SAN DIEGO – Four local soccer players have had dreams of playing professionally. But none of them thought it would happen this soon.
The San Diego Loyal Soccer Club this month announced the signings of four new players: 16-year-old midfielder Xavi Gnaulati, 17-year-old forward Calvin Jay “CJ” Fodrey, and defenders Ian Mai, 16, and 18-year-old Josh Kenworthy. They were signed to USL Academy contracts, which allow them to “preserve amateur status and NCAA eligibility,” according to the club.
“I was buzzing,” said Mai, a Mission Valley native. “I didn’t expect it because they came out to a tournament in Arizona and I didn’t expect them to be there watching.”
Aside from being able to play professionally, the four also get to be coached by former U.S. men’s soccer player Landon Donovan. In a statement, Donovan said adding the new players “shows our commitment to this community and that we are truly dedicated to making SD Loyal a club that our entire community can be proud of.”
“It’s mind blowing to me,” Fodrey, a Coronado native, told FOX 5. “My mom even tells me everyday, ‘I still can’t believe you’re coached by Landon Donovan.’ It’s an honor to be coached by Landon, especially being an attacker like him.
“He gives me a bunch of things he did in his type of game and I try to learn off of him a lot.”
Perhaps the biggest perk of all is getting to play for their hometown team. SD Loyal’s first game of the season is on the road April 30 in Arizona. The team’s first home game is May 29.
Kenworthy, who is from Del Sur, called the opportunity “awesome.”
“A lot of people from San Diego, talented kids leave to other MLS clubs because there’s never really been anything like this in San Diego,” he said. “For me to be one of the first guys to be a part of that level in San Diego is really cool.”