Aurelio Saco Vértiz Never Hesitated When Opportunity To Join The Strikers Arose

The Peruvian defender is ready to hit the ground running in his first season in Fort Lauderdale
Matthew Levine (@NASLInsider} | Jan 25, 2016

Born in Miami, Fla., Aurelio Saco Vértiz has spent his enitre career plying his trade in Peru. That is, of course, until he moved much closer to his birthplace and signed with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the NASL offseason.

Entering his first season in the league, Saco Vértiz, 26, is expecting a much faster, more physical game. The physical side, however, will be nothing he can’t handle.

While in Peru, Saco Vértiz recorded a professional kickboxing fight – which he won. 

“I like mixed martial arts, I have a lot of friends doing it,” Saco Vértiz told “What I did was kickboxing – muay thai – and it was one pro fight.

“It’s something I like to watch, a hobby. I’m not fighting any more – maybe sometimes go to the bag for some cardio and with a friend with pads – but definitely not contact because it’s dangerous.”

The Strikers, though, won’t mind the fighting spirit, as the club looks to return to the postseason for a third straight year.

The decision for Saco Vértiz, who has lined up as a left fullback in the Strikers’ recent matches in the Florida Cup, came down to returning to Miami and his Peruvian heritage.

“To be honest, since I started my soccer career in Peru I never stopped following soccer in the USA, and I’ve always known about the Fort Lauderdale Strikers,” he said. “A Peruvian player, Teófilo Cubillas, used to play there, so the club is known in Peru.

“When the chance came, I didn’t even hesitate. I just wanted to get back to the U.S. and start playing here. I’m really excited about it and hopefully I'll stay here for many, many years.”

Becoming the first Peruvian since Cubillas to play for the Strikers, Saco Vértiz noted the move is "a huge responsibility."

"To know that a player of the quality of Cubillas [played for the Strikers] – he’s an idol of all Peruvian players and Peruvian people, and he’s the top scorer in World Cups – so there’s pressure for me to be in a team that he started his career in the U.S.,” he said. “I’m really happy about it and excited to perform and try to do as well as he did.”

Playing for the Peruvian U-20 national team, he was also called up into the senior side for 2014 World Cup qualifiers, although he didn’t make an appearance. While wanting to play at the international level, Saco Vértiz hasn’t ruled out suiting up for the United States (left back continues to be tough position to fill for the nation).

“It was great to be there, but the good thing is that I haven’t played for Peru’s senior team, so I am eligible for the U.S. as well,” he said. “What I have to do is put in the hard work, believe in myself, and keep playing the best I can. Focus on Fort Lauderdale, myself, and if the chance comes for Peru or the U.S. I’m open for the possibility. At the end of the day, I want to play at that level.”

Looking ahead to his first season in South Florida, Saco Vértiz is ready to experience the U.S. as a professional player and the chance to improve under the guidance of the veteran leaders in the side.

“It’s exciting to come back to Florida, to play for a team that – one way or the other – I followed and kept track of,” he said. “It’s something I always felt inside me it was meant to be. I can’t wait to start playing. The fact that we have players like Kléberson, Adrianinho, and Gabriel – those are players that are really representative and have huge careers – so it’s crazy to finally arrive at a place and learn from these guys.”

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