Blast, St. Louis Steamers, Detroit Ignition, Chicago Storm, Omaha Vipers, Wichita Wings, Rochester Lancers, Chicago Soul FC, Hidalgo LaFiera, Oxford City FC, Wichita B-52s, Cedar Rapids Rampage and Monterrey.

So, what keeps him going?

"The love of the sport, the love of the game," he said.

There still is gas left in his tank. Farias recorded a hat-trick in Monterrey's 8-7 opening-game win over the Sonora Sol of the Southwest Division series on March 8 after being primarily a playmaker (team-high 22 assists, fifth in the league) during the regular season while scoring nine times. He was named a MASL honorable mention selection.

"I might not be the fastest guy, but I can help the team," he said. "That's the most important thing, not to be the best player on the team, but to help the team. That's the way I think."

Farias has brought something else to the team besides goals.

"I've known Chile since '95," Flash head coach Mariano Bollella said. "We played together too many times. I know him. We have many players with no experience. So, when I talk to Chile, he coaches the guys on the field. It's something I can't do.

"We know he's 41. We know what he can do, what he cannot do. So, we focus on how he can help us. He has a lot of experience. In the difficult moments, he shows up. So, we're really happy with him."

The Flash, which returned to the league this season after a two-year hiatus, finished with the best regular-season record (20-2 -- 10-1 on the road and at home) while securing the Southwest Division title.

The key to the team's success? Balance. The club doesn't rely on only one or two players to score the bulk of its goals. It is more share the wealth.

Monterrey had four players with 20 or more goals. Forward Edgar Gonzalez led the way with 26, followed by forward-midfielder Edgar Flores (23), midfielder-defender Miguel Vaca (22) and forward-midfielder Erick Flores (20).

"We have a good team. It has good chemistry," Bollella said. "We've got no stars, we've got no goal-scorers. We've got players that want to be on the team and they want to win. When you have that, that makes you special because you don't worry about players they want to be, 'Oh I'm the star of this team.' Every single player that I have is really important on this team. Everybody has to do their job and I think they understand. That's why we are basically the hardest team to beat because we play to win. We've got many players who can do goals by themselves. We play as a team. When a player needs to step up, he steps up."

Bollella said that he likes his team's chances to win the MASL title, but he wouldn't say the Flash was confident it would defeat the Sockers (19-3) in the semifinals.

"Confidence is a little dangerous word because sometimes if you're confident you start making mistakes," he said. "We know we're going to play a great team. The team has been playing together so many years and they know each other and every year they're getting stronger. So we know every time we play teams like that we've got to be ready to play them. I don't think we're going to win because we're in first place or we are the best team in the league. We got to play the game. You win on the field, not with your mouth. We know we're going to play a great team with a lot of experience."

Thanks to its record, Monterrey will have home-field advantage through the playoffs, including the final, if it reaches it. Bollella, however, did not consider playing at home was that much of an advantage.

"When you play [in the] playoffs it doesn't matter where you play," he said. "The Flash has been playing good on every single field, so I wasn't even worried about that about. I think for our fans, our ownership, they ask me if we can be the first team in the regular season to have the finals in Monterrey. I don't believe in the home advantage because teams, when they are ready to win, it doesn't matter where you play. Sometimes the home team has more pressure than the visiting team."

Regardless where the Flash performs, Farias just wants to win one more championship.

"I love the sport. If I can have fun playing it, I love the sport," he said. "My mentality is always to win, even in practice, anything is to win. If you don't put the hard work in, it's not going to happen. We're doing it. We have the best record in the league and we're going to try to show it. It's not because we play bad teams in our division. We show it. Sonora went to the championship [final] two times and we put them out. Now we just have to play one game. It's no mistake. We will try to get to the final."