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Park City youth making noise with RSL Academy team

Pineda aspires to be on the U.S. National team one day

George Pineda, 15, looks to make a pass at the Real Salt Lake Academy Showcase in Los Angeles during the first weekend of November.

George Pineda, 15, looks to make a pass at the Real Salt Lake Academy Showcase in Los Angeles during the first weekend of November.

Playing soccer as a youth can be a strenuous activity. While most envision halftimes full of orange slices and players chasing a ball around the pitch, local 15-year-old athlete George Pineda of Park City Soccer Club is traveling across the country in order to make his dreams come true.

During the first weekend of November, Pineda made his way to an Academy Team Showcase in Los Angeles for his age group. The 18 players were selected through the Real Salt Lake Academy program that resides in Casa Grande, Arizona, taking 12 players from Utah and six from Arizona.

Of all the talented young soccer players, Pineda was chosen as the starting offensive midfielder, rocking the No. 10 jersey throughout the weekend in the three games he played.

“George had an outstanding tournament and played significant minutes,” said Bob Martin, director of coaching at Pineda’s home club, Park City Soccer Club. “He was dynamic, creative and had a very fine tournament.”

This is a big deal for Pineda, who had the opportunity to put on a show for scouts from all over the place. From Academy scouts to college scouts to U.S. national team scouts, Pineda had quite the audience for him to showcase his skills, and he didn’t disappoint.

“George was the best offensive midfielder there,” Martin said. “He did really well and I was pleased with [his play].”

Another reason why being selected for the showcase is a big deal is because the future Real Salt Lake Training Academy headquarters are being built in Herriman, Utah. Originally, it was decided that Utah wouldn’t be able to field enough talent to be competitive, which led to RSL moving its training academy down to Casa Grande, Arizona.

But with players from the Beehive State, like Pineda, on the rise, the club decided it was the best move to move its headquarters to Utah in fall of 2017. This is important because the Academy’s U16 (kids under the age of 16) and U18 (kids under the age of 18) teams will be moving to the state, giving Pineda more options to advance his game in the near future.

“George will potentially be eligible for that U16 team at some point coming up,” Martin said. “Obviously, we try to develop the players and if we get a player that’s this good, we’re going to push him to go to the next level. If that’s the [Real Salt Lake Academy], that’s even better.”

Pineda just returned from the facility in Casa Grande on Monday, where he participated in the Olympic Development Program (ODP) Youth Boys Thanksgiving Interregional tournament. There are four region teams — East, Midwest, South, West — compiled of 140 of the nation’s top players, with Pineda representing Region IV (West) for the 2002 age group.

The 15-year-old performed well, again in front of coaches and scouts, helping his team go undefeated over the holiday weekend. He also scored the game-winner in his team’s final game of the tournament.

Right now, Pineda is living the dream of any 15-year-old kid aspiring to make it big in soccer. Sometimes, he needs to take a step back and realize what he’s actually accomplished at such a young age.

“It’s just one of those things that makes you really happy,” Pineda said. “I’m just really grateful for what my family has done for me.

“There’s so many other kids that want to be where I am. Sometimes, I’m just like, ‘Dang, I’m actually doing it.’”

As far as what’s next for Pineda, he wasn’t shy about his ambitions.

“My next step is the national team,” he said.