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Sciaretta's Scouting Report

Boca Juniors Prospect Joel Sonora Eyes U.S. U-20s

Born in Texas but raised in Argentina, 17-year-old Joel Sonora is one of the most talented teens in the U.S. system. He spoke to ASN's Brian Sciaretta about his development and plans.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 31, 2014
11:00 AM
JOEL SONORA HAS BEEN part of U.S. youth national teams since he broke into the U.S. U-17 national team in 2012. Playing in the youth system of famed Argentine club Boca Juniors, he eventually made the United States' U-17 World Cup qualifying team in 2013. And while that team was unsuccessful in advancing to the World Cup, Sonora was widely regarded as one of the team’s best players.

In January, U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos called in Sonora for a 36-player camp in Florida. And with the United States U-20 national team preparing to move into full swing next month starting with the Dallas Cup, the next few weeks could be big for Sonora.

“The first training camp was getting to know the whole group, and luckily they accepted me well,” the playmaking central midfielder told American Soccer Now. “I cannot say anything of Tab because when he called us, he only studied us and did not give us much indication of anything because he needed to get to know us.”

Sonora’s teammates all speak very highly of him. Tommy Redding was his teammate on the U-17 team in 2013 and the two have known each other since Sonora first began representing the United States. Two weeks ago, Redding became the first-ever homegrown signing for the MLS expansion team Orlando City SC, which will begin playing in 2015.

Redding believes that Sonora’s skill set is at a top level among American players of his age and is hopeful the two will play together again soon.

“Joel’s technical skills are at the professional level and his composure on the ball is really nice,” Redding said. “He has a very good passing range and his vision makes playing with him easy. He is always moving, making it easier to find him when I have the ball. He’s a clean player and very technical.”

Sonora’s background is unique among his fellow American teammates. His Argentine father is former Boca Juniors star Diego Sonora, who won five Primera titles from 1988 through 1995. When MLS began play in 1996, Diego moved with his family to the United States after signing with the Dallas Burn. That year, Joel Sonora was born in Texas.

When Diego left MLS in 2001, he and his family returned to Argentina. Over the past decade, Joel has followed in his father’s footsteps by rising through the ranks within the youth system at Boca Juniors. This year he finds himself playing for the club’s team in the Quinta division. This is usually a pivotal period in a player's development, and after the season players are usually informed by the club if they are seen as having a professional future at the club.

Sonora is happy with his club situation but he aims to follow in his father’s footsteps beyond simply winning titles with Boca Junior’s first team. Though still just a teenager, Sonora eventually hopes that later in his career he can also make a move to MLS.

When Diego arrived in America, the league was in its infancy and he was one of the stars that helped to give MLS credibility. Diego made three All-Star teams and was an integral part of D.C. United’s MLS Cup winning team in 1999. Diego enjoyed his time in MLS and has passed onto his son respect for the game in the United States.

“Yes, at some point of my career I would like to play in MLS,” Sonora said. “My father was that one who told me that it was good to play there, so he likes it that I play for the U.S.”

For now, Sonora is hoping to be part of the U.S. U-20 team moving forward, and with an eye toward next year’s World Cup in New Zealand. Playing with the national team is an exciting opportunity for Sonora because it gives him a chance to connect with the nation where he lived only in his early childhood years.

He says that having an Argentine family while living in Argentina can leave him feeling distant at times to the United States but he is proud to play for the Stars and Stripes.

“Yes, playing in the country generates a link with the place where I was born, due to my living in Argentina,” Sonora explained. “My impression [of the U-20 team] was a very good one. I liked it a lot.”

Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

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