The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News 2

June 24, 2014

Sayer is News Courier’s Boys Soccer Player of the Year

— One of the biggest surprises of the 2014 FIFA World Cup so far has been Costa Rica upsetting tournament favorites Uruguay and Italy in its opening two games.

The “Ticos,” as they are known, already advanced to the next round in a group featuring three of the top 15 teams in the world.

One local soccer player — Dilan Sayer — isn’t surprised by Costa Rica’s performance in the World Cup. That’s because Sayer was born and raised in Costa Rica until he was 11 years old.

The East Limestone rising senior is one of the top players in the state, scoring 39 goals for the Indians in 2014. For his near record-breaking season, Sayer is The News Courier’s Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

The diminutive striker grew up playing in the streets of San Jose, Costa Rica, where he began developing the skills that made him the player he is today.

“I played with my cousins and friends. Sometimes we didn’t have a soccer ball,” Sayer said about growing up in Costa Rica. “We would just put a bunch of bags together. Sometimes we would play bare-footed. For goals, we just use two rocks.”

Already better than his peers, Sayer would play with players five and six years older than he. When he was 11, his family moved from a small town outside San Jose to North Alabama.

Once Sayer found a soccer field, it didn’t take him long to make friends.

He started as a freshman and soon became a household name among East Limestone soccer supporters. As a freshman, he scored 30 goals, about half the team’s goals that season. He followed that up with 29 goals as a sophomore.

As a junior, Sayer was among the state’s top scorers with 39 goals in 2014.

“I think different now. I take advantage of my opportunities better,” Sayer said.  “Everybody knows about me, (and) tries to double me. I try to stay calm. I just keep calm and don’t dribble as much. Sometimes I pass, sometimes I dribble. I mix it up.”

Sayer accounted for more than 60 percent of the team’s goals this season and helped spur a late-season push into the playoffs.

East Limestone started region play at 1-3 and needed to win its remaining area games against three top-10 teams in order to make the playoffs. East went 4-0 in area play over the final three weeks of the season to qualify for a playoff berth.

In those four games, Sayer scored eight goals, including a hat trick against No. 8 Cullman to secure 4-3 overtime victory.

“Against Cullman, I just really wanted to win,” he said. “I wanted to make the playoffs. The goals were just there. I didn’t think it was all on me. I’ve got my teammates to help me.”

Sayer will enter his senior year as one of the best players in the state and has a good chance to become Limestone County’s single season and all-time leading goal scorer. For now, Sayer is enjoying watching both his country of birth and country of residence perform well in the World Cup.

Even though they most likely won’t meet each other in Brazil, Sayer will have a difficult decision on which team to pull for in that game.

“I will pull for both,” he said. “I pull for Costa Rica, because I was born there. It started there, but I developed most of my skill here. It takes a lot of skill to play in both places.”

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