If you follow youth and high school soccer in our area, a name that has frequently come up in the past couple years is Alex Kades, a midfielder who has starred with Lower Merion Soccer Club and Harriton High School.
But the 17-year-old who was the Central League MVP runner up as a junior wasn’t always destined for success on the pitch.
In fact, Biff Sturla, his high school coach and president of Lower Merion SC, said his initial assessment of Kades as a youth player was that “he was not very good.”
“Alex has shown that hard work and dedication will reward players who do not have initial success,” Sturla said. “He’s now starting for one of the very best U-18 teams in the nation, but when he was young, he could only make the U-10D team.”
Kades remembers as a 9-year-old joining Lower Merion and feeling a little overwhelmed by the level of play of his teammates. His teammate Evan Tracy was also on that team and their story is one Sturla said he uses to inspire others in the club.
“I remember looking at some of the players on the team and how skilled they were,” Kades said. “But I realized that with hard work and putting the time in anything was possible. Hard work and repitition really got me to where I am now.”
Last fall, Kades made a step closer to his goal of playing Division 1 college soccer when he verbally committed to the University of Pennsylvania for the 2019 recruiting class.
“Penn provides a unique opportunity to get a great education and play in a very competitive league,” Kades said. “I really loved the culture there, a lot of guys that love the game. I really think it’s a program that’s getting stronger and stronger.”
Kades has another year of high school to go before heading to West Philadelphia and after a successful season with his high school team that saw Harriton knock off rivals Radnor in the District Playoffs on his overtime winner and earn a berth into the state tournament, the focus quickly shifted to his LMSC Rats team and their quest to return to the U.S. Youth Soccer national championships.
The Rats (formerly known as the Sabertooth Rats) made nationals in 2016, but some untimely injuries and hard luck kept them from competing on the biggest stage in U.S. Youth Soccer in 2017.
This weekend they head to Las Vegas to wrap up National League play, which is one of two ways they can qualify for the national tournament (the other is through regional qualification). The Rats had a pair of wins and a draw in the first round of games in North Carolina back in December (Kades had a brace in their 3-3 draw with FC Dallas).
“National League is an opportunity to just focus on the team and see how far we can go,” Kades said. “It’s a chance to be a leader and sacrifice everything to make the team win.”
In addition to his experience playing for his club and high school teams, Kades also spent time training with West Chester United last summer with their U23 team. Kades was able not only to hold his own with the college players but also impress the coaching staff.
“They were all bigger, faster and stronger than me,” he said. “It just made me think quicker and develop. I improved a lot and I was able to compare myself to see that level and what it takes to be a Division 1 player.”
Off the field, Kades has already entered the coaching ranks, working with Lower Merion’s U10 travel team and the U7 development program.
“The young kids love him and look up to him as a great model,” Sturla said. “A few have come out to watch him play at Harriton. He’s a top quality kid and will be very successful in life in anything he chooses.”
Visit www.usyouthsoccer.org for more information on the National League and to track Kades and the Rats progress this weekend.