Porterville native is the MLS team’s youngest outside academy signing
The Central Valley has always been know for producing talented players on the pitch but one local player shined so bright that he drew interest from not just one Major League Soccer team, but two.
Since the age of five, Porterville native AedanMerrill “AM” Beebe has played and developed a love for soccer but over the last couple of months the 11-year-old South Valley Chivas goalkeeper got the chance to take things to the next level and tried out for both the Los Angeles Football Club and San Jose Earthquakes.
According to his father, Michael Beebe, both teams were very interested but the Earthquakes were willing to provide housing for AedanMerrill and on Aug. 14 he signed with the Bay Area team’s U-12 boys development academy team. Michael said AedanMerrill is the youngest kid the team has ever signed and brought in from outside the Earthquakes Academy.
“He was recommended to tryout because two years as a 2007 kid, he made the state player development program for US soccer and the regional development program for US soccer, [all while] playing two years up,” Michael said. “He’s playing against people that are two years older than him. Somebody saw him and he was recommended to try out for the Earthquakes and he made it. He was recommended to try out for Los Angeles Football Club, LAFC, but they didn’t sign him because he doesn’t live down there. So they signed somebody else then San Jose tried him out and they signed him and gave him a place to live.”
Esmaldo Hernandez, the president of South Valley Chivas, said that it’s AedanMerrill’s determination and work ethic that has allowed him to be so successful. Rather than hanging his head over mistakes, he’s quick to point them out himself and make adjustments.
“We’ve seen him grow, he’s hungry to learn,” Hernandez said. “He’s always questioning, watching games. Sometimes we don’t watch a game on TV and he’ll come and tell you, ‘Did you see the save so-and-so made?’ He’s very disciplined. He knows what he wants and that’s why he’s where he’s at honestly. He doesn’t let things get to him. He might have a bad day, bad game [but] you as a coach don’t need to tell him. He acknowldges, ‘I messed up.’”
Hernandez and Michael both noted that while AedanMerrill is small, he doesn’t let that hold him back. It was mentality on the pitch, according to Michael, that got him noticed by the Earthquakes’ head scout Bruno Costa. A former scout for Brazil’s national team, Costa discovered players Neymar Jr., Willian and Philippe Coutinho — all of whom played in this year’s FIFA World Cup for Brazil.
“He’s not that talented, he’s had to work at it,” Michael said. “I still don’t think he’s as good. He’s not physically as good as many other kids, he has to work at it...They signed him because he thinks and talks on the field like a 14-year-old, like he’s in high school. And he’s only 11. They said mentally he’s above everybody else. He hasn’t even started puberty yet so he’s not even that tall. So yeah he has to work hard at it, to be able to do what he’s doing.”
Now in the Bay Area, AedanMerrill is attending S4A Academy — a recently opened kindergarten through 12th grade academy specifically for soccer players. AedanMerrill and other U-12 players practice for an hour and a half before three and a half hours of school work in a classroom with a 1:10 teacher-to-student ratio.
“He lives there,” Michael said. “He loves it. He wants to be a [professional player] so he said he doesn’t care about the living situation.”
Michael added, “You don’t get second chances, especially when it comes to athletics. Because he’s my baby and [although] I miss him, there’s not going to be ever an excuse or reason why he isn’t going to get his chance.”
There’s no timetable set for when AedanMerrill will see his mom and dad next, with the team playing through holidays in tournaments like the Generation adidas Cup and Manchester City Cup during Easter weekend but the Merrill’s are completely behind their son following his dreams.
“It’s just opportunity,” Michael said. “South Valley Chivas opened up a lot of doors for him, given a lot of opportunities. I’m going to let him take it as far as he wants too.”