CARSON, Calif. – Alexander Soto might be only 14, but he's got all the tools to develop into a special soccer player, and his performance the past few days at the Sueño MLS 2013 - presented by Allstate finals made that abundantly clear.
The attacking midfielder from Elizabeth, N.J., scored spectacular goals in both matches against LA Galaxy Academy sides, demonstrated a superior field sense, created chances for teammates and showed off a wide array of passing skills.
All of it pushed Soto to the front of a talented group, and he was awarded the top Sueño prize Sunday morning during Univision's “Republica Deportivo” telecast from the Home Depot Center.
Soto, the youngest of eight Sueño winners since the contest's 2007 debut, isn't about the let the honor go to his head.
“My gosh, man, I'm happy,” he said. “I just keep being humble, look forward, chase your dreams, and my dream is to be a professional player, and as I get older, I'm going to get better and better. I'm going to keep practicing.
“Don't think that because you won, they say you're good. You got to keep on practicing so you can get better and each day. I have to work on a lot of stuff. I want to get faster, get more technical, everything.”
Soto, who receives an invitation to play with the New York Red Bulls' academy, comes from a line of soccer stars. His grandfather and father played professionally in their native Colombia – his dad, Jose Alex Soto, was a midfielder for América de Cali and Deportivo Pereira – and he has trained at América de Cali and with the U.S. under-15 national team.
“We thought that Alex showed something different on the field,” said Alfonso Mondelo, MLS's director of player programs and the chief Sueño coach. “His ability to bring other players into the game, to make big plays. He's very solid on the ball, but we also were impressed with his decision-making. I think that shows he's a player that can go to a higher level.”
Colombian legend Carlos Valderrama, who worked with the players, called Soto “a different player” and praised his technical skills and how he is “very clear with the ball. He has a vision of play, and he hits a good ball. He's a continuous player for the 90 minutes.”
Soto, who plays for TSF Academy in New Jersey after previously playing for U.S. under-20 national team coach Tab Ramos' NJSA '04, advanced to the Sueño finals through D.C. United's tryouts, as did top goalkeeper Luis Aranzazu and the other field players to make the final four Sunday: midfielder Cristian Soto, 17, of Indianapolis, and forwards Bryan Argueta, 15, of Gaithersburg, Md., and Brett LaBonte, 16, of Frederick, Md.
“Alex is a great player,” Cristian Soto said. “His free kick [for a goal Saturday] was spectacular. He's good on the ball, he dribbles perfectly fine, he can take on players, his passes are great -- and he's 14. Everyone still has a lot to learn, but he's a spectacular player for a 14-year-old.”
Soto also scored on a swerving 35-yard blast in Friday's match, but it was how he created and exploited space and involved teammates that was so impressive.
“I think I showed a good attitude,” he said. “I moved a lot of the field, created opportunities, scored goals. I think that set me up [to win].”