In Major League Soccer circles, role models don’t come much better than Kyle Beckerman. The Real Salt Lake captain has been a mainstay on the Wasatch Front for the last eight years and in that time earned his way into the U.S. National Team’s starting midfield at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Alec Felix has been watching Beckerman closely in that time and now the 17-year-old Mapleton, Utah, native is in a leadership role himself as one of the more veteran players on the RSL-Arizona U-18 Academy team as the team looks to extend its streak of three straight appearances in the USSDA Championship match.
“You can take bits and pieces from every player, but Kyle Beckerman … he’s the one,” Felix said. “He’s what I look for in a number six, so if I can emulate what he does in his game, hopefully that will translate to success for this season.”
Felix watched Beckerman from up close until last year when he left the comfort of home to join some of his friends and former club teammates in Arizona.
Felix long wanted to join some of his friends in Arizona and last year, his parents finally relented and let him move from Salt Lake City to Casa Grande.
Now, even with just Dani Acosta left from a group that previously included Fito Ovalle and Sebastian Saucedo, Felix is getting more comfortable living away from home with the end goal of going pro as Ovalle and Saucedo did in the last 14 months.
“I grew up playing with those guys and to see them sign their very first professional contracts is motivating. It took a while to convince my parents. They weren’t ready to let me go at such a young age. Once I did, I love it,” Felix said. “Overall it was a great experience. It was kind of hard leaving my family, but after a while you kind of get used to living on your own. Once I got adjusted, things started rolling. I started thriving and really enjoying this environment.”
It didn’t take Felix long to get adjusted. He earned a starting role and eventually made 40 appearances for a team that went 32-3-4 in the regular season and went on to rally its way to the championship match for the third straight season. While players like Brooks Lennon, Damian German, Edgar Duran and U-18 West Division Player of the Year Jose Hernandez got all the accolades in the high-powered offense, the fulcrum to that attack was Felix.
Now with those four goal-scorers gone after signing professional contracts or going off to college, losing a combined 117 goals from last season, there are certainly holes to fill in 2015. However Felix is confident that the defensive core in place can keep the team playing at high level.
“I think that’s one of our main attributes from last year. We didn’t lose the ball often, but when we did, it was a collective effort to get the ball back. That was huge for our success last season,” he said. “We did lose a lot of players … but I think we kept a solid core group of players from last year with the addition of some very skillful players coming in and making their mark on this year’s team. I have a positive outlook on this next season.”
The U-18s open the 2015-16 season on Saturday against Pateadores.