Shalom sets goals high

Sophomore+Shalom+Bako%2C+a+forward+on+Biola%27s+soccer+team%2C+has+recently+been+accepted+to+join+the+Young+Los+Angeles+Galaxy+soccer+team.
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Shalom sets goals high

Sophomore Shalom Bako, a forward on Biola's soccer team, has recently been accepted to join the Young Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team.

Sophomore Shalom Bako, a forward on Biola's soccer team, has recently been accepted to join the Young Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team.

Photo by Faith Martinez

Sophomore Shalom Bako, a forward on Biola's soccer team, has recently been accepted to join the Young Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team.

Photo by Faith Martinez

Photo by Faith Martinez

Sophomore Shalom Bako, a forward on Biola's soccer team, has recently been accepted to join the Young Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team.


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Just nine days following his twentieth birthday, Shalom Bako, boarded his 6:55 p.m. flight to Chicago ready to tryout for the Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire under-20 development team. Hours later, with a “No. 27” pinned to his soccer shorts, Bako was practicing with hundreds of other promising soccer players from around the country—all vying for a spot on the approximately 25-man squad.

Little did Shalom Bako know he’d advance to the final round in the Chicago Fire’s U-20 tryouts and be offered a position to play this summer.

For the sophomore forward on Biola men’s soccer team, the $250 plane ticket was a big sacrifice for a future dream. Bako, who moved to Santa Ana with his parents five and a half years ago from Abuja, Nigeria, only started playing organized soccer at Foothills High School after one of his teammates encouraged him to come out and practice with the team.

But Chicago seemed a little far away for Shalom who preferred to stay closer to his home in Southern California. Just days after returning from Chicago, Bako attended an invitation only tryout for the LA Galaxy Rio’s U-20 team, whose development academy was created just one year ago.

A day after tryouts, Bako received a phone call from the secretary of Galaxy’s Director of Soccer and U-20 league head coach, Paul Bravo saying “I got your information from Paul Bravo and he would like to sign you to the U-20 squad.”

According to Trevor James, LA Galaxy’s Assistant Coach and Director of Player Development, “We really want to try to use the U-18 and U-20 [teams] as a stepping-stone into the reserve team.”

The U-20 Galaxy Rios is coached by former Galaxy Assistant Coach Paul Bravo, participating in the Pacific Southern California Division under the United Soccer League super league to recognize and develop future professional athletes. According to the club’s web site, “The USL Super-20 League is the only U-20 men's and women's North American amateur league.”

As overseer of the Galaxy’s Rios development program, Trevor James said, “The roster [consists of] 18 players, with 10 developmental slots as an extension of the U-20 team and will filter into becoming the reserve team … the target is to get [athletes] through the program who will one day play for the team.”

“He’s certainly an athlete,” James explained about his experience with Shalom Bako. “His attitude is very good, very positive … and hopefully he’ll step in and become a leader for this group.”

Despite the fact that Bako has never seen the his National team in person, his more immediate soccer goals, aside from his Eagle duties and recent acceptance on the LA Galaxy’s Rios team, is to someday go back and play for Nigeria.

“I feel I owe it to my country to [someday] represent them.”

For now however, Bako represents the developing future of the MLS young stars of tomorrow and Biola University.

“This is a great opportunity for him to use his off season to develop further,” Head Biola Men’s soccer coach said. “Shalom has a very mature demeanor, coaches will be impressed. He is very teachable, they can mold him into what they want in a player.”

Off the soccer field, you’ll occasionally hear the voice of the 20-year-old Communication Studies major over the phone as a Campus Safety dispatcher or as the percussionist in Terry Coon’s gospel band that occasionally plays in Biola chapels.

But this summer, Shalom Bako will practice with most of the Galaxy’s official coaching staff on the LA Galaxy Rios team at the Home Depot Center in Carson. The Galaxy Rios begins play this weekend, Sunday, May 11, against the Ventura County Fusion at the Ventura College Field at 5 p.m.

The complete LA Galaxy Rios schedule can be found on the United Soccer Leagues website at http://supery.uslsoccer.com/teams/2008/9424265.html.