About an hour after landing in Raleigh, N.C., Jefferson Portillo sat in his hotel room and reflected on his path to the 2015 Boys High School Soccer All-American Game.
He thanked his Brentwood teammates and coaches. He spoke about his father and grandfather’s passion for soccer, and he shared the elation he felt when he received the congratulatory email about his selection.
“I was shocked,” Portillo said, “because not everyone gets to come down here.”
Just 40 players from across the country received invitations. Fordham Prep’s Alex Canicatti was the only other selection out of New York. Portillo, who will play for the East All-American Team, joins Jeffrey Medina in 2012 and Ever Torres (who could not attend) in 2014 as the only Brentwood players to earn a spot.
“I’m looking forward to playing good, opening up some eyes,” Portillo said.
The senior midfielder, who recently turned 17 years old, said he hopes to garner more interest from professional scouts this weekend. His goal is to play professionally after high school, but he will also entertain recruiting pitches from college coaches.
“Everything’s still on the table,” Brentwood coach Ron Eden said. “A lot of pro teams come down here, at least they have in the past, and they scout this game.”
Portillo already has had a few workouts with professional teams, including NYC FC. Before that particular workout, he ate breakfast at the same table as legendary players Andrea Pirlo and David Villa.
“It was amazing,” he said.
Though they did not share many words over food, Portillo took the field with Pirlo, Villa and other members of the team for training. Eden described Portillo as someone who “never brags or says anything about himself,” which made Portillo’s summation of the experience unique.
“I said, ‘How’d you do?’” Eden recalled, “and he said, ‘I can play with those guys.’ That’s the only time he ever said anything .”
For Portillo, in addition to the audition, the workouts served a similar purpose to Saturday’s All-American game: an opportunity to learn from elite competition.
“I know I’m playing with top players,” said Portillo, who had seven goals and 11 assists for Brentwood (18-2) this year. “I’m going to be playing with really good players. I like this. It’s always a good experience. I think I’m going to learn a lot from them.”