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An impressive opportunity

USF men’s soccer midfielder Francisco Aristeguieta got the call Saturday.

“Unexpected shock” filled the senior’s mind as he got an invite to join his country’s national team – the highest level in international soccer – for training this week.

Aristeguieta, USF’s captain, flew to Atlanta on Monday to join the Venezuela national team in preparation for Wednesday night’s match against Mexico in the Georgia Dome. Though he didn’t suit up for the game, he practiced throughout the week.

“It is very surreal to me because you see these guys all the time on TV and then you get to see them in person,” Aristeguieta said. “It’s like I’m playing with some of my role models. It’s very impressive, and it feels really good.”

“He approaches everything the same way, and he’s been our captain for three years, so he’s been such a consistent player for us,” said USF coach George Kiefer. “I bet this will give him some more confidence.”

Aristeguieta first raised eyebrows in the spring, when USF played an exhibition against the Venezuela U-17 national team, Kiefer said.

Aristeguieta also made a significant impact for the Bulls throughout the season, Kiefer said.

The Caracas native totaled six points from a defensive midfielder position with two goals and two assists. The goals came at a crucial point during the Big East semifinals, propelling the Bulls to a 2-1 victory over Notre Dame. USF went on to win the Big East championship.

“(Aristeguieta) is really valuable in keeping a hold of the ball, keeping possession for us,” Kiefer said. “A lot goes through him (offensively).”

Aristeguieta, who holds 4.0 grade point average, said he’s focused on using the momentum from last year’s Big East tournament to propel him offensively.

“The tournament was a great experience for me and I’ve been talking to coach Kiefer about being able to go forward offensively more,” he said. “Last year, (former USF midfielder) Kevon Neaves would be the one always going forward, so now I’m hoping that I can help there a little more next year.”

Aristeguieta said he sees training with his national team as a learning experience.

“These guys practice with a different rhythm, they play really fast soccer,” he said. “They have all this professional experience, so it’s a look at what things could be like after college. It’s been really good. It’s been hard to fit in, but hopefully I can get more goals and starting getting used to this stuff.”