For local products Elijah Martin and Abraham Campos, Thursday night's exhibition between the Fresno Fuego and LA Galaxy II of the USL Pro League will mark the start of potential careers with a new club.
Martin, 17, and Campos, 23, were named to the LA Galaxy II roster on Tuesday and will play against former teammates at Chukchansi Park at 7 p.m.
"This is nothing but excitement for me -- to come back to my hometown and show them how I've developed after the many years of support they've given me," Martin said Wednesday.
A senior at Memorial High, Martin spent much of the past two years in Florida training for the United States under-17 and U-18 teams as a midfielder. When he wasn't competing for the Stars and Stripes or training at the LA Galaxy Academy, he spent his free time honing his game with the Fuego.
"It's a message I want to send: That a young kid from Fresno is now with the LA Galaxy and that any kid can do this as long as they believe," Martin said.
Campos, a midfielder from Golden West High and College of Sequoias, has played with the Fuego the past three seasons and also had a stint in Mexico's third division for Club Inter of Playa Del Carmen. He returned to Fresno last month to train with the Fuego before he was called to Los Angeles two weeks ago for training and earned a spot on the Galaxy II squad.
"I'm working hard every day and giving my best effort and hoping to get signed," Campos said. "It's been two different worlds in Mexico and here. I like it here better and I'm hoping the coach will give me some quality minutes to play in front of my home crowd."
Following Thursday's match, the Fuego will play another exhibition Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes reserves before the two Major League Soccer teams -- the Earthquakes and LA Galaxy -- face off in the inaugural Central California Cup. Kickoff for the Fuego is at 4 p.m. with the California Clásico rivals taking the pitch at 7 p.m.
Fuego coach Scott Alcorn has bolstered his roster for his team's two exhibitions, bringing in club alums Milton Blanco, Jose Cuevas and Paul Islas.
Alcorn said the matches will give both his old and new players a chance to showcase their skills in front of MLS scouts while he continues to trim his official roster before the Premier Development League season starts in May.
"Everything this weekend is a reward for these players," he said. "Not just for the Fuego as a team, but for these players to advance through the ranks individually."
MLS Day in Fresno
The three-day soccer takeover in downtown Fresno has caught the attention of local leaders.
Mayor Ashley Swearengin and the City of Fresno will officially deem Saturday as MLS Day in a ceremony at 8:30 a.m. today.
Both MLS teams confirmed they're bringing their full rosters, Fuego spokesman Ryan Young said.
That includes World Cup hopefuls Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez of the Galaxy and San Jose's Chris Wondolowski and Clarence Goodson. Also slated to make an appearance for the Galaxy is Irish footballer and former Tottenham standout Robbie Keane.
Tickets for Thursday's game start at $6 and Chukchansi Park will also be holding its first Thirsty Thursday promotion of the year.
Tickets are also still available for Saturday's Central California Cup at the box office or by calling (559) 320-8497.
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