BELL GARDENS, Calif. – Jose Pinedo watched Joshua Veron climb his way into last year's Sueño MLS national finals, took a word of advice from his pal and set his sights on this year's competition.
He's matched Veron, winning one of six slots in last weekend's LA Galaxy tryouts at the Bell Gardens Sports Complex to advance to the May 13-18 final event at StubHub Center.
The 15-year-old midfielder from McFarland, Calif. – a small town located in farm country in the Central Valley, north of Bakersfield – spent the past year preparing for the competition. And he certainly made an impression while battling some 500 players to claim his spot among the final 15 field players who will challenge for an invitation to join an MLS development academy.
“We liked his athleticism on the ball,” said former pro Paul Soufl, one of the scouts from the Galaxy's camps and clinics department. “Good foot skills as well as good vision, but his athleticism sort of set him apart.”
Pinedo has been playing since he was 3 years old, and he started getting serious about the game by the time he was 7, thanks largely to prodding by his brother, Sergio, who is six years older.
“He was my influence,” said Pinedo, who plays for Atletico Infantil in an independent Bakersfield league, alongside his brother on FC Tiburones, an adult team in nearby Delano, and as a captain and two-year starter at McFarland High School, where he is a sophomore.
“Growing up, he's telling me about every position, and he [played me] hard, so I would get back up and not cry about it. He told me it was time to be a man, take the hard hits, and get back up.”
Pinedo is tough in the center, a ball-winner who can feed an attack and knows from experience to keep the ball moving. He's learned that by playing against grown men.
“It's helped me get fast [with the ball],” he said. “If you try to dribble, they're going to be mad, and the next time, they're going to go in hard.”
Sergio is a defender, and Jose used his example – “I see him, and I take what he puts into the game and put it into my own” – when he was assigned to play out of position, in central defense, during one of the Sueño matches.
His strength caught scouts' eyes.
“He's a younger player, 15 still, but he's a really big player, almost 6-foot,” said Wes Meadows, the Galaxy's supervisor of camps and clinics/fan development, who ran the scouting at the Galaxy tryouts. “He has good physical ability, is good with his feet, reads the game really well, and he's just a really strong player.”
Veron told Pinedo nearly the same thing: that if he could succeed during the Sueño process, so could Pinedo. They've been buddies since Pinedo was 12.
“My coach then knew his dad and invited me to go play with him in the Copa Alianza in San Francisco, and since then, we've been friends,” Pinedo said. “Josh is just an amazing player. I played against him in high school, and he's tough. He's a complete player.”
That's what Pinedo is working toward, and Veron's Sueño success is helping him along.
“Josh came and was top six in Sueño MLS last year [for the Galaxy], and he told me I could be a good player, as well as him. That's inspired me this year.”