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DANIEL VARGAS

COACH

Daniel was born in San José, Costa Rica and grew up playing fútbol in the streets and parks of his country. When he was ten years old, his parents enrolled him in the Saprissa Soccer School. Dani dedicated himself to his training, and Saprissa Academy soon recruited him. Dani was honored to play for Deportivo Saprissa’s elite teams for the next ten years. He had the opportunity to participate in and win many national and international tournaments with Saprissa. He was selected to Costa Rica’s National Team at U15, U17 and U20 levels. Dani won the Costa Rica National Championship with Brujas FC - a highlight of his playing career!

Daniel began his coaching career at age 18 with a Brujas FC U12 team. After earning a degree in Physical Education, he founded his first soccer school in the Barrio Mexico neighborhood of San José. In 2018, Dani made his way to the United States with the single mission of sharing his passion for fútbol and the flavor of his home country through the project he named Pura Vida Elite Training. Dani is proud of Pura Vida's early successes and grateful to the vibrant community gathering around and contributing to one of the most innovative, creative and spirited training programs in the state of Minnesota. Pura Vida!

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CESAR ELIZONDO

COACH

Cesar Elizondo Quesada joined Pura Vida in 2021, concluding his 17 year Pro career, with the singular purpose of sharing his passion for fútbol with Minnesota's rising stars. A striker, Coach Cesar has played at the top level of the game. He played for the Costa Rican National Team and participated in two FIFA Youth World Cups, U-17 Peru 2005 and U-20 Canada 2007. Cesar has played in Copa America, Copa UNCAF and Gold Cup.

 

Cesar began his pro career at the age of 17 with Deportivo Saprissa, the club he has loved since childhood and the most celebrated team in Costa Rica, also nicknamed "CONCACAF 21 Century Team" and "Los Morados." With Los Morados, he won 3 national championships and competed in top international tournaments, like CONCACAF Champions League. Cesar won the 2014 NASL Championship with the San Antonio Scorpions and Thailand's King Cup with Buriram United. Cesar has accumulated extraordinary experience playing against other world class players like Lionel Messi, Radamel Falcao, Landon Donovan, Raul Gonzales, Keilor Navas, and Sergio Kun Aguero. Cesar is an open book - all of his experiences are at the disposal of Pura Vida's players. He is committed to helping some of our Pura Vida players achieve higher levels of success one day. "That will be a dream come true," Coach Cesar says. 

MICHAEL BALAM MORALES

COACH

Michael grew up playing on the streets and beaches of Playa del Carmen, Mexico - the birthplace of Michael's true love for fútbol. He moved to Minnesota when he was 11, and since then, he has played soccer daily on virtually every field, gymnasium, parking lot, and open patch of ground in the Twin Cities. Michael is a full-time coach, street baller and freestyler who entertains across the Twin Cities and United States. 


Michael is working tirelessly to create a more inclusive soccer community in the Twin Cities. He created Ztreetbal, a futbol collective for athletes to come together, share their love of freestyle and street ball, and feel they have a safe and inclusive place to learn and train. Michael has created free, after-school training groups at Wellstone International High School for athletes from diverse backgrounds to develop the discipline, integrity, respect, mental and physical strength, and communication skills, which he believes are making them better students, athletes and human beings. 

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DANIEL DE LEON

COACH

Daniel De León was born in Minnesota and has lived in Chaska for most of his 20 years. His parents will tell you Daniel's passion for fútbol was sparked the very first time he touched a ball. Daniel played club soccer for CC United, Eden Prairie Soccer Club, and Prior Lake Premier Soccer Club. He played 4 years of varsity soccer for Chaska High School, serving as captain for 2 years. Daniel was twice voted All Midwest Region Team. Bound for Loyola University of Chicago's D1 program in 2019, Daniel instead signed a professional 1-year contract with Asociación Deportiva San Carlos in Costa Rica. Committed to his faith, Daniel believes God, hand-in-hand with a lot of hard work, is the source of his continued soccer success. 

During 2020 and 2021, thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic, Pura Vida was fortunate to have Daniel on loan from San Carlos where he has generously shared the skills and experience he gained in Costa Rica with all of the amazing ballers of Pura Vida Elite Training! Daniel returned to Costa Rica to re-start his season in Spring 2021. He takes to heart his opportunity to inspire Pura Vida Elite's young players to work for their dreams! Daniel possesses a rare intensity and focus for his years, His sharp eye, player/coach instincts and ease articulating and demonstrating his points are all helping Pura Vida's athletes develop each and every training session. Pura Vida! 

NICO MENDIVIL

PERFORMANCE COACH

Nico was raised in Argentina, the birth place of his passion for sports. Nico has always been a multi-sport athlete, playing competitive tennis, soccer, swimming and running. He moved to the US in 2015 to attended the University of Minnesota, where Nico obtained his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, while doing research in Exercise Science and working as a Certified Personal Trainer. During this time, he joined the University of Minnesota triathlon club and has competed in several Olympic distance triathlons, and since he has completed one marathon and one Ironman, with many more to come!

 

Nico's passion for athletic performance led him to complete his master’s in Sport and Performance Psychology at the University of Denver. Nico was supervised there by some of the top professionals in the field as he provided mental performance services to athletes of a wide range of sports and ages. After graduating, he obtained a Certified Strength and Conditioning Certification to be able to provide a holistic approach to athletes which encompasses both physical and mental performance. Nico is committed and passionate about developing players to help them succeed both on and off the field. PURA VIDA!

