Soccer's comeback kid

Avid fisherman and OCC soccer player Curtis Taniguchi spent a year in physical therapy after getting a cartilage graft to repair an injured knee. The 27-year-old is back playing for OCC where he played in 2009.

After struggling through a major knee injury and extensive surgery, Orange Coast College student Curtis Taniguchi has finally been able to lace up his soccer cleats after nearly a year.

Taniguchi, 27, is a forward for the Orange Coast College men’s soccer team and he said the game is a huge part of who is. He battled through a year of physical therapy to continue with his passion for playing soccer.

“Being a soccer player is so much a part of my identity and who I am. When I was able to step back on the field, it was the most gratifying and emotional experience. I endured so much and worked so hard to get back, words cannot describe what it felt like to return to something I love so much and fill the void that had been missing in my life for the past year,” Taniguchi said.

Taniguchi graduated from high school in 2006 and decided to enroll at OCC. He didn’t play his first year to save eligibility then went on to play so well   he was offered the opportunity to play for San Francisco State.

But, because of family and financial reasons, he was not able to go and decided to take a break from school. Instead, he stayed local and became a soccer coach at Edison High School.

Over the course of time the wear and tear on his body took its toll and Taniguchi was diagnosed with damaged cartilage in his knee. Doctors performed a cartilage graft to make sure the damage didn’t get worse as he aged.

“After the surgery my surgeon basically told me if I don’t play soccer in the next six to nine months I may never feel normal again, not just in soccer but everyday life,” Taniguchi said.

So he laced up his cleats and got to it.

Taniguchi said coaching after the surgery was a double blessing because it helped him get back on his feet after his injury and helped him get back on the OCC soccer team.

“I started getting my cleats back on and knocking the ball around with the high school kids just to find my feet,” Taniguchi said.

At Edison, Taniguchi worked with soccer coach Glenn Strachan who also coached for OCC. Strachan ended up being a big reason for Taniguchi returning to OCC.

“Glenn kept encouraging me to come out and play for OCC,” Taniguchi said.

This is his first semester back at OCC since the spring of 2009.

Last year, before Taniguchi decided to come back to OCC to join the soccer team, it was unsure if he was ever going to be able to play again.

Strachan watched Taniguchi grow into a man throughout the years of coaching him as well as coaching beside him.

“It’s awesome to have him back,” Strachan said. “We got to talking when he was recovering from his injury about coming back and playing. He is not only just a player now but also a coach on the field.”

Strachan praised Taniguchi for being able to make the challenging transition from a coach back to a player. He also stressed that it is almost an advantage because of how intelligent Taniguchi is out on the field.

Taniguchi said he models his game after Swedish player and forward Zlatan Ibrahimović.

“He is big powerful and technical guy and I try to play the same way,” Taniguchi said.

Taniguchi plans on transferring to a four-year university where he can earn his degree while continuing to play soccer.

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