Although he’s only 24-years-old, Carlos Saldaña brings a great deal of energy and experience to the pitch. He has logged minutes at different levels with La Liga MX-side C.D. Guadalajara - including academy, reserve team, and first team. He has also appeared for Tepatitlán F.C. of La Liga Expansión MX.
It all started with Saldaña’s dad pushing him to seize a childhood opportunity. As an eight-year-old, Carlos was playing forward for a U-11 team, which meant that he was on the bench most of the time. “My dad was starting to get fed up with me not playing and when the keeper got hurt, my dad told me to I had to step into that position so that I could finally get some playing time,” he explains.
As it turned out, Carlos was a natural – donning a pair of borrowed keeper gloves, he impressed everyone with his performance. Afterwards, he bought his own pair of gloves, and from then on he was a keeper.
Once he established himself as a goalkeeper, Saldaña played for three Bay Area youth clubs: a Club América program in Redwood City, Marin FC in Mill Valley, and DeAnza Force.
@csaldana96 jugó para #Chivas, uno de los equipos más grandes de #México. He is the goalkeeper chosen from the #AllstateSueñoAlianza Best XI. ¡Puro talento en el arco! @AllstateLatino#AlianzaDeFutbol #AllstateSueñoAlianza pic.twitter.com/2KvW84tX8c— Alianza de Futbol (@alianzadefutbol) February 3, 2021
When it was time to start looking ahead, he turned to Alianza de Futbol, the leading national organization dedicated to the support and development of amateur Hispanic soccer players in the United States.
Through training sessions, tournaments, and tryouts, Alianza focuses on player development and providing a stage for them to be recognized by local, national, and international organizations. After Carlos’ first regional tryout with Alianza, he connected with a scout from La Liga MX-side C.D. Guadalajara. He was later one of 48 players invited to national tryouts in Los Angeles and got the official offer to join the club’s elite academy program.
While he was excited be one step closer towards his dream, 16-year-old Carlos was challenged by the transition to life in Mexico. “I think the first six months were the biggest culture shock because even though I spoke Spanish at home, joining a team with players who were all Mexican natives brought out our cultural differences,” he explains. “They live, breathe, and bleed soccer – it is a full lifestyle that you have to adapt to.” Eventually, he was able to adapt and make the most out of his time in Mexico.
With Chivas, Carlos logged minutes at multiple levels – including academy, reserve team, and first team. And in 2019, he led the reserve team to finals of Liga Premier, only to fall on aggregate. Soon after, Liga Premier folded, forcing Chivas to discontinue their reserve team, leaving Carlos and his teammates in a state of limbo. He moved on to join Tepatitlán F.C. of La Liga Expansión MX.
And then 2020 hit. After his contract with Tepatitlán F.C. was up, Carlos was having trouble finding a club: “Because of COVID, I hadn’t been playing down in Mexico, so I came back home to Vallejo.” That same year, Carlos’ younger brother Luis joined the Republic FC Academy and was a part of the U17 squad that made it to the semifinals of the MLSNext Cup.
Thanks to this family connection, the Republic FC coaching staff soon learned that Carlos was in town and looking for his next opportunity, and it wasn’t long before Coach Matt Glaeser invited him out to train with the first team. “It took a little time to get back into the swing of things since I hadn’t been playing for the past year,” says Carlos. “I’m grateful that Republic FC gave me the opportunity to stay at a competitive level during that transition. I was so happy when I was told they were going to officially sign me.”
And the Republic FC players and staff couldn’t be more thrilled to bring Carlos onboard. “Carlos is a great addition who has already developed a lot of chemistry with the team this season,” says Republic FC President and General Manager Todd Dunivant. “He is a natural leader and someone that is already a great influence in the locker room. We are excited to officially welcome him to the club.”
Despite a challenging 2019 and 2020, Carlos believes that it led him here, playing for Republic FC, where he gets to play in front of his family. “I just believed in myself. It was a lot of trusting the process and relying on my family in support.”
Carlos is available for selection for tonight’s match against Tacoma Defiance. The match at Cheney stadium will kickoff at 7:00 p.m. and broadcast on KQCA My58, Estrella TV Sacramento, and ESPN+.
He and the Boys in Old Glory Red will then return to Heart Health Park this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. to take on LA Galaxy II on Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. Tickets are available at SacRepublicFC.com/single-match-tickets.