NISL Player Brooklyn Raines from Inter FC

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    Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.
    Copyright © 2018, Daily Southtown

    Put Brooklyn Raines on a soccer field with the best youth players in the country, and the 13-year-old from Oak Lawn still manages to stand out. That much is evident when considering the odds Raines beat to make the U.S. Club Soccer id2 National Selection International Tour team.

    After 240 of the best 13- and 14-year-old club soccer players in the country were chosen and sent in groups of 60 to four regional camps, only 18 were picked for the team. Raines was one of them.

    “I was really excited,” Raines said. “There were a lot of great players and it was an honor to be picked for the team.”

    Raines, who attends Ridge Academy in Beverly and is a midfielder for Inter FC Chicago, traveled to Spain last month to represent the United States in the Mediterranean International Cup.

    “Spain is a really fun country to visit and getting to play there and represent my country was a great experience,” Raines said.

    The National Selection team trained and played in Barcelona, Girona and Platja d’Aro and finished 4-1 in tournament play.

    After going 3-0 in pool play, Raines scored a goal in a 3-0 win over CE Europa in the first round of the knockout stage.

    “That was the highlight for me,” Raines said. “I scored the first goal of the game, and that got the whole team going. It was really exciting.”

    The U.S. team was eliminated in the quarterfinals by the eventual champion, RCD Espanyol Infantil from Spain.

    Raines finished the tournament with a goal and four assists. He got the opportunity to measure himself against players from around the world.

    “It was really great playing against players from other countries,” he said. “They play different styles and I learned from watching them. I made new friends with my teammates from all over the country, so that was fun, too.”

    Gerry McKeown, the id2 program director who coached the team in Spain, said Raines brought a great attitude to the team along with his technical abilities.

    “Brooklyn is all that’s good about the game of soccer,” McKeown said. “He brings passion and an energy that just rubs off on everyone around him. He works so hard and he’s fearless.”

    When the field of top club players was whittled down to 18, McKeown said his staff looked for a particular breed of player, and Raines fit the mold.

    “There are a lot of players out there with technical ability, but you have to have the right mentality and personality,” McKeown said. “These players only got to play together for three or four days in our camp in New Jersey before we went to compete in Spain. It takes a special type of person to do that.

    “You’ve got to be able to adapt to the circumstances and be a flexible player open to what we want to do as coaches.”

    Off the field, the players got the chance to sightsee throughout Spain. Raines’ favorite part of the travels was an easy choice.

    “I loved going to the beach,” he said. “I had a lot of fun there.”

    Raines hopes to represent the United States many more times in the future. He has other big goals, as well.

    “I want to play pro soccer, for sure,” he said. “I know it’s going to take a lot of hard work and a positive attitude.”

    Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

    Copyright © 2018, Daily Southtown

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