A standout soccer player since he started playing the sport at age 5, Jayden Pires couldn’t pass up an opportunity to elevate his game to new heights.
The Lucas Elementary fifth-grade student signed with the Sacramento Republic FC Academy on March 7.
“This is the biggest step so far in my career,” said 11-year-old Jayden, who will log playing time at fullback and midfielder. “It’s a blessing. I’m super happy.”
“It all happened so fast,” said Anthony Pires, Jayden’s father. “It’s crazy. He wouldn’t have got to this point without all the sacrifices he’s made. He earned this. It wasn’t given to him.”
Pires will become a full-time member of the Youth Academy’s 12-and-under team this fall after he finishes playing for the Modesto Ajax 11-and-under squad in May.
He’ll practice four times a week in Sacramento.
“He needs to be in that environment,” Pires said. “That’s the only way he’s going to get better. I want him to be pushed.”
A straight-A student for the past three years, Pires currently practices with two different teams twice a week.
“The routine has changed,” Anthony said. “He knows when he gets home, it’s dinner then bedtime. He hasn’t complained once. He understands the commitment. He’ll have to balance being a kid and going to soccer.”
Pires has been training with Sacramento Republic Academy’s 13-and-under team on Mondays and Wednesdays since November.
Ajax practices are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“It’s tough but I’m starting to get used to it,” Jayden said.
“This is what he wants to do,” Anthony said. “It’s a big-time commitment. It (Sacramento) is a different atmosphere. The kids are all there for a reason. They want the same thing. They want to start and get to the next level. Everybody is good.”
Pires was recruited by Eder Quintanilla, Sacramento Republic’s Academy Director of Talent Identification.
“He came out to a couple of his scrimmages in Turlock,” Anthony said. “He told me they were committed to my son. They believe in him. They’re not going to charge us a penny. As a father, I would never put my son in a situation if he wasn’t ready. I have full confidence in him. He’s leaps and bounds mentally above his age. I can’t wait until everything else catches up to his brain.”
Anthony Pires Sr., Jayden’s grandfather, played third-division professional soccer.
Mother Sonia was a standout player at Ceres High School.
Father Anthony was a multi-sport athlete at Central Valley. He earned varsity letters in football and track and field.
“Jayden’s never played any other sport,” Anthony said. “All he knows is soccer. Almost every day, he’s touching a ball.”
Pires’ stint in Ceres Youth Soccer Organization’s recreational league lasted just one season.
He’s suited up for a handful of club teams, including Modesto Ajax, Turlock Lobos and Turlock Milan.
Pires’ first season of competitive soccer was with Modesto Ajax. Six-year-old Jayden played two age groups up with 8-year-olds.
Led by Pires, the Ajax 10-and-under team climbed to No. 1 in the national rankings in 2019.
Modesto placed first at 12 tournaments, including the Surf Cup.
“Every big tournament he played in, no moment was too big for him,” Anthony said. “He’s hard to get by. He’s not going to blow you away with fancy moves. He’s grown so much over the last three years.”
Pires hopes to follow in the footsteps of Ceres native Cade Cowell.
Cowell signed a pro contract with the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer (MLS) at the age of 15 in January of 2019. He’ll be vying for a starting position during his third season with the Quakes this spring.
“Cade was a big inspiration for Jayden,” Anthony said. “He sees he’s from Ceres and played for Ajax. He wants to play in the MLS. We’re fully aware the percentages are small. But it’s possible. We’re all excited to be on this journey.”
“Ever since I started playing soccer, that’s always been my dream,” Jayden said. “I really enjoy the game. I’m super competitive.”