Alex Bengard: Alumnus Remembers Professional Career as Athlete; Looks to the Future as Coach
Alex Bengard (Class of ’03, B.S., business administration) has more than the usual camaraderie to look back on from his days as a Toros midfielder. Having been on the team that won the NCAA Division II National Championship in 2000, he recalls a bond with his teammates that can only be achieved through persevering through a great challenge together. But his soccer journey did not end there. After graduation, he was drafted by the L.A. Galaxy Major League Soccer team where he played for two years, helping to win the 2001 U.S. Open Cup and the 2002 MLS Cup. He then moved on to the Northwest where he played for United Soccer League’s Seattle Sounders in 2003 and the Portland Timbers in 2004. He led the Timbers to its best season ever and the best record in the USL A-League that year.
As co-director of the 2B Academy in Southern California, which he co-founded with fellow Toro Billy Bizarro, Bengard is passing the ball to aspiring young athletes through personal training, soccer camps and opportunities to travel to other countries to study and train in their ways of the game. Dateline chats with Bengard about the lessons that can be learned through soccer, on and off the pitch.
What will you remember most about playing for Cal State Dominguez Hills?
I’ll always remember the camaraderie with the guys. The fact that we won the NCAA (II) National Championship in 2000 was the cherry on top. To this day, I still talk to as many of the guys on the team – we have a bond that will never be broken. A lot of people don’t understand the struggle it takes to win a national championship, especially at the college level — when you’re not getting paid. You’re doing it because you love it.
How did your time with the Toros prepare you for a career in pro soccer?
It was the professionalism that Coach (Joe) Flanagan and Coach (Jeff) Tuttle demanded in a game. That along with playing alongside other top-notch quality players prepares you to play with other players at the elite level.
How did your experiences influence you to open your own soccer academy?
I wanted to take my experiences from playing for Dominguez Hills and at the professional level and give back to the kids. It was a good experience having the CAMS (California Academy of Mathematics and Science) students on campus and growing up with the kids my mom used to baby sit. Being around that keeps things in perspective. Almost like there are greater things in life than playing professional soccer, like being a parent.
Who have been your greatest influences, on and off the field?
My dad was always there supporting me, he was always standing on the sidelines at all my games. That’s what gave me the courage and confidence I needed to get to the next level. And of course, my wife. She has always been there to support me at the next level professionally.
What makes 2B Academy unique?
The academy is not just babysitting. I want the kids to want to be there and be passionate about soccer. People say that their kids enjoy it so much; they want to learn and play better. We try to make it fun while they’re learning through quality drills and exercises that I did throughout my career.
How do you think David Beckham’s presence at The Home Depot Center will influence student athletes to attend and play for CSUDH?
The fact that they’ve built a state-of-the-art, soccer-specific stadium at Dominguez Hills is reason enough to go there, with the L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA in your backyard. To top it off, superstars like Beckham are coming into the MLS, proving that they’re helping to grow the game in the United States.
How does the opportunity to mold young athletes round out your love of the game?
It’s come full circle. The ultimate return is when they finally get it and are excited about it. Now I get to see them grow, not just as soccer players but as good kids and good people. That’s why I do it.
- Reported by Joanie Harmon