Julian Donaldson has watched the Colorado Real Foxes grow from scratch.
The Foxes are a Premier Development League soccer team based in Highlands Ranch and play their games at Shea Stadium.
Donaldson was on the first Foxes PDL team and he is a veteran on this year's squad.
“I've been part of this for five years,” said the 26-year-old Donaldson, who is the son of Colorado Real Director of Coaching and Foxes assistant coach Lorne Donaldson. “We started in 2008. From Day 1 when we started, we had maybe 15 people at the games to now we have a few hundred. I remember when the Facebook page started there were probably 50 likes and now it's at 700 likes.
“The guys have done a good job or representing the Foxes in the community with the kids, with the club working around Highlands Ranch to make it better.”
The Premier Development League is the pro development league of the United Soccer Leagues in the United States, Canada and Bermuda. It is the top amateur league in the U.S. and has 62 teams in four conferences split into nine regional divisions.
A majority of PDL participants do not receive payment and many college players compete while maintaining their college eligibility with the hope to enhance their skills which could lead to possible professional careers.
There is a new program called PDL-Pro where teams can choose to employ players but who still must meet age eligibility criteria. This does not violate NCAA rules that state college players can't play with professionals but may play against them. PDL-Pro teams cannot have any active NCAA players on their rosters but may have NAIA and community college players.
PDL teams often have standout high school and junior club players.
Rules in the PDL state that a maximum of eight players on each team's roster of 26 can be over 23-years-old while at least three players must be 18 or younger.
The Foxes are in the Heartland Division of the Central Conference and are 3-0-1 with road games scheduled for June 20 against the Kansas City Brass and June 22 against the St. Louis Lions. The RCFoxes will play a 14-match regular season.
“So far I'm pleased with the team,” said coach Stoner Tadlock, a former Cherry Creek High School and University of Denver player. “We've got guys as young as 17 and as old as 29. There's always a lot of work to be done but we just have a good mix and that's nice. I don't think that many people know about us. This is part of the Real Colorado Club. This is the extension of the boys youth program. We have a pretty good product. We're growing, we're building.”
One of the Foxes exciting young players is Oliver Gore who comes from Stafford, England and Rocky Mountain College.
Gore has seven goals and 15 points in four games and was tabbed the PDL's Player of the Week after he scored four goals June 1 in the Foxes' 4-3 win over St. Louis.
“It's been a good start in general for the team,” said Gore. “Even though I've scored quite a few goals, it's not an individual thing. Everyone else has made it easy for me to put the ball in the net. For me coming from a small school in Montana, this is another level. We have support at home games and going to away games, the support is there. It's a step up from what I'm used to in college.
“I'd like to keep going, I just take it one step at a time. A couple years ago I was back in England working full-time in a warehouse. I came over here and decided to play in college. The next step was to play for a team like the Foxes and see how far it takes me.”
Donaldson, slowed this season with knee problems, is second all-time on the Foxes points and goals list.
“I'm a veteran and it's nice to see a lot of new faces, a lot of fresh college blood and all that good stuff,” said Donaldson. “For me I don't expect anything soccer wise. For the young guys, I hope we can push them to the next level. It's really about the young guys who are 21 or 22 years old. Those are the guys that really have a chance of making the next level. We have some friends that are playing at the professional level and it's nice to see that.”
One former Foxes player who has advanced is Taylor Kemp. He played for Mountain Vista High School and the University of Maryland. He is with DC United of Major League Soccer.