A South of South soccer star could spend part of this summer in Eurasia courtesy of a recent recognition.
Though he also enjoyed and excelled at baseball and basketball as a boy, Darius Madison selected soccer as his athletic vocation, believing the game could feed his wanderlust.
The resident of 18th and Catharine streets has received ample proof of his position over the last few years and will add more testimony when he and the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team travel to Mexico for next month’s Confederation of North Central American and Caribbean Association Football Championship. If they reach the semifinals, they will qualify for June’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey.
“I had not even known I was up for consideration,” the 18-year-old said last week at Marian Anderson Recreation Center, 744 S. 17th St. “I’m always eager for bigger responsibilities, so I feel very honored.”
The teenager gained great exposure to his preferred sport and the deserted diversions through the South of South facility, spending six years as an Anderson Monarch. He forged fascination with soccer during his freshman year at Wyndmoor’s La Salle College High School and has booted his way to prominence since, with December’s designation sure to further his fire.
Two weeks after head coach Tab Ramos chose him and 23 other accomplished players to represent their land, Madison flew to Florida for training camp. He is spending his holiday break from the University of Virginia engaging in more preparations and anticipates putting his Sunshine State lessons to use against his unit’s Group A foes, Costa Rica and Haiti.
“From my Florida trip, I learned my focus has to be even higher, along with my composure,” the forward said. “The competition figures to be tough, so only my best is going to help us to get beyond Mexico and then to Turkey.”
To book time in the Eurasian country, Madison and his mates must finish first or second in their group and score a quarterfinal triumph. If they qualify for the World Cup, they will look to overcome a lackluster history, as their predecessors’ best result came when the 1989 athletes finished fourth in Saudi Arabia.
“I’m hoping we can break through,” he said, acknowledging having five Major League Soccer pros should benefit his bunch. “Gaining experience will be great no matter what, but winning is certainly a mission.”
Madison has made motivating his fellow competitors a requirement since his days at Marian Anderson. He met coach Steve Bandura through his older brother Charles and donned his first uniform at age 5. As the Monarchs compete in baseball, basketball and soccer, he welcomed opportunities to acquire tutelage in determination and sportsmanship.
When soccer claimed sovereignty over his athletic identity, he sought greater challenges, developing an infatuation with facing the best opponents. He lent his talent to Northeast Philly’s Penn Academy Strikers after parting with the Monarchs, progressing to the Philadelphia Soccer Club. Time there helped him to win a spot at the U.S. Soccer Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla., and he earned more kudos for his commitment when joining the Philadelphia Union Reserves at 15, all while helping his secondary school to remain a Catholic League force.
“I’ve never shied away from pressure or obstacles,” Madison said. “In fact, I like for my teams to be roadblocks for everybody else.”
His Explorers earned dominion over their parochial foes in his senior year by winning the league crown. In the 2011 final, Madison netted both goals in a 2-1 victory over Father Judge, including an overtime score that sent him charging around the field in ecstasy. That title and the District 12 Class AAA championship intensified colleges’ outreach to Madison, whose achievements that year also include competing in the High School All-American Soccer Game in Birmingham, Ala., and the Trofeo Scopigno Tournament in Rieti, Italy, for which he won the Golden Boot Award as the leading scorer.
Deeming it “a phenomenal school,” he chose Virginia last February, hoping to contribute to annals that include 15 Atlantic Coast Conference titles and six national championships. He lost four games to an ankle injury but provided an offensive spark for the Cavaliers in 17 contests, with 15 starts. He attempted 33 shots, his squad’s third-highest mark while his 14 shots on goal ranked second. He registered two goals, including an overtime score at North Carolina State in November. Though his efforts landed him an All-ACC Freshman Team spot, the budding perfectionist considered his first year a rough one.
“There were the typical adjustments anyone has to make when something new comes along,” the 5-foot-8 presence, whose team made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, said, “and I feel I handled myself well. I just wish I had scored a few more times.”
Madison prides himself on his speed and ability to attack, with his yearning to be a better finisher topping what he feels needs improvement. He believes this year also could prove prodigious scholastically, as he likely will go from being undecided to choosing psychology as his major. Though he desires distinction in Mexico and time in Turkey, he will have a big opportunity for redemption if the national team fails. Chester’s PPL Park, where he played for the Union, will host this year’s national championships, and he would love for the Cavaliers to enter seventh heaven there.
“It would be great to be close to home,” Madison said. “How great would it be to win so close to where I learned to play?”
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.
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