Photo by Larry Levanti/New Jersey Hills Media Group
When 16-year-old goalkeeper Alex Borto signed with English Premier League club Fulham FC last week, it marked the culmination of one stage of his career and the beginning of another. At 6-foot-2, Borto dominated in New Jersey high school soccer last season, and despite uncertainty about his future brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, he finally made the move across the pond official. For Juan Santamaria, Borto’s opportunity with Fulham is anything but surprising.
Now the sporting director and chief scout for Cedar Stars Academy and Cedar Stars Rush (the organization’s senior team in USL League Two), Santamaria first met Borto when the latter was nine years old, and the former was his youth coach at a different club. Borto joined CSA when he was 12 and spent the last four years with the prominent New Jersey youth club.
“You could see early on that he had great instincts in goal,” said Santamaria. “I think all the coaches at Cedar Stars knew with the right training, he could continue to flourish.
“What sets him apart is his work ethic to get better. The goalkeeper position is so specific and truly needs a lot of training and focus. Along with his natural ability, his drive has helped push him forward.”
Though Borto will start with Fulham’s U18 side, the young goalkeeper has set himself targets of playing for the U23s within two years and competing for a First Team spot by the time he turns 20 or 21. But his ambition doesn’t stop there.
“I want to be in the top 10, top five ‘keepers in the world,” Borto told NJ.com writer Brian Deakyne. “I want to be the best ‘keeper in the world by age 25 or 26. I know it’s a long shot and I don’t want to sound cocky, I’m trying to sound confident.”
Borto was aided through the first stages of that journey to become the best by the excellent development system in place at CSA.
Borto trained and played with CSA for the last four years before joining Fulham / Photo courtesy Cedar Stars Academy
He’s the second CSA player in the past year to sign for a European club after Ronald Arevalo joined Danish side HB Køge, a testament to Cedar Stars’ coaching and strategies.
“CSA helped me a lot over the past four years,” said Borto. “Every coach pushed me and helped me achieve my goals. I had amazing training from a goalkeeping coach for two to three years. I would come to train with him before my training, then stay for my training, and then stay for a third and final session after my training.
“The club helped me develop into the player and person that I am today, and I am forever grateful for what CSA has done for me.”
For all of CSA’s mentoring, Borto earned his move to Fulham thanks to his own work ethic.
“He had a goal and he set his mind to it,” said Santamaria. “I think at CSA, our coaches do a good job promoting a pathway within the club as well as the competitions we compete in. We want what’s best for all our players, but I think it’s very much dictated by the players themselves. What is he willing to do to get there?”
For Borto, the answer to that question was to give it his all. Thanks to those efforts and the effectiveness of the Cedar Stars Academy in developing talent, the young goalkeeper should be primed to shine for Fulham in the not-too-distant future.