The faithful have a goalie themselves in 15-year-old Duran Ferree

The San Diego Loyal players were finishing a practice session last week when Alejandro Guido tore up a penalty attempt.

Standing in front of the net, 15-year-old goaltender Duran Ferree instinctively reacted, dove and deflected the shot.

This kind of moment is why the Loyal will announce on Wednesday that they have signed Ferree to a professional contract after watching him emerge with the Loyal Select development program and train with the first team.

Ferree, who attended the San Diego Surf youth program and played high school football at Del Norte as a rookie, trained and traveled with the Loyal throughout the season while taking lessons in person and online.

San Diego Loyal goaltender Duran Ferree, 15, center, and teammates are five at the end of practice at the Chula Vista Elite Training Center on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022 in Chula Vista, Calif.

(Meg McLaughlin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

He is the first player from the loyal team to earn a professional contract and will be on the roster as backup goaltender for starter Koke Vegas ahead of Saturday’s home game against Phoenix at Torero Stadium.

“The progression for him is that he will play games next year, no doubt,” said Landon Donovan, USL Championship team manager and executive vice president of soccer operations. “If he does well, there will be more opportunities. It is expected that next year he will push to get as many games as possible with the idea that he will be our starting goalkeeper in two years. It’s very realistic for him.

For Ferree, who turns 16 later this month, the decision to sidestep time with a Major League Soccer academy team or possibly play college football was simple: his goal has always been to play professionally. and this decision offers the fastest path.

Duran Ferree, 15,'s driver's license rests next to his mandatory food diary after training at home.

15-year-old Duran Ferree’s driver’s license rests next to his mandatory food diary after practice at his home on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022 in San Diego, Calif.

(Meg McLaughlin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Rapid and continued development would also attract the attention of the United States Men’s National Team program and create competitive opportunities on the international stage.

“As a little kid, I always looked up to the pros and wanted to make it my life,” Ferree said. “Being a kid from San Diego and being from home, it’s just the perfect opportunity. It’s such a great situation. Great group of guys. Great coaches. Just a perfect way to keep growing as a player .

Ferree’s parents, Mike and Brandy, obviously had a say in the decision.

“We just asked him: is this really what you want to do? And he said yes,” Mike Ferree said. “It was not a light decision, but he thinks about it and (Loyals) has created a great environment around him. Having Landon Donovan to guide your career path makes a lot of sense.

Duran Ferree, 15, has breakfast with his mother, Brandy, at their home.

Duran Ferree, 15, enjoys breakfast with his mother, Brandy, at their home on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in San Diego, Calif.

(Meg McLaughlin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Such a move is not unusual for teenagers in professional leagues around the world, and Donovan noted that MLS clubs are currently looking for San Diego-area prospects as young as 13 as additions. potential to their academy systems.

However, in this situation, Ferree works daily with adult men who have experience, physical strength and skill and know the daily pressure to perform at a high level.

Players entering the MLS academy system typically train and play against players their own age.

Additionally, several Loyal players come from European club systems that use a model like the one Donovan envisions for his club: identifying talented teenagers and integrating them into a professional environment.

Duran Ferree, 15, center, listens during math class at Del Norte High School.

Duran Ferree, 15, center, listens during math class at Del Norte High School on Tuesday, September 13, 2022 in San Diego, California.

(Meg McLaughlin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Such a system did not exist in the United States when Donovan was emerging as a prospect in the 1990s.

“The key for young players is that the sooner they realize it’s people’s livelihood, the better,” Donovan said. “So if he misses a mission from a corner or misses the ball and he goes into the net and he plays against 16-year-olds, it’s ‘Nice try’. Here it’s ‘What is “What are you doing? You just took money out of my pocket. And that’s the reality of professional sports. To learn that at 15 instead of 19 or 20 or 21 out of college is a huge advantage.

Ferree’s rise as a prospect with Loyal Select, which boasts some of the best young players in the San Diego area, happened quickly.

He joined the development squad in April 2021 and quickly caught the eye of Loyal Select head coach and Loyal SC goalkeeping coach Matthew Hall. After posting two shutouts in his first season with Loyal Select, he hasn’t allowed a goal in starts this season.

Along with the necessary physical tools, Hall noticed that Ferree possessed some of the intangible elements found in excellent goalkeepers.

Duran Ferree, 15, center, works out in the gym after practice at the Chula Vista Elite Training Center.

Duran Ferree, 15, center, works out in the gym after practice at the Chula Vista Elite Training Center on Tuesday, September 13, 2022 in Chula Vista, California.

(Meg McLaughlin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“In addition to the obvious raw ability, he has a very special composure and composure,” Hall said. “His ability to deal with adversity is quite unique for his age. He came into this environment, training against grown men and even when he makes mistakes he has the ability to recover and get the job done. That’s such an important part of this job.

Ferree’s favorite team has always been English Premier League powerhouse Manchester United and his favorite player is longtime star goalkeeper David de Gea.

Only time will tell where Ferree’s professional journey will take him, but he certainly has his mind set on big things.

“I always imagined myself in a big stadium, in front of a huge crowd, in front of the net, in England, making a big save,” Ferree said. “It’s the ultimate dream for sure.”

Carter is a freelance writer.

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