Making the Save

Dan Beeson
Date Published: 
Daily Courier

It took one big assist for Yavapai to score Chris Sagar

Chris SagarChris Sagar

Chris Sagar seldom wasted a move, or even a flinch, while tending goal for the national champion Yavapai College soccer team.

Calculating to the extreme, he's on player who can make a mathematical equation out of a sprawling save. Then use the most refined of prose to tell you about it.

Entering tonight's Roughrider game at Pima College, those numbers include a goals-against average of 0.26 while playing for the unbeaten and top-ranked JC team in the nation.

But the most memorable numbers concerning Chris Sagar were the group of digits that Yavapai head coach Mike Pantalione dialed shorty after winning the title in 1990.

In need of a goalie to replace the graduated Andre Luciano, Pantalione found little to his liking at Arizona high schools. And not much more in the rest of the Western region, either.

He searched, even threw out the word "desperate" after making a telephone call to Virginia Commonwealth coach and former NASL great Lincoln Phillips.

"I had talked to Lincoln previously," said Pantalione of his favorite professional soccer player while growing up.

"I told him we were desparate for a good goalie. When he told me about Chris, naturally I asked him, 'Well, if he's so good, how come you're not recruiting him?' He told me, 'I already have four good goalies.'"

Not needing a fifth goalkeeper to languish in the system, Phillips, running soccer clinics in Sagar's native Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago at the time, passed the word to the 21-year-old Sagar.

Sagar was ready to forego the flowing beaches and relative prosperity of Trinidad, a well kept secret tucked away in the Caribbean.

"I really wanted to play soccer and study in the United States," said Sagar, who plans on heading back to Trinidad after earning a degree in marketing management at a university in the states.

Chris SagarYavapai College goalie Chris Sagar from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago has a goals-against average of 0.26 for the Roughriders entering tonight's game at Pima College.

"I had been interested in Virginia Commonwealth and Baptist College in Charleston (South Carolina). But Lincoln and Mike got together..."

And, as Pantalione says, the "rest is history."

Sagar will speak blisfully of his country's interesting, yet less that high profile history.

Calling it "The Islands" he'll proudly speak of its heterogeneous makeup. He'll recite the fact that it was first sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1498 and that it road the coattails of the late-1960's oil boom to become an integral part of Unites States' oil imports.

"Chris is an interesting story," says Pantalione, while watching his team run through a Tuesday afternoon practice routine. "How many guys were teaching school at age 19 or 20?"

Yes, teaching is another of Sagar's talents.

Upon graduating from Trinidad's Fatima College, which is "college" only by name and is actually the American equivalent to high school age, Sagar decided to earn his own ticket to the U.S.

He was accustomed to hitting the books, but this time he was standing at the other end of the classroom.

"I found teaching to be quite interesting, really," says Sagar (pronounced "cigar"). "It's funny how you think you can know a subject inside-out until you have to pass your knowledge on to other people. I had to approach everything from such a different angle. It's almost like learning it all over again. I really learned a lot."

Lightning quick and possessing excellent peripheral vision, Sagar had not used the soccer-by-the-numbers approach in the less regimented ways of Trinidad.

It wasn't until he was a standout for the national Under-19 team that toured the Caribbean and Guatemala, that he played against the type of competition that he now meets each time out.

"There were a lot of talented players on the islands," Sagar points out. "But it just wasn't as organized as what you see in this country.

"The players here are all very well-versed in the basics of the sport, which is the way I like it. That's how Mike runs the program. He covers just about every aspect of the game and I feel like I'm getting a quality education, too. That's why I'm here."

Sagar and teammates know that they have a difficult act to follow.

The Roughriders were hurt by graduation like most junior colleges, but were able to usher in 12 new players. So far, they haven't missed a beat.

"I talked to some of the guys who played on the championship team last year," said Sagar. "They're very proud of it. We know that we have a big challenge in front of us to keep that winning tradition going."