The youngest player to advance to the final round of Sueño MLS 2016, 13-year-old Charlton Alonso wasn’t the biggest or most experienced goalkeeper vying for this year’s Allstate “Good Hands” top goalkeeper award.
He was just the best.
The win came as a surprise for Alonso, who entered the competition on a somewhat of a lark. He wasn’t even aware of Sueño MLS until a couple of weeks before the New York tryout, when he was prodded to sign up by friend and World Class FC teammate Michael Hernandez.
Alonso wasn’t at full strength for the initial day of tryouts, injuring his shoulder in an individual goalkeeper training session just the day before the first day of the Red Bulls-hosted competition. He gutted through the tryout in Queens’ Corona Park, however, outlasting a slew of other goalkeepers to be named among the 25 players that survived first cuts before eventually earning a spot in the finals in Southern California.
In LA, Alonso beat out 15-year-old Hernan Cortez, the winner of the LA tryout, and 16-year-old Antonio Campos, who advanced from the Portland tryout, to take home the prestigious top goalkeeper honors.
Not bad for a kid who didn’t even know what Sueño MLS was all about a month ago.
“At that first tryout I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” he told MLSsoccer.com over the phone this weekend. “After I had been selected for the final 25 and told I was going to LA with the final six, I was very excited about it. I can just thank my friend Michael and then my family for supporting me. It’s been an amazing experience.”
Alonso, who listed Iker Casillas, Manuel Neuer and Oliver Kahn as his goalkeeping idols, thought his leadership and communication skills stood out in LA. He certainly impressed Mexican goalkeeping legend and Sueño MLS scout Adolfo Rios, who cited Alonso’s athleticism, reactions and comparatively young age as factors in tabbing him the competition’s top goalkeeper.
“Alonso possesses great speed, strength and his reaction to the ball was outstanding,” Rios said in a statement. “We also took his age into consideration, we think when he is in a formal team setting he will develop a higher skill level. He will have a great future in the MLS academy.”