Union's Cristian Mata emerged from older brother's shadow to achieve his own standout soccer career
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
6/19/12 at 5:45 AM
CRISTIAN MATA made a name for himself at Union High School during the past two seasons.
The Union star spent his first two years in a shadow cast by older brother Omar Mata. But during the past two springs, the younger brother capped an outstanding career by being named the Tulsa World's boys soccer metro player of the year, as well as the 2012 Gatorade Oklahoma player of the year.
Cristian Mata said he learned a lot from his older brother, and will join Omar Mata at the University of Tulsa next fall.
"He's always been a big help for me," Cristian Mata said. "Nobody can replace Omar, but stepping out of his shadow meant me taking more of an independent responsibility, stepping out and doing my own thing.
"People thought I was only good with Omar's help. I was able to score a lot of goals and it was fun."
The forward ended with 22 goals and eight assists for the Redskins, which lost in the Class 6A state championship game this season.
Mata said he enjoyed his time at Union.
"The program here is incredible," he said. "It's not just the coaches, but all of the new freshmen and sophomores. It's fun to meet new guys and adjust yourself to the new systems and the way we would play."
Mata learned the sport while growing up in Juarez, Mexico. A cement field was located just outside his family home. He played for four years until he moved to the United States at nine years old.
"We would just step out and didn't come home until we passed out on the field," Mata said. "Everything over there is soccer. You didn't know any other sports."
After growing up playing soccer at Union, the Mata brothers will reunite at TU.
"I just couldn't see myself at any other place than back at home," Cristian Mata said. "I love this city. I visited other colleges, but Tulsa has great academics and is close to my house, which is good for my mom to come out and watch both of us.
"There was no other option for me. I felt happy to stay here and go to a good school with a soccer program with great coaching."
Season highlight: "The 6A semifinal win against Edmond North and scoring the winning goal with 1:55 left in the second overtime. That was to qualify for the finals. It was an intense game."
Coach Cory Butler says: "Cristian is the type of forward that coaches of all levels dream of. He is a leader, hard worker offensively and defensively, and most of all, is a game changer."
About Mata: "I'm actually pretty good at FIFA soccer on the XBox 360. I talk trash to the people I beat and we play a lot of tournaments at my house."
Favorite soccer player: "Xavi Hernandez. The way he sees the game is amazing. No other player that I've seen can pass the ball like he can and he's a great leader and you can see on the field. When he has the ball, it's a big relief for his team."
Best high school memory: "It would definitely have to be the Alabama trip in my freshman year. I got the MVP award and it was my first year for high school soccer. We won that tournament and were with a great bunch of seniors. It was fun being with my best friends and my brother."
Fun fact: "I went this year to Mexico with an ODP (Olympic Development Program) team and it was a fun experience. We played four top Mexican teams and it was a good experience. We won two games and lost two games. I scored two goals and it was fun to have the feeling that I could keep up with those guys."
Original Print Headline: His own identity
Eric Bailey 918-581-8391
Cristian Mata scored 22 goals and added eight assists last season. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World