[FOUR THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT ...] If one of the players at the U.S. under-18 national team camp that opens Sunday at the Home Depot Center needs to find his way around Los Angeles, all he needs to do is ask Albuquerque, N.M., resident Ben Spencer. The 6-foot-5 striker knows L.A.'s freeways. Spencer, who turns 17 today, moved to Los Angeles to join the Chivas USA academy program last summer and drives on his own to get to training with Chivas USA's first team in Carson, as well as work out with its academy team in Pomona. For four things to know about Spencer ...
L.A. RESIDENT.Spencer lives with Chivas USA assistant coach Gregg Vanney and his wife after moving from RSL AZ, which he had joined the year before from New Mexico Rush. He convinced his parents to let him live in Los Angeles after Vanney left the Real Salt Lake academy program in Arizona in work under Robin Fraser, the Chivas USA head coach. Spencer, who holds a 4.2 GPA, lived in a dorm and attended public high school in Casa Grande. Now, he trains in the morning with Chivas USA and takes high school classes online in the afternoon. All this means that Spencer must drive to get around. “I don’t know who is in more danger,” Ben Sr. told the Albuquerque Journal, “the residents of California or Ben.”
MULTIPLE OPTIONS.Spencer, still only a high school junior, scored 22 goals for RSL AZ's U-15/16 squad, helping it reach Finals Week in Milwaukee in 2011 before joining the Chivas USA academy. He scored two goals for Chivas USA's reserves last season and has scored eight goals in 13 games for its U-15/16 academy team in 2011-12. His scoring ability has attracted the attention of all the major college programs -- he has made a verbal commitment to UC Santa Barbara -- but he might turn pro and sign a homegrown contract with Chivas USA.
TEAM LEADER.Spencer will be joined at the U-18 camp by Chivas USA academy teammate Marky Delgado, a three-year Development Academy veteran. Chivas USA academy coach Mike Munoz says the experience Spencer and Delgado bring back to their academy teammates from national team camps is invaluable. "They don’t get big egos when they come back," Munoz told cdchivasusa.com. "They want to improve themselves, but they also want to improve their teammates as well, so it’s huge.”
EARLY BLOOMER.Spencer not only won a New Mexico state title as an eighth-grader at Bosque School under legendary New Mexico soccer coach Klaus Weber, but he also scored in the final. Bosque won the 2009 Class 1A-3A title as well, meaning Spencer finished his prep career as a sophomore with two state titles.