• Janeytzi Padilla

Athlete Spotlight: Jalen Neal

Jalen Neal is a 17-year-old soccer defender from Lakewood, CA. He began playing soccer when he was just three years old because his mom signed him up and he ended up falling in love with the sport. Ever since then, his love for soccer has only grown deeper over the years. The first club team that Neal ever played for was FC Long Beach, which he loved playing for throughout the six years he was with them. After playing for FC Long Beach, he played for the LA Galaxy South Bay’s Pre-Academy team for half a season before being invited to train with the Galaxy Academy, which then resulted in him making the team. Neal played for LA Galaxy’s Academy for four and a half years.

When asked what the most difficult part of his journey has been, Neal stated, “...the seasons that I wouldn’t get much playing time, and I would doubt my talent.” During these tough times Neal would think about quitting soccer and playing a different sport but he was able to overcome these difficult times and stick with the sport that he loves so deeply. Neal attended Mayfair during his freshman year but wasn't allowed to play for both a high school team and Academy at the same time. Following his freshman year at Mayfair he transferred to Galaxy High School.

On January 20, 2021, Neal signed to the LA Galaxy soccer club. Before he signed with LA Galaxy he had verbally committed to the University of California, Irvine in August 2019. The staff at UCI was proud of Neal for reaching such a big milestone at only 17 years old and showed much support after his signing to the club. According to Neal, when he was initially offered the contract he didn't have that big of a reaction, at least not on the outside. But on the inside he was super happy and knew that he still had much more work to do if he wanted to continue to achieve his goals and more.

Now that Neal is signed to LA Galaxy, he’s working towards other goals such as playing in Europe (specifically Italy, Spain, and England). He also hopes to play in a World Cup and represent his country. There is no doubt that Neal will be a great representation. Neal uses his work ethic throughout his daily life by attending school, practices, and workouts, while still making time to help those in need. During his free time, he volunteers at a non-profit organization known as Care Closet LBC, which helps provide the homeless with essential items. He’s already won the “Humanitarian of the Year” award with the Galaxy during his last season with Galaxy II.

Behind every great athlete there is almost always a great support team. For Neal, his greatest support comes from his mother and other family members. They’ve constantly shown immense support, giving him rides to practices, workouts, games, and even giving constructive criticism after his games. Neal doesn't only see them as his greatest supporters, but also as his number one source of inspiration because he wants to make them proud and be able to financially support them one day. Ten years from now Neal sees himself playing in Europe for a major team in a major league. Jalen Neal has now started practicing with the LA Galaxy club team but has not yet had a game with them.

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