Abravanel defies odds in ODP soccer
Leon Abravanel started as nearly a million-to-one shot to prove himself one of the country’s best young soccer players, but he’s whittled those odds tremendously.
Since the fall, Abravanel, a 13-year-old South Tahoe Middle School student, has been rising through the ranks of the California Olympic Development program. During the last set of tryouts, March 4-5 in Morgan Hill, Calif., and March 11-12 in Turlock, Calif., Abravanel caught the notice of coaches for the Northern California ODP state soccer team, earning one of just 39 spots. That’s the latest step in a process that started in September, when Abravanel made the district team, distinguishing himself from among nearly 500,000 young soccer players in the district.
“It’s a pretty cool achievement for me,” Abravanel said. “My goal was making the regional team, but that’s one step closer. I’m psyched.”
In fact, Abravanel is just one step away from a spot on the regional squad. The state team coaches will split their 39 players into two roughly equal teams to take on the rest of the best of the West in two tournaments – the Adidas Cup on May 20-21 and the Nike Cup on May 27-28 in Portland, Ore.
“Hopefully, I get to play in both of them,” Abravanel said.
Northern California faces off against teams from Nevada, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Hawaii. While the teams play, the coaches from the regional team will be watching, trying to find new members.
“It’s probably going to be a lot of kids who are good, so it’s going to be hard,” Abravanel said. “But Northern California is one of the top three areas in the country, and that gives me a better chance of making it.”
Selection would put Abravanel in the place he wanted to be when he started with ODP in September. The four regional teams continue on to more tournaments, where their members can earn a shot at making the national team. The tryouts – which organizers delayed from November until March – have become steadily more difficult since Abravanel began the process.
“Kids weren’t as intense, and then in the last two weeks, it’s been really tough,” he said. “The kids were faster and had more skills and were better all-around players.”
Circumstance underscores the difficulty of Abravanel’s achievement. He progressed through the program despite playing in a lower-level Class III soccer league than the Class I groups, and enjoying limited field access during the Tahoe winter. In fact, Abravanel’s only significant workouts were during January and February, when he traveled to El Dorado Hills to train. His Tahoe Galaxy U14 club has had just a few games between the end of the fall soccer season and a Saturday-Sunday tournament at Redding, Calif.
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