With the World Cup in full swing, USA TODAY High School Sports is taking a closer look at the next generation of U.S. soccer. Today we feature defender Tommy Redding.
Position: Center back
Team: Orlando City SC
Hometown: Oviedo, Fla.
School: Florida Virtual School
Orlando City SC has been linked recently with signing Brazilian star Kaka to be the centerpiece of its inaugural MLS season in 2015, but a few months ago in a less heralded move the team signed the player it hopes will be its centerpiece for the foreseeable future: Redding. The club’s first-ever homegrown signing, Redding made his professional debut this May and will continue playing this season as the team goes through its final year in the USL. He’ll be 18 when Orlando City debuts in MLS next March, and the team would love to see him manning the back line for years to come – though it may have to fight off numerous European suitors for that to be a reality.
Why he could be World Cup-bound: Because he has the intangibles – in addition to the skills – necessary to succeed at the highest levels. Redding is an intelligent player who is confident and composed on the field. He has captained multiple U.S. youth national teams, a clear indication of the faith his coaches and teammates have in him. In the past year alone he has played for the U-17 and U-18 National Teams in Japan, France, Portugal and the Canary Islands at the same time as professional clubs across Europe (including German powerhouse Bayern Munich) tried to lure him overseas. The mature Redding took it all in stride before ultimately deciding to sign with his hometown club.
Plays like: Mamadou Sakho. Like Redding, Sakho thrives at center back for France and Liverpool despite the less than ideal height for the position of 6-foot-2. The 24-year-old Sakho has been a regular for France the past couple years and makes the game look easy despite his relative lack of experience. Just as Redding has captained the USA at the youth level, Sakho regularly captained French youth national teams and was the youngest player to ever captain storied club team Paris Saint-Germain at just 17 years old. Both Redding and Sakho are looked at as leaders by their teammates and are rock solid in the center of defense.
American role model: Carlos Bocanegra. The former captain of Team USA, Bocanegra’s career path could be a blueprint for Redding. Bocanegra was a phenom at center back from a young age and starred in MLS with the Chicago Fire before moving to Fulham of the English Premier League at the age of 24. He spent five years with the London club before playing for teams in France, Scotland and Spain over the next five years. He collected 110 caps with the U.S. and served as captain at the 2010 World Cup. Redding hopes a few years in MLS will launch his career just as it did for Bocanegra.
Key number: 15. Current unbeaten streak for Orlando City in the USL-Pro division. Redding’s first game came in the midst of that streak, and he has only bolstered the team’s standing in that time. Redding will gain valuable experience this season before he debuts in MLS next year.
Expert Opinion: “Tommy came through and showed a lot of people what he can do. He looked like he’s been with us for a long time. The kid has a bright future.” – Orlando City SC coach Adrian Heath after Redding’s pro debut on May 14.