CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Moses Lake native Ray Serrano grew up idolizing Clint Dempsey.
Now, at 15 years old, Serrano is training with the United States and Seattle Sounders soccer star.
Serrano is a member of the Sounders’ U16/17 squad and, along with teammates and older academy players, was invited to train with the First Team — the professionals that play at CenturyLink Field — as part of the MLS preseason in Chula Vista, Calif last week.
“You have to be three, four steps ahead,” Serrano said, recounting the level of play. “It’s a high level and I enjoy playing against them and with them.”
Soccer was a family affair for Serrano. He picked up the game from his family — his dad, older brother, sister and mom.
So, just about everybody.
“All of them supported me,” Serrano said.
Serrano began with the CB United FC in Moses Lake before garnering an invitation to play with the Spokane Sounders. The increased travel and exposure allowed for Serrano to catch the eye of the Sounders Academy. Serrano signed with the Sounders Academy U14s and eventually was promoted to U16. With the U16s at the 2016 Generation Adidas Cup, Serrano scored his team’s lone goal against Chivas de Guadalajara
“I just kept pushing and trying to get to bigger places,” Serrano said.
That competitive drive landed Serrano on the U16/17 team, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the pros. Serrano has 14 goals, and counting, in 13 games.
“It’s been incredible,” Serrano said. “Like playing against the best players in the state, basically.”
The negative connotations that come with sports specialization do not move Serrano. Even playing year-round at such a young age, Serrano can’t stay away from the game.
“I love the sport so I keep practicing every day,” he said.
In addition to training with the pros in California, Serrano competed in the qualifying round of 2017 Generation Adidas Cup in October. Serrano scored three times total against Sporting Kansas City and the LA Galaxy. More, Serrano was invited to participate in the U.S. Soccer Boys National Team Futures Camp in May.
These tournaments and camps are billed as showcases of future soccer stars.
That fits right along with Serrano’s mindset.
“My goal is to play for the First Team,” he said.