So, the goalkeeper position was actually not my first choice. I was a field player for many of my early years. However, at 11 years old, I had already hit 5'7 and could barely last a full 90 minutes on the field. That's when a coach named Cherif Zein, a family friend, convinced my parents to try me out in goal for his U-11 Gold team that needed a backup goalkeeper. I had always said NO because I knew I would be a nervous wreck if I was the last line of defense. However, after some serious convincing from my parents and Cherif, I decided to give it a try. After a few months of intense training, I finally got into shape and started to show some promise.
Omar (Center) and his FC Barcelona team in 2003
Almost at the same time that I began my journey as a goalkeeper, my uncle, Pedro Prieto, moved back to the United States from Mexico. For those of you who may not know my uncle, he was a professional goalkeeper in Mexico for 12 years; playing for Tecos and Queretaro of the First Division and the Mexican National U-23 team that went to the Olympics in South Korea in '88. I may not have known it then, but the fact that my uncles' retirement coincided with the start of my career was an incredible blessing. He became the goalkeeper coach at my club, and although at times I wish he had played the nepotism card, he was tough on me, taught me discipline and instilled in me a professional mentality. I owe a lot to my uncle, my parents and Cherif Zein for giving me the belief I needed at 12 years old.
Pedro Prieto (Left) & Cherif Zein Circa '87
Omar's Career Highlights
At the age of 13, Omar was a member of the FC Barcelona U-13 side that finished ranked as the top team in the country. Barcelona became one of the only teams to ever sweep the League Cup, National Cup and Regionals as a 'Silver Elite' team. After 2 more successful seasons, Omar and 7 of his teammates were invited to join the newly founded LA Galaxy Academy.
U-15 League Cup Champions '07
Omar Signs with the LA Galaxy Academy
At the age of 15, Omar signed with the LA Galaxy Academy. He found great success with the team and quickly established himself as one of the top goalkeepers in the state. His play caught the eye of a few prominent Division 1 schools but he chose to stay in California and committed to UC Davis of the Big West Conference.
Omar Starts as a Freshman at UC Davis
After breaking his wrist in preseason captains practice, Omar planned on red shirting his freshman season. However, after injuries to the starting and back up goalkeepers, Omar was forced to burn his redshirt. After a tough result in his first start against no. 9 UC Irvine, Omar would lead Davis to 3 straight wins and 3 straight shutouts. Unfortunately, the team would finish the season with a string of bad results and would ultimately miss the playoffs by a point. Young and with many key players returning, the future looked bright for UC Davis.
Sophomore Year: UC Davis Beats No. 6 UCLA
After a strong off season and a full recovery from his broken wrist, Omar and co. were ready for a strong 2011 campaign. Davis would start strong with a 2-2-1 record. One of those wins came against No.6 UCLA. In front of a sold out home crowd, UC Davis was able to muster out a victory against Final Four bound UCLA. It is still Davis' highest ranking win in program history. However, as the season progressed, the team would be on the losing end of some incredibly close games. Although their record was not the best, the team would make the playoffs as a third seed and lose in the first round to UC Santa Barbara. Playing in an NCAA Record 11 Overtime games, the young players were able to gain crucial experiences and be exposed to high pressure situations. These experiences would come to fruition the following season.
Junior Year: Double Digit Wins & A Final's Appearance
With momentum from their promising 2011 campaign, UC Davis were poised and ready for a big season. They would start the year with 3 straight shutouts and would not taste defeat until their 6th game. As the season progressed, the team would only get better; winning 7 of their final 9 games. Their final regular season game came against cross-town rival, Sacramento State. The 2-1 win would secure Davis their first ever Big West Conference Northern Division Title. As a first place seed in the conference tournament, Davis would host Cal State Fullerton in the Semi-final and defeat them 2-0. However, the team would fall in the final, 1-0 to Cal State Northridge. The team claimed a 10-6-4 record on the year; their first double digit win season since 2009.
Semi-final Win vs Fullerton (2-0)
Big West Finale Win vs Sac State (2-1)
Senior Year: The End of the Road
After an exceptional 2012 season, and all but two starters returning, the team looked poised for another breakout year. However, Davis were on the receiving end of some heartbreaking results; being shutout in 8 of 21 games. The highlight of the season came away from home against No. 12 Ranked New Mexico. The team claimed a 2-1 victory in front of hostile crowd of 3,000. Omar recorded 7 Saves and a penalty save. The team ended the season with a 9-9-3 record.