LOCALS: Four sign in Guatemala

Deportivo Coatepeque has plans to challenge Guatemala's soccer elite, and one step toward that is bringing top Guatemalan-Americans players to the club. Signing three from Southern California, plus a Cameroonian striker based in L.A., is the first step.

Jose Carlo “Kaku” Rodas (Hollywood/Marshall HS), 22; Edgar "Chato" Gonzalez (Huntington Park/Huntington Park HS and Mt. San Antonio College), 20; Jorge Figueroa (Los Angeles/Ouichi HS and Whittier College), 20; and Cameroonian Jean Justin Atchoukeu Mekonsto, 23, headed this week to the small town a little northeast of Mexico's southern tip to prepare for the start of the season in the second-tier Primera Division de Ascenso, according to Orange County-based agent Yiannis Koulouris, who helped put the deal together.

The signing announcement took place at the Guatemalan consul in Los Angeles, and more than 500 fans were awaiting the players at the airport in Coatepeque, Koulouris said.

The push for American-based talent is an initiative from new president Ronaldo Samayoa, a Coatepeque native who spent the past 20 years involved in Southern California's web of immigrant soccer leagues. He has hired former Xelaju coach Gabriel “Chato” Castillo and has prioritized promotion to the top-division Liga Nacional.

Rodas is well-known in Southern California for his time with Hollywood United and other local clubs. Gonzalez starred for state JC champions Mt. SAC and spent time in Mexico in Pachuca's and Estudiantes Tecos' systems. Figueroa played in Chivas USA's Academy, at Estudiants Tecos and for a spell in Manchester City's youth setup. Atchoukeu Mekonsto played in Cameroon and Spain and with several Premier Development League and National Premier Soccer League teams after moving to Southern California.