In 2008, Christian Sady had an epiphany: he would be a professional soccer player. Countless youngsters make similar amusingly naïve proclamations, before they’re able to appreciate how much time and effort goes into a career in professional sports. But Christian is different from most youngsters. He’s actually on the path to fulfilling his proclamation.
A promising young talent then at the tender age of 13, Sady played for the Region 1 Olympic Development Team, and faced opponents on the U.S. National Under-14 team. He felt like he could be one of them. “Every kid wanted to be there so desperately, so that was the day that I decided I wanted to be there, and I can do it,” says Sady.
He played harder in that game than he ever had, with the hopes of turning heads on the U14 National bench. “I just went out there and was the most physical kid on the field. I went out of my comfort zone a lot, and obviously it turned out pretty well,” Sady says, chuckling. Sady was named an Adidas Interregional All-star for that tournament, and was asked to join the National junior team for their next camp.
He never looked back.
“Once you’re there, at that point you know that’s what you want to do. That was the turning point of when I became significantly more serious,” he says.
Christian Sady has worked tirelessly, nearly every weekend since he began playing competitive soccer for the local youth team in his hometown of North Andover, Mass. He’s logged thousands of miles traveling all over the world participating in tournaments and development camps. Sady, 17, has been to Mexico, Portugal and South Africa, as well as most corners of the U.S., constantly working to improve his game.
So goes the life of a rising young star in the world of American soccer. It’s filled with camps and tournaments all over the country, a rigorous offseason training regimen, and plenty of pressure to succeed. Sady handles it all in stride, balancing his schoolwork at Buckingham, Browne & Nichols High School in Cambridge, Mass., where Christian is a junior.
Sady is an unconventional left back, a position that is usually characterized as highly defensive, to which Sady brings an arsenal of attacking acumen. His experience playing as a striker in high school and at midfield for his former club team, the New England Aztecs, has helped him develop into a more offensively aware defender.
“What coaches are looking for now is an attacking left back, so I try to emulate that… I have a lot of those traits at my position now, which is what separates a lot of the players that have had success professionally,” says Sady, always mindful to remain modest about his skills.
Ralph Ferrigno was Sady’s first coach, and noticed his precocious talent and physicality from a very early age.
“Even though he wasn’t big, he was more physical in his play on the ball for a boy of his age,” says Ferrigno.
Ferrigno, a transplant from Liverpool, England, has coached numerous teams in the U.S. and abroad, including the Tufts University team for 20 years. He has served as the director for several soccer development clubs over his career, and currently works with players as young as 12 and below on his Boston Soccer Academy club program, helping them establish basic ball skills and field awareness.
As an active participant in youth player development in the U.S., Ferrigno sees a shift emerging in pro soccer towards developing talent from very early ages, and from the teams’ local regions. This method allows MLS teams—17 of which currently field “homegrown” players on their starting roster—to polish their prospects to their exact preferences, garner interest and support from fans, and enable them to sign players directly without subjecting them to the draft process.
“Now that the MLS clubs are starting to develop academies, it’s becoming more like it is in Europe and South America where the clubs take steps in developing their own players,” says Ferrigno. “I think that opens the door for everybody, and I only see it growing.”
Homegrown players like Christian Sady, four years into his own New England Revolution Academy experience, can come up through the ranks of MLS Academies and have the opportunity to play with pro players years before they might reach the field as one of the starting eleven.
“It’s been awesome, it’s the reason why I’ve excelled in soccer and I keep getting better,” says Sady. “It’s what has started everything with the National team, everything with college; it’s kind of the pathway to success to soccer in America.”
Like Sady, 17-year-old Diego Fagundez has followed the same path to success with the Revolution’s Youth Academy. In fact, Fagundez was so good that in 2011, he ascended to the starting lineup for the Revolution, becoming the first-ever homegrown player that the team has ever produced.
Fagundez finished his freshman year at Leominster High School, and began training full-time with the Revs after that, learning from tutors to fulfill his educational requirements. As a junior player, Fagundez lit up scoreboards everywhere he went. While playing for Revolution Academy teams, he tallied 23 goals and 17 assists in 28 appearances. In 2011, Fagundez was called up to the first team where he became the second-youngest MLS player ever to score a goal when he did so against Chivas USA on Aug. 6 of that year. 2012 saw an even bigger role for Fagundez, who made twenty appearances and eight starts—seven of which came in the Revs’ last 13 games of the season.
Sady and Fagundez both played together on the various Revs’ Youth Academy teams, where the two became close friends and pushed each other every step of the way.
“You can see how he’s matured both on and off the field. His experiences with the pro team have definitely helped him, and he sets an example for what all the kids at the Academy should strive for,” says Sady.
Ralph Ferrigno never coached Fagundez himself, but his son played on the same State ODP U14 team as Fagundez, and even then, “clearly you could see he was very talented,” says Ferrigno.
This time of year marks the offseason for players like Sady and Fagundez, who will embark on strenuous offseason routines, but not before taking a long awaited break.
“When you play so much, you have to rest as hard as you play, so I’m definitely going to take a few-week break,” says Sady, who recently returned from playing with the U18 National team in late November. “After that I’ll just go to the gym everyday, go for runs and things like that just to keep my fitness level up, because obviously it’s such an important aspect of the game. It’s not only just talent, but keeping your body in the best shape it can be,” says Sady.
For everyday players, the offseason is a time to sharpen skills and work on physical endurance, with sights set on the 2013 season. Typically, the winter presents a challenge for players in the region to work on these skills, due to the inevitable climate issues that arise. But this winter, that issue won’t pose any problems for players in the Greater Boston area, with the opening of a brand new indoor soccer facility in Bedford, Mass. on Dec. 10. The new soccer fields will be located on the grounds of the Edge Sports Center, which already boasts two ice hockey rinks, two outdoor sports turf fields and a health club facility. The new addition to the massive complex, which admits nearly 350,000 athletes through its doors annually, will house two regulation soccer fields, one of which is indoors.
Mike Gradone, Soccer Program Manager of the Boston Ski and Sports Club, is looking forward to the opening of the new facility for the number of indoor leagues he runs as a part of the BSSC. Gradone, 35, has noticed that the leagues he has organized over the last three years present an opportunity for those serious athletes to work on their offseason regimens.
“A lot of these college athletes take everything so seriously that they want to keep training year-round. We’re a good alternative for them because in sports it’s become such a fixture in society,” says Gradone.
Young soccer players today now have opportunities to improve in the offseason months, which could mean some future competition for players like Christian Sady and Diego Fagundez. As Sady eases into his precious few weeks of time off, his vision is trained on the same goal he set out for himself back in 2008.
“I want to definitely continue to train with the first team with the Revs because you kind of get a taste of that when you do it as an Academy player, and you just want that to continue. It’s a realistic goal to be there; hopefully I can make it my profession one day.”About these ads