Two recent Sacred Heart Cathedral graduates have landed in Yorkshire, England to pursue their soccer dreams. Charles “Chip” Northrop celebrated his 19th birthday with Sacred Heart classmate Juan Palacio at the International Academic and Soccer Academy earlier this month, just days after arriving from San Francisco.
The local boys were among 27 talented young athletes from around the world to be selected to the academy, which will offer a balance of soccer training and college curriculum.
Palacio, from South San Francisco, declined to play at Menlo College, San Francisco State University and other schools recruiting him to compete against the elite soccer programs pervasive in the UK.
“I want to play a better game and go to a higher level,” Palacio said. “I want to go pro.”
The speedy Palacio was a scoring machine this season at Sacred Heart. His 15 goals, second in the WCAL, led the Irish to the Central Coast Section championship. Northrop was the heart of the defense, a squad that didn’t relinquish a goal in the CCS tourney until falling to Santa Cruz High School 1-0 in the final.
It was a game against Riordan that convinced Paul Bailey, assistant to Sacred Heart coach and CCS Coach of the Year Jeff Wilson, to recommend his stalwart fullback for the academy.
Suffering from a bad head cold, Northrop exited the game at halftime. “We were winning 1-0, and then we were down 2-1,” Northrop said.
Despite his compromised state, the Irish team captain re-entered the game. “I ended up getting an assist and controlling the defense,” he said.
The game versus the crosstown rival ended in a 2-2 draw.
These accomplished soccer players relish the opportunity that they have been afforded by their selection to the academy. But they acknowledge that a degree of homesickness will exist.
“I am going to miss tortillas,” Palacio said with a smile that will certainly lighten up the English fog.
Northrop will miss his girlfriend, his family and the view of the ocean from their home in San Francisco’s Forest Hills. It was his mom, though, that convinced him to go.
“I figure he can always go to college in California, but he won’t always have the opportunity to live abroad,” Kim Northrop said.
These two friends, teammates and Academy roommates envision the day they may not be wearing the same jersey. When the 2014 World Cup rolls around, Palacio hopes to represent Mexico and Northrop the U.S.
WHAT: International Academic and Soccer Academy in Association with Richmond, The American International University in London
SCHEDULE: Practice six days a week, with games Wednesdays and Saturdays
LOCALS: Charles Northrop, 5-foot-10, 175-pound defender; Juan Palacio, 5-foot-5, 115-pound midfielder
GOAL: A spot on the starting 11
PRO OPTION: Professional “exit routes” exist for the players, but turning pro will deem them ineligible for the potential of future NCAA competition.