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JOVANI FLORES

COACH

Jovani Flores was born in Tlatizapan Morelos, Mexico & raised in Shakopee MN. At the age of 2, Jova's parents brought his family to the US in search of a better life and opportunities. At the age of 12, Jova earned the opportunity to play for his first club team, Eden Prairie Premier. With EP, Jova won the State Cup twice and competed in Regionals in Kansas and Ohio, earning MVP honors. Jova played Varsity for EP High School, receiving Most Improved Player his first season and MVP each season thereafter. Jova was selected 3x to the All-Midwest Conference Team, Midwest All State Team, 2x MVP.

 

In 2020 Jova attended Iowa Spencer Division1 Jr. College where he made school history by competing in Nationals in Kansas and finishing 3rd in the Nation. In the summer of 2021, Jova returned to Minnesota to take a position with Pura Vida Elite.  Jova is a passionate coach and credits his mentors with teaching him his deep love of the game. Giovani's personal goal is nothing short of lighting a fire in each and every player who enters Casa Pura Vida!

Pura Vida!

ANNIE WILLIAMS

COACH

Annie is a home-grown Minnesota talent whose work ethic and deep love for futbol continue to propel her to greater success.  Annie played club soccer for Cottage Grove United and MTA. She attended Park Cottage Grove High School, where Annie was twice voted All-State, All Midwest Region Team and was a Ms. Soccer Finalist. Annie played Division 1 college soccer at South Dakota State University, where she double majored in English Education and Spanish. Annie was a 2-time All Summit League 1st Team selection, a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year and was voted to the All Western Regional Team.

 

Annie made her professional debut in 2019 with with Deportivo Saprissa of San Jose, Costa Rica. The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic for Pura Vida might well have been Annie's return to the US. She coached with Pura Vida Elite  from early 2020. As a coach and mentor, Annie finds great joy in sharing her wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm with Pura Vida's athletes. Always leading by example, Annie trained diligently in pursuit of her personal goal to continue playing professional futbol at the highest level internationally. In 2021, Annie played professionally for IBV in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, in the women's first division of the Urvalsdeild Kvenna League.

 

We are thrilled to have Annie back with Pura Vida for the remainder of 2021 and are excited to see where her skills and drive take her next. Welcome home Annie!

 

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KATIE PINGEL

COACH

A California native, Katie Pingel graduated from Peninsula High School, where she was named to Puma's Top 50 High School players, earned All-America honors, was a 3x First-Team All-League selection, 2x Team MVP and racked up a single-season school record 25 goals & 10 assists. Katie reached the Elite Eight NCAA Tournament with Santa Clara and was twice selected Second Team All-Big West for Long Beach State. Katie has participated in US Soccer National Team Camps from the U14 through U20 level. Coach Katie currently plays professionally, together with Coach Annie Williams, for Deportivo Saprissa in Costa Rica. Pura Vida Elite Training is honored to have Coach Katie share her joy and love of the game with our athletes, between seasons with Saprissa!

CARLOS COTO

COLLABORATIVE COACH

Coach Coto was born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica, and came to the United States in 2014 to pursue his education and soccer career. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Psychology at the New York Institute of Technology. He was a four-year captain of the NCAA Division II men’s soccer team at the New York Tech, winning a conference title and several individual All-Conference, All-Region, and Student-Athlete of the year accolades throughout his collegiate career.

 

Coto has followed his professional dreams and completing his Master’s degree in Sport & Performance Psychology, with a specialty in the LatinX population at the University of Denver, where he was supervised by some of the top sport psychologists in the country. He was awarded the Distinguished Master’s Student Practice Award through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology in 2020.

 

Coto is currently part of the Premier Sport Psychology team, private practice, and leader in the field of sport psychology. He has the opportunity to support one of Premier Sport Psychology’s professional sport organizations (as well as numerous other projects and clients). Coto’s current dream and professional focus is for all human beings to achieve ongoing excellence through their performance domains. PURA VIDA!

LUIS RUIZ 

COACH

Luis Ruiz was born and raised in San José, Costa Rica, where he played his youth futbol with Liga Deportivo Alajuelense. Luis was a striker with Costa Rica's U20 National Team and began his professional career with Barrio México. In 2005, he left to play abroad for Luzern and then Kriens in Switerland. Luis joined Salvadoran side Águila before finishing his pro career with Redlands United in Brisbane, Australia. Fond of where he founded the Ruiz Football Academy in 2013, which currently develops over a thousand youth futbol players.

 

Joining in April 2021, Luis will launch Pura Vida's Youth Development Program for players ages 5-10. In shaping the program's curriculum, Luis has drawn upon his extensive experience visiting and training with some of the world's most innovative futbol academies, including Ajax, Utrecht, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Getafe, Rayo Vallecano, Sporting Lisbon an Leganes. 

 

Luis believes that focus on the fundamentals of futbol, a strong work ethic, mental strength and athleticism are the pillars of individual player development. A dedication to mastering fundamentals has helped some of his young players to reach England's Junior Premier League. Pura Vida is excited to collaborate with Coach Luis in creating a culture of creativity and excellence which will open pathways for young players from Minnesota and Australia to reach their fullest possible potential as athletes and human beings. Pura Vida!