On the field, it looks as if the only similarity between San Diego State men’s soccer teammates Jose Altamirano and Blake Hylen is the uniform.
Hylen, the 6-foot-3-inch starting goalkeeper, is a force between the posts, selflessly attempting to save every shot that comes his way. Altamirano, one of the many focal points of the Aztecs offense, is a speedy midfielder with the ability to score from anywhere around the net. There is not much similarity between the two positions or skill sets.
Yet, what many people don’t know is that Hylen and Altamirano were teammates and friends long before they arrived at Montezuma Mesa in 2009.
“Jose and I have been playing with each other since we were Under-11s I think it was, so we were about 10 years old,” Hylen said.
Hylen and Altamirano played for the Del Mar Sharks, a club team currently in limbo according to Hylen. The Sharks were known for their reputation of developing quality youth teams, specifically between Under-8s and Under-12s.
According to Hylen, most teams would disband after Under-12s with players choosing to compete for other club teams throughout Southern California. Yet, this team was different. This team was special. Unlike the Shark teams of the past, this team decided to stay together.
“There was a lot of chemistry on the team,” Altamirano said. “Everyone talked; everyone hung out. It was one big group. Everyone enjoyed playing with each other.”
Hylen and Altamirano continued to compete for the Sharks together until Under-18s, when it was time to decide where to play college soccer.
When Hylen, the seventh-ranked goalkeeper by Top Drawer Soccer from Torrey Pines High School committed to SDSU, Altamirano, an All-American choice by EA Sports, ESPNRise.com and Parade Magazine from Southwest High School, took notice.
“It was funny because I remember telling him I committed, but at the time I didn’t know he was talking to (SDSU as well)” Hylen said. “When I said that, a couple days later, he looked at me and said, ‘I think I’m going to commit too.’”
Aztecs head coach Lev Kirshner quickly noticed the bond between Hylen and Altamirano.
“They came in with a great trust for each other and respect for one another,” Kirshner said. “That communication, trust and respect creates a better environment for the team.”
Both are enjoying great seasons in their third year at SDSU, and despite being teammates for more than a decade, Hylen and Altamirano still enjoy playing with each other. From that first game together as Del Mar Sharks, Hylen said, “It’s been history ever since.”