Fort Myers Florida Weekly

Soccer dreams amid days of study

Cristian Raudales

Cristian Raudales

With the final match of the FIFA World Cup decided, the lifelong dreams of many soccer players have closed to a reality. Those same dreams are now being passed to a younger generation, specifically to young athletes like FGCU soccer player Cristian Raudales. After years of training, the student athlete still has more years of work ahead of him to gain what would be a brief chance to prove himself quick, agile and strong enough to make it to the grand stage of soccer: the FIFA World Cup.

Last month, when the World Cup began in South Africa, with 32 teams representing countries from around the world, Mr. Raudales was rooting for his favorite team, Honduras.

“It’s been 28 years since they last played in the World Cup,” he said. “ I know I can’t expect a lot after 28 years, but they’re my team.”

Team Honduras was only able to score one point during the group stage of the World Cup, and it finished last in group H. World champion Spain was the winner of that group.

Born in Honduras, Mr. Raudales remembers soccer being every part of his young life.

“ Since I was 5 or 6, I used to play with my older brother and his friends,” he said.

Mr. Raudales’ family moved from Honduras to the United States when he was 10. They eventually settled in Bradenton. The 894-mile move marked the beginning of his amateur soccer career and he joined the local soccer club. Ten years for the start of a dream, 894 miles for the beginning of a reality.

Mr. Raudales’ transition from the Latin American country was relatively easy, and it was a source of excitement rather than longing for a former home.

“Personally, it was cool. I was making new friends. The only thing that was hard was the language barrier,” he said.

In high school, Mr. Raudales excelled as a soccer player, becoming a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American, in his senior year and scoring a total of 88 during the course of his high school career while attending Manatee High School. It was, however, his play for club soccer in St. Petersburg that attracted the attention of FGCU, the school he was eventually recruited to.

“I liked the campus and I liked the coach. It was a perfect fit for me,” he said.

“I knew a person on the team, A.J., the captain. He helped me adjust to practice. I was getting better, stronger, faster. He helped me stay motivated.”

The adjustment from high school competition to the higher level of play in college was hard for Mr. Raudales. He he scored three goals in 2008. Despite the low numbers, in his first year with the team he was named by College Soccer News as “100 Freshmen to Keep an Eye on in 2008.”

“I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be,” he said. “I felt like the training wasn’t as intense as it should have been, so the coach pushed me harder. I knew in training I could do it.”

The harder training paid off. During his second year on the team, he finished the season leading the team goals scored, game-winning goals, and points. Along with teammates Jonathan Hohn and Josey Portillo, Mr. Raudales was invited to join the USL Premier Development League, the next step needed to become a professional soccer player.

The USL Premier Development League is the top league for amateur soccer players, and unofficially, four tiers behind Major League Soccer, the top level of competition for professional American players. Throughout this summer, Mr. Raudales has been playing for the Bradenton Academics.

“ I’ve always wanted to play, but in the PDL, you’re playing against players who are older than you. They are tougher and much faster,” he said.

“When you’re playing against bigger players, you just have to work hard. So far, I’ve adjusted.”

Mr. Raudales has played nine games with the Academics. He has yet to score a goal; so far he has taken three shots.

Mr. Raudales plans to get a degree in sports management, a career that would allow him to stay in the sports field if his goals on the soccer field don’t pan out.

“Most of the players there (the PDL) are there to get into the MLS. It’s definitely something I always have on my mind, but I’ll go when I’m ready. I don’t want to rush,” he said.

With the summer PDL season winding down, he is getting ready for his junior year at FGCU, and his third season on the soccer team, where he looks to continue his training and to study hard for his fall classes. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *