Melanie Rodriguez

At only the age of 15, Melanie Rodriguez of Bloomfield, placed second in a tournament against 400 of the country's best youth club soccer teams.

Melanie Rodriguez has undeniable talent!

melanie rodriguez
Photo by Scott Kennedy for The Montclair Dispatch.

Girls Futbol Academy placed second in the annual Disney Soccer Showcase, a tournament that had over 400 of the best youth club soccer teams from around the country.

For the Girls Futbol Academy (or GFA) and center back Melanie Rodriguez, the Disney Soccer Showcase wasn’t just an opportunity to display their skills to college coaches from all over the country – it was a chance to test their skills against some of the best teams in the country. The showcase, held in Florida over four days in early January, advertises itself as a “proving ground” of sorts. In the world of youth soccer, any team with a point to prove and talent for show is there.

This might seem like a very nerve-wracking occasion, even for tested and trialed soccer players such as Rodriguez, but she insists that the team was “very excited” to be there. And why wouldn’t they be? Rodriguez and her team have been ranked #1 in New Jersey and #1 in the nation by various youth soccer rankings, including the Disney Soccer Showcase. The team was a dominant force among hundreds of top-tier youth teams that flew to Florida from places as far as Canada and California.

Rodriguez was no small part to that dominance, playing in three of the regular games and in the final. A native of Bloomfield, N.J., Rodriguez is in her first year of high school. Saying she has been “fully dedicated” to soccer since she was six years old, Rodriguez is striving to make the most of her soccer career. “My goal for the future is to be able to play at a high and competitive level after high school and even after college,” said Rodriguez.

Girls Futbol Academy was founded in 2012, and advertises itself as the only all-girls soccer academy in New Jersey. Based in Metuchen, N.J., the team has risen to prominence by winning tournaments like the Jefferson Cup and NJ State Championships. Head Coach Massimo Cedraschi seems to have gone above and beyond when it comes to the teams mission statements, one of which includes creating “an outstanding youth soccer model to identify, nurture and develop outstanding players.”

Placed in a bracket that included teams from Tennessee and Texas, the team played four games over four days, and then a final. After finishing at the top of their bracket with nine points, GFA played a final against the leader of another bracket, Cincinnati United. United, a program that prides itself on it’s competitiveness and ability to push players to play at higher levels in college, proved to be good competition for GFA, who were beaten 4-0 by the Ohio side.

This was perhaps a disappointing loss to an impressive weekend, but Rodriguez doesn’t see it that way. “Of course I wanted to win it all but I was thrilled with making it to the finals and getting second place,” said Rodriguez. Context is key for players like Rodriguez, who’s been playing the sport since she was six. When you play at a high level on a national stage, losses aren’t expected but it’s a respected fact that any team has the talent and dedication to pull off a win against anyone.

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