Every athlete at every age has dreams; whether big or small, athletes dream of rising to the highest levels of their respective sport. The question is, how far and how hard will an athlete work to make those dreams into a reality? Those who put in extra hours and work hard even when no one is watching are often the ones that make their dreams come true. For anyone looking for proof of this, look no further than 17-year-old Coronado native CJ Fodrey.
On April 6, 2021 CJ signed a contract with the local professional soccer team, the San Diego Loyal Soccer Club, which was founded, and is operated, by Warren Smith and United States Men’s National Team legend Landon Donovan. Fodrey was one of just four local San Diego area teen soccer players to be offered a contract by the club. It was a moment that Fodrey called “Indescribable,” adding, “It means so much to me to be a part of this team and have a chance to play for my hometown team.”
For CJ, soccer has always been his first passion and first love. CJ shared, “My parents tried to get me to play different sports. My dad played baseball and tried to get me into it, but right away I didn’t like it. I was always drawn to soccer; it’s always been my sport.” Like so many who grew up on the island, Fodrey first got his feet wet with the sport through Coronado Youth Soccer. But it quickly became evident that CJ’s skill would push him to larger club teams.
“I think it was when I was around 8 to 9 years old when I first kind of noticed that maybe I was just a touch better than some other kids my age. And at the same time, it was probably the first time where I thought; I really want to do this.” Over the next years CJ played with some of the most competitive clubs teams in San Diego and outside of the county as well, including teams like Albion Pros Club, San Diego Nomads, San Diego Surf, and he was even a member of the LA Galaxy’s academy team.
And soon enough, CJ’s continued excellence on the pitch caught the eye of SD Loyal head coach Nate Miller. “After a tournament I was playing in back in 2020, I got a call from Coach Miller asking me to come for work for the Loyal. Which really, in a lot of ways, ended up being a tryout. Personally, getting that tryout was a huge goal of mine; I wanted to be with the Loyal so badly, so getting that call from Coach Miller was fantastic.”
The Loyal was immediately impressed by what they saw from Fodrey, and soon after the tryout, the Loyal offered CJ a contract to join the club. “I had actually known since last December that I was going to be a part of the team because that’s when I actually signed the contract. It was such a special moment and one I won’t ever forget.”
CJ has now been training with the Loyal since the start of 2021, training daily with players, some with nearly ten years on him, like Jake Blake and Jack Metcalf. But it’s these training sessions and challenges of a young player that CJ has come to love. “At first, training with guys who are 20 and 30 years old, I was a bit nervous, but they were super welcoming and helpful and they, along with the extra hours with coaches on the pitch, have helped me grow as a player.”
When asked what he had to adjust to most when first joining the Loyal, he said, “Just the speed of the game. At this level, things can seem like they’re moving five times as fast. Your decision-making and play have to be instant.”
After a few months of training with the team, CJ finally had a shot to show his growth and talent in a game, and vs. his former club nonetheless. On March 30, Fodrey and the Loyals traveled up the I-5 for a scrimmage with the LA Galaxy. It was a game that Fodrey had circled on his calendar for a while, saying, “There was a lot of politics that went into that team when I was there… I just wanted to go out there and show them what they were missing out on.” And he did just that. In the first of two 60 minute scrimmages, CJ had the ball at his feet where he split two defenders beautifully and sent in a low shot off his left foot that found the back of the net. “It was a pre-season game; you can’t celebrate too much,” said a laughing Fodrey. “So I just went with the fist pump.”
Looking to his goals for the regular season, Fodrey shared, “My goal is to hopefully play a lot of minutes and help this team win in any way that I can, whether it be goals assists; I want to help this team win.”
For now, fist pumps and pre-season goals will be just fine, but it’s clear with CJ’s natural talent, work ethic, and hunger to be the best that full-on celebrations and goals at Torero Stadium are just around the corner. Of course, the 17-year-old still has some areas in which to improve, such as his weak foot and pre-ball decision making. But that knowledge of knowing where he needs to improve and constantly working at it should show how special of a talent CJ Fodrey is.
CJ’s story is just beginning. We look forward to watching him do great things.