Benefield: Former Empire soccer star Sara Tosti concentrating on game overseas

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Sara Tosti is practiced at figuring things out.

Tosti, who graduated from Arizona State University in May, speaks about 10 words in Swedish, but she manages to suss out what the coach of her Krokom/Dvärsätt squad is telling her on the field.

“Our coach coaches in Swedish,” she said. “We just kind of figure it out.”

Tosti, 22, has been figuring soccer out for years.

A 2012 Maria Carrillo High graduate and former All-Empire Soccer Player of the Year, Tosti played in every game of her college career but one and, more remarkable than that, she played essentially three different positions in four seasons. As a freshman, she played defender. Her sophomore year they moved her to forward. Her junior year, she moved to center marking back and her senior year, she played outside defender.

And she played them all well.

“It was tricky at times,” she said. “Going from center back to outside back wasn’t that big of a transition. Obviously as an outside back I’m attacking more.”

But when she was pulled up to play forward, she had to change the way she approached the game.

“I kind of got out of the attacking mentality. It was really hard for me to transition,” she said. “I’m not a big fan of playing forward because I have my back to goal. I became very uncomfortable.”

She got out of the attacking mentality? For perspective, this: As a four-year starter for the Pumas, she scored 34 goals and had 21 assists.

Uncomfortable in the forward role? Consider also this: Tosti is credited with scoring perhaps the biggest goal in the history of the ASU women’s soccer program when she notched the game-winner against a then second-ranked Stanford team that hadn’t lost at home in 73 games and was unbeaten in 44 consecutive conference games.

“That was definitely cool,” she said of her sophomore season strike.

The Sun Devils made the NCAA tournament two of the four seasons Tosti played, but missed the postseason her senior year.

“It was a little bit disappointing not to make it,” Tosti said.

But she’s quick to note that her final game as a collegian was a 4-1 romp over in-state rivals University of Arizona.

After graduating last month with a degree in business (sports and media studies), Tosti moved to Sweden where she, along with two ASU teammates, plays on a Division 3 squad and lives in the town of Krokom, population 2,200.

“I wanted to get out and live somewhere else and why not do it and play soccer?” she said.

She lives with her ASU teammates and has meals catered by the team. She gets around by bike and tries to see as much as she can.

And just to round out her soccer experience, Tosti is playing not defender, not forward, but central midfielder.

“It’s been fun,” she said. “I feel like I’m more connected to the play.”

Tosti said she doesn’t see her stint in Sweden as a way to launch a bid to play for a NWSL squad, but just a way to keep playing the game she loves for just a little longer.

“I’m pretty realistic,” she said. “I just don’t see it happening for me. It’s not a dream crusher. I’m very content with not continuing after I’m here.”

Tosti wants to stay around sports, but not as a coach or player. She sees herself pursuing something on the business side of sports, and likely starting out back in Arizona.

And in a twist tinged with a bit of irony as her career enters its late stages, Tosti said she is enjoying being able to focus on little else besides the game. No other job, no internship, no class load.

“It’s definitely nice to just play soccer and not worry abut anything else except what I’m going to eat for lunch,” she said.

“Being able to look forward to soccer practice each night or looking forward to the one game we have a week? It’s a lot more relaxed. It’s what I needed right now,” she said.

And the chocolate ain’t bad either.

“I’m a big chocolate lover and the chocolate is 10 times better than anything in the states,” she said.

Tosti’s season ends in October, but not before a break in July, during which she has a European trip planned with additional ASU teammates.

Tosti sounds like a person who is using the game she loves to grab a few more life experiences — maybe some she would not otherwise get. And she might just be using the game to dial back on the pace of life for a bit.

“Krokom is a very slow town,” she said. “It’s nice, though. I’ve been going, going and going for four years. It’s a really nice break before I kickstart my career.”

Once again, Tosti’s got it figured out.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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