Jose Carranza didn’t have to go far to discover soccer. Both his grandfathers were soccer players, his parents are big fans and his older brother played on travel teams.
But the game has taken the 15-year-old Manassas native far — literally.
He has traveled across the country and around the world to compete in youth tournaments. Now, he has taken up residency in Bradenton, Fla., as one of 28 soccer players handpicked by U.S. Soccer to train in an intensive program that might lead to a spot on the U.S. team at the under-17 World Cup in 2015.
The Osbourn High School student got a call the day after Christmas inviting him to spend the spring semester in the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Residency Program. The invitation meant leaving his home, his high school and his friends and family. But Jose said he barely had to think about whether to accept.
“I was pretty excited about it. It was out of nowhere,” said Jose, who had played for D.C. United’s Under-15 team since he was 13. “It’s a good opportunity for me.”
At the residency program, Jose and his fellow students practice soccer every morning before an abbreviated school day in the afternoon. He said it suits him better than balancing public school with his budding soccer career.
“Most of my teachers didn’t believe me when I’d tell them that I’d been going to all these places,” he said. “They’d get mad when I’d miss school because I’d been in California or some other country.”
Now he takes classes between practices. He hopes to make the 20-person team that will represent the United States at the youth World Cup in summer 2015 before he returns to Manassas to finish high school.
“Jose’s been a real success story, and he’s a great kid to coach. He’s a great kid with a great attitude,” said Kevin McKenna, who coached Jose for three years on the top-ranked Northern Virginia Soccer Club Junior Royals. “He was our essential playmaker. He initiated our attack, and he participated in every major attack on the field, and he really helped control the pace of the game.”
Among the skills Jose hopes to improve in Florida are strengthening his non-dominant foot, improving his balance and “getting taller a little bit.” At 5-foot-6, he is one of the eight shortest players on the roster of the residency program, and also one of the two youngest.
“The kids there are a lot better than me. They’re getting me a lot better,” he said.
His brother Hugo, 20, said that the family has been thrilled with Jose’s success. “We never saw this coming. We thought he was going to be good, but not this good. No one in the family has ever been this good,” he said.
Hugo said the family enjoyed traveling up and down the East Coast to cheer Jose on weekends; now that he is in Florida, he joked, their weekends are boring.
“With the ball, he’s just good,” Hugo said. “He’s smart. He knows what to do with it. He has great vision.”
And Jose’s vision stretches past the goal, even past the youth World Cup. Eventually, he hopes to play soccer professionally in Europe.