Cody Laurendi begins first season with Puerto Rico Islanders
By Tammy Roberts
Cody Laurendi was only 4 years old when he discovered a love for soccer.
While his jersey is a little bigger now, this 21-year-old Space Coast native still carries the same passion for the sport he developed as a child.
In March, he earned a place on the Puerto Rico Islanders United States Soccer Federation Division-2 team, a professional league just below Major League Soccer.
"I'm just extremely grateful and fortunate to have this opportunity," Cody said. "I plan to make the most of it and continue to work toward improving my skill."
Cody signed a seven-month contract with the team, which begins its season April 21, and will receive a nominal salary, living and travel expenses, and intense training throughout the year. Depending on his success, he has an opportunity to renew his contract at the end of the season.
A Melbourne resident, Cody played forward and goalkeeper for various teams within the Brevard Youth Soccer League growing up, including MEGU, Satellite Beach and the Space Coast United Soccer League.
He graduated from Eau Gallie in 2006 as a varsity soccer player and was named the Brevard County High School All-Star Game MVP the same year.
After graduation, he spent a year playing for the All-Tournament Team of the Georgia Junior College Athletic Association, before returning to the Space Coast area.
He then played for the Under-19 Florida Youth Soccer Association and the Under-20 United Soccer League Super-Y Team, where he and his teammates competed in several statewide tournaments, including the 2008 Florida Youth Soccer State Cup.
It was then that his coach, David Barsdley, a former English Premier League player, introduced Cody to his colleague, Paul Topping, owner of a Fourth-Division Belgian soccer club.
Cody's talent earned him acceptance into the Heidelberg Academic and Soccer Academy, where he spent 18 months in Liege, Belgium, as a non-paid amateur player.
"My time in Belgium really helped me grow technically as a soccer player and mature as a person," Cody said.
The training and physical conditioning regiment was extremely intense, Cody said, and having to learn French and a new currency and culture was a challenging and memorable experience.
After returning home in December 2009, Cody got word that "trials" or tryouts, for several USSF teams were being held throughout the Central Florida area.
Following months of training in Seminole County alongside Mr. Barsdley and his current Under-19 team, Cody attended trails for the Puerto Rico Islanders team the week of March 10. Out of the 50 competitors who tried out, Cody was one of three goalkeepers hired by the team.
While they've kept in contact with their son through phone and e-mail, Cody's parents, Tony and Kathy, are looking forward to seeing their son play for the Islanders in Tampa on May 29, Miami on July 17 and Tampa on Oct. 2.
"Were very proud of him and all he's accomplished," Mr. Laurendi said. "Less than 1 percent of athletes actually make into the professional level and Cody is already there. He's come such a long way."