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Academica to host men’s and women’s tryouts ahead of USL debut
Academica men
Academica men’s head coach Sergio Sousa shared his enthusiasm regarding January’s open tryouts as he looks to bolster and ready his roster for USL competition (Photo contributed).

Local soccer players will have an opportunity to make their professional dreams come true in January as the Academica Soccer Club of Turlock will be hosting tryouts for their men’s and women’s teams as they prepare for their debuts in the United Soccer League.

“We’re super excited to see the local talent that will come out for both squads,” said General Manager Michael Rocha. “This area has a lot of talent and we want to put that on display in our USL W and USL League 2 teams. We really want to put on a show for the community come May when the season gets started.”

Academica will host their tryouts for the USL W roster on Jan. 21 and Jan. 22, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Meanwhile, the men’s tryouts will take place the very next weekend on Jan. 28 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Jan. 29 from noon to 2 p.m. The tryouts on Jan. 29 will be by invitation only. In order to participate in tryouts on any of the four days, athletes must register at and pay a $25 fee. All tryouts will be held at the Academica Soccer Fields at 1343 W. Greenway Ave in Turlock.

Academica women
Abby Martinez (left) and Sadie Ortiz celebrate a goal during a June 11 match against San Ramon FC. Ahead of the team’s second season of existence, they hope to add even more talent at next month’s tryouts (Photo contributed).

Despite being limited to 18 gameday roster spots, the organization will look to have good depth so that they have as much flexibility as possible given the fact that there will be some weeks where they must play multiple games.

“Even though there’s only 18 roster spots on gamedays, we’re expecting to field pretty big teams overall,” Rocha said. “We’re thinking of 25 to 30 players for both men’s and women’s teams so that we can cover any injuries or illnesses and make sure we have high level sessions and practices. It’s a short season of about two and a half months, but it’s a lot packed into that short timeframe, so we have to be ready for it.”

With up to 60 spots up for grabs between the men’s and women’s teams, Rocha and the Academica staff are expecting hundreds of players to come out.

“In years past when we first joined the NPSL (National Premier Soccer League), we had over 100 people show up for to the tryout. We’re expecting a pretty good turnout for the USL tryout as well,” Rocha said.

Rocha added that another major factor in the expected high turnout will be the timing of the tryouts, as several similar events were previously held in the midst of collegiate seasons.

“This time, we’re having it to where we have college players being able to make it because the last time we had tryouts, it was right in the middle of the college spring ball season so we weren’t able to see many of the college athletes, and it’s important because 90% of last year’s team was made up of college athletes,” he explained.

One person who was at the center of their most recent tryouts last spring was women’s head coach Damon Solomon. Solomon has led the women’s squad since its inception earlier this year and is looking forward to making some key improvements to his roster.

“The main thing I look for is high IQ, such as being smart with the ball, being smart without the ball, being athletic, understanding the game and just looking for overall ballers,” Solomon said. “We want ladies who want to be out there and want to play. We had a bunch of ballers on our team last year, and we know there’s going to be more ballers out there who are going to come out. We’d like to see some hidden gems, those ballers that didn’t come out last year. There’s plenty of players out here in the 209 area and outside that can play at this level that didn’t play, so we’re excited to see them.”

Academica’s men’s head coach Sergio Sousa also shared in the enthusiasm as he looks to bolster and ready his roster for USL competition.

“I am excited to get to work,” Sousa said. “We know the talent in the Valley is up there with the best of them. I can’t wait to begin seeing it all brought together in a few weeks.”

But as Sousa expressed excitement, he also realized that he will be having some especially tough decisions to make as the USL League 2 is technically a U-23 league, with each team permitted to only have 8 players above the age of 23. Meanwhile, there are no such age restrictions for USL W rosters, though Solomon still anticipates for the competition to be fierce once tryouts kick off.

And while on-field skills will play a major factor in the final decisions for Rocha and his staff, he explained that Academica will emphasize good character traits and sportsmanship.

“We’re looking for people that are looking to represent their communities at the highest level,” he said. “The name ‘Academica’ has no ties to just one community, but it represents the entire Central Valley. It’s what the Valley is all about. It’s a club founded by immigrants and has had success over the last 50 years. We want high character individuals and people who want to get the best out of their summers and want to play at the highest level possible.”

Academica states that registration in non-refundable unless the event is cancelled, where in which individuals will be refunded within 4 business days of the event date.