As one Storm Soccer Academy player wraps up a week in Costa Rica testing his skills against some of that nation’s teenage pros, two of his club teammates are preparing to take a similar trip next month.
Jesus Morales, a midfielder from Hilton Head Island, has been on tour since last Wednesday as part of a U.S. Soccer Region III squad composed of top players from the Southeast. Dominic Claudio (Hilton Head) and Juan Zuniga (Bluffton) will begin their trips March 8.
All three are members of Storm’s ’01 Boys Black team, working their way through the ranks since the club’s inception in 2010. Morales, the oldest of the trio, is part of a Region III squad one year older than his teammates.
Elite teams from all four U.S. Soccer regions are selected for the trip, playing four games in five days against youth teams from Costa Rican professional clubs. The list includes traditional powerhouses Saprissa, Herediano and Alajuelense, who have combined to win 85 Primera Division titles.
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“They are the youth teams for those professional clubs,” said Jeremy Aven, Storm’s club founder and director of coaching. “At age 14 and 15 in other countries, kids are on a professional track. They don’t play school soccer.”
Morales and Claudio are students at Hilton Head Island Middle School; Zuniga attends River Ridge Academy. All three previously have taken part in U.S. Soccer’s national training camps and other Region III events.
Zuniga, a striker, earned two invitations last year to train with the U.S. boys U15 national team in Florida. He also spends summers in Colombia, training with professional club Deportivo Cali.
Storm Soccer Academy draws players from across the Lowcountry, with Hilton Head serving as one of three training hubs along with Savannah and Statesboro, Ga.