Preparing for his debut with Utica City FC, Diego Zuñiga was flying around the turf of the Adirondack Bank Center. While some may have been distracted by his luxurious locks, the 29-year-old target forward moved with the agility of an 18-year-old, powered by legs that had seen countless matches during his professional career.

Playing in Utica represents a new challenge in the veteran’s career, laden with expectations of another Eastern Division crown and hopes of a Ron Newman Cup victory. However, the Costa Rica-native appears more than ready to embark on this new journey.

“I’m very excited to play with this team. My teammates have said a lot of good things about the fans, so I’m excited to start the season and I hope we can win the championship.”

Before arriving to UCFC as a veteran addition, Zuñiga’s road to the AUD began when he was nine years old in Costa Rica. While the outdoor version of soccer tends to be the most popular form of the game, a variation called futsal also has a large following within the Central American nation. Played mainly indoors on a hard court, futsal captured Zuñiga’s heart, parlaying his passion into a roster spot in his home nation’s professional futsal league.

After playing marvelously for his club team, Zuñiga was selected for the Costa Rican national futsal team, beating out other top players from around the country in an invitational tryout session.

As part of the Costa Rican national team, Zuñiga participated in the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup where he was able to make a tremendous impact for his country, scoring Costa Rica’s lone goal in a 3-1 loss to Thailand while also adding another score in a 6-3 triumph over Paraguay. Four years later, he was again selected to play for his home nation, leading his country to the Round of 16 before eventually falling to Portugal.

Zuñiga reflected back on his World Cup experiences with fond memories, enjoying the fact that he was able to face the world’s best futsal players.

“It was amazing. The best experience was playing with and against the best players in the world like Falcao and Ricardinho. These guys are like the equivalent of Ronaldo and Messi for futsal. It was incredible.”

Zuñiga has also attained championship pedigree on the international stage, emerging victorious in the 2012 CONCACAF Futsal Championship with Costa Rica. He followed that performance four years later in 2016 with another CONCACAF championship with Costa Rica as the host nation. There, Zuñiga put on a remarkable offensive display, netting four goals in five games, including two goals in the semifinal match against Guatemala and another tally versus Panama in the championship game.

When asked if he was going to bring a championship to Utica like he did with Costa Rica, Zuñiga gave a simple answer: “For sure. It’s going to happen this year.”

The season kicks off next Friday night in Baltimore against the Blast. 72 Tavern is your best place to watch the game with drink specials and giveaways throughout the game. Zuñiga and the rest of the team returns to the Adirondack Bank Center to host their home opener on Sunday, November 24. Fans will want to be in their seats early for all new pregame videos and more! Kickoff is at 2pm and doors open at 1pm. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone or at the Adirondack Bank Center Box Office. (315)790-9070 or www.empirestatetix.com.

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