On his first day in charge of LAFC a little over a year ago, Bob Bradley shared his biggest challenge and passion for choosing the Club in his return to coaching.
“What I look forward to most of all is trying to make sure we can put a team that connects with the people and the diversity. A team that excites and represents,” Bradley said. “That is what it is all about.”
In six short months of MLS play, Bradley and his side have largely achieved that goal. LAFC is talked about less in terms of an expansion team, and more so, as simply one of the best teams in the League.
But as he noted, Bradley’s vision for LAFC went beyond just MLS results. It’s the reason why he corrects people when they call it a franchise.
“We’re a Club,” Bradley will often retort quickly, but politely. A Club connects with the people in the community and represents them. It allows them to be a part of something and to dream. Which is why the success of the LAFC Academy, just a youngster itself in only it’s third season of play coming this fall, has always been celebrated from top to bottom by the organization and its supporters.
Building on the success of its first team, the Academy has drawn from talent across all levels of LA and the greater area. It’s emphasis on building from the ground up has made its rise that much more impressive, and not just in California.
A few short months ago, both the U13 and U14 teams were named the best in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer. The U13 side spent the past week in Toluca, Mexico, as the only U.S. representative in the Concacaf U13 Champions League – a tournament they’ve reached the final in to be played on Wednesday. And also this week, four players joined the U.S. Youth National Team at its camp Chula Vista, while a fifth player recently just returned from camp with Mexico’s Youth National Team.
“I’m so proud because it means everything,” said Kevin Jimenez, a winger and one of the four LAFC Academy players currently at the US YNT camp. “My parents sacrifice is paying off.”
Joining Jimenez at the U15 US YNT camp running Aug. 19-26 are center backs Armando Avila and Tony Leone, as well as forward Christian Torres. While Goalkeeper Donovan Palomares returned recently from Mexico’s Youth National Team camp held Aug. 5-10.
“I’m looking forward to trying to do my best against other players and trying to always be a starting player,” Avila said when asked what his hopes were for this camp.
Avila’s center-back partner Leone is no stranger to national team camps, having captained the U.S. side in a tournament in Croatia in May. Leone cited the Academy’s high standard as the reason for so many callups.
“It’s a professional environment. The coaches have a passion to help us succeed,” Leone said.
Forward Christian Torres agreed with his teammate, adding the chance to play for the US gave the players a chance to put the Club on another level in terms of recognition.
“I think it’s super great. To be called up with other great players, we can represent LAFC in a great way,” Torres said.
As players like Jimenez, Torres, Leone, Avila, and Palomares continue to progress, call-ups for more Academy teammates almost seem certain. And so far, with the first team making history in MLS, the Academy and its players aren’t far behind.