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Former CV standout filling critical role with Turlock Express
Samuel Saldate helped lead Central Valley High Schools varsity boys soccer program to its first-ever playoff appearance in 2007. Saldate, 23, currently plays for the Turlock Express in the Professional Arena Soccer League. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Samuel Saldate had a successful tryout with the Turlock Express in 2011.

The former Central Valley High School standout re-signed with the Professional Arena Soccer League team during a special ceremony on Oct. 12 at the Turlock Poker Room.

"The experience alone has made him a valuable asset to the team," Express head coach Art Pulido said. "He's very quick. He has good ball control. He has a very good shot. He's real competitive."

Saldate, a speedy midfielder, tallied 14 goals and seven assists during the 2012 season for Turlock, which compiled a 9-9 overall record, finished second in the Pacific Division standings (9-7) and qualified for the playoffs for the second year in a row.

"I expect his production to go up," Pulido said. "It's not just about stats. You have to play defense as well as offense."

"A lot of our top players got traded," stated Samuel, 23. "I'm going to have to improve so I can step into that role. I do have a lot of experience. I try to give the other players pointers. I'm a team player. I'll do whatever the coach says."

Pulido recruited Saldate three years ago. Samuel had nine goals and five assists during his first season with the Express.

"Art contacted me," Saldate said. "He knows my past. His son's my age. We played against each other."

Turlock will open the PASL season against the Sacramento Surge on Nov. 2 at the Turlock Indoor Soccer facility.

The Express stage practices Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights from 9-11.

Turlock, which lost three key players to bigger market teams, will be vying for its third consecutive postseason berth.

San Diego ended Turlock's season last year. The Sockers, winners of 13 arena titles, won both legs of the first-round playoff series.

"We have very good talent in this area," Pulido said. "I expect us to be in playoffs again. He (Saldate) is hoping to be seen so he can get a better opportunity."

"Soccer's my passion," Saldate said. "I was born into it. It makes me happy. I enjoy the unity. I'm a competitor. I'm surrounded by good players."

Saldate helped lead Central Valley High School's varsity soccer program to its first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth during the 2007-08 school year. The Hawks placed third in the Valley Oak League standings (9-2-1).

Samuel started playing the sport at the age of 4 in Ceres.

"The transition from outdoor to indoor wasn't easy," Saldate said. "There's a different set of rules. I learned as I went. If I can better myself as a player, you never know what will happen. There's always somebody watching. My goal is to play in Major League Soccer (MLS). But I don't want to get ahead of myself."