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Saldana scouted by Spanish Academy, trains with Alcorcon in Spain

Junior+Joshua+Saldana+trains+with+the+AD+Alcorcon+Academy+in+Spain.+The+experience+has+been+like+no+other%2C+Saldana+said.
Photo courtesy of Joshua Saldana
Junior Joshua Saldana trains with the AD Alcorcon Academy in Spain. “The experience has been like no other,” Saldana said.

He sat watching the ruby red jerseys run back and forth on the pitch. At age four, watching Barcelona (Barca) play on his TV, Saldana didn’t know how much of an impact the sport of soccer would have not only on his upbringing, but also on his identity.

“I first got into soccer because of my dad. He introduced the sport to me at a very young age and I’ve just loved it from the beginning,” junior Saldana said.

Joshua Saldana has been playing for over 12 years. He started at Shenandoah Valley United before moving to Barca Academy Northern Virginia and then his current team, St. James Football Club Virginia. However, this fall Saldana was scouted by DS Football Academy in Spain. The Academy messaged him on Instagram after seeing his highlights and asked him to come to Spain to play for a professional team. 

“The experience has been like no other. It has felt amazing being able to train with a professional’s teams academy in Spain and being able to be exposed to a level that’s this high,” Saldana said.

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DS Academy set Saldana up with AD Alcorcon, a team that plays in the second level of the Spanish League, La Liga 2. 

“The best part about this has been that I’ve been able to experience soccer at a totally different level. I’ve been able to train with pro players and train at a high level with a great academy at AD Alcorcón. We train like the first team and always have to train with intensity to have that professional environment,” Saldana said. 

From Monday to Friday Saldana has been training with DS Academy in the mornings, Alcorcon in the afternoons and finishing up schoolwork for the rest of the day. On the weekends Saldana trains alone, balancing the rest of his schooling. Saldana, after training in Spain for the full month of November will come back to Harrisonburg and then return to Spain in January to finish the season with Alcorcon. Saldana hopes to stay at this high level of play and sign a professional contract in the near future.

“Coming to Spain to play for a pro team was an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse, but it also came with me sacrificing a lot to come, especially having to sacrifice being with my family. I left my family and friends behind, but that one risk I had to take to reach my dreams,” Saldana said. 

Saldana’s dad, Sergio Saldana flew out to Spain to drop him off, but left after getting him settled. Leaving his son in a foreign country with little to no information about where he would end up playing was a very nerve racking experience for him.

“I was very nervous because it was a new experience. We did meet the agents over the phone in a zoom meeting and that was it, we did not know anything about the residency, coaches etc. When we arrived, met the coaches, the agents, the staff, [saw the] residency, I felt a lot better,” Sergio Saldana said. 

Despite the risk Saldana and his family took by sending him to Spain to play. Both himself and his father believe the payoff has been worth it.

“It is a dream come true, not only personally, but as a family. Josh has been working so hard to accomplish his dreams and goals. Too many hours of training, staying late doing homework. It is a family effort,” Sergio Saldana said. 

Though the adjustment to life in Spain and the different style of play was big, Saldana will miss all the little things: car rides and living with other players, his welcoming coach at Alcorcon and binding with new friends over music. 

For Saldana, the dream and memories will continue when he returns to Spain in less than a month. Saldana credits much of this “dream come true” to his father introducing him to soccer and encouraging him to reach his goals.

“I’ve played soccer since I was a kid. [It] is a special connection between Josh and myself. We love the most beautiful sport, it is in our blood,” Sergio Saldana said. “If you have a dream, dream big and work for it, stay in school, be the best human being you can be.”

*Originally published through print Dec. 8, 2023

This story was originally published on The Newsstreak on February 3, 2024.