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Prep soccer: Carson star Myers has traveled long road

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

CHINA GROVE — Carson soccer standout Khalid Myers signed with Pfeiffer on Friday, marking the end of one almost indescribable journey as well as the start of a new one filled with unlimited promise.

Khalid handled the hand-shaking and photo-taking stoically, as if he were calmly lining up a penalty kick, but for Tony and Tonda Myers, who adopted Khalid from an Ethiopian orphanage when he was 9, it was an emotional morning.

“This is a kid who lived on the streets for part of his life before he was in an orphanage,” Tony said. “Now he’s signing to play college soccer, and his future is all up to him. He can be anything he wants to be.”

When the Myers family made a decision to pursue an international adoption, their intent was to open their home and hearts to a Liberian youngster. Liberians speak English, promising a relatively smooth transition to life in the United States. But there were more adoption candidates in the large African country of Ethiopia, where the native tongue is Ahmaric.

Half of the 90 million residents of Ethiopia are children. About 10 percent of those children have been orphaned by a combination of diseases (ranging from malaria to AIDS), violence and poverty.

Tony explained that tragic circumstances orphaned Khalid, who had a normal life in his early years. His parents owned a store and were doing pretty well. Then Khalid lost his mother to disease. When his father remarried and began a new family, there were too many mouths to feed.

Khalid was a child of the streets for a time, fending for daily survival. Then he was taken in by one of the numerous orphanages in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa.

“The adoption process was long,” Tony said. “About six months into the process of adopting Khalid, we discovered he had a sister (Hayat), so we wanted to adopt her too. It all took about a year and a half.”

The plane flight from Ethiopia to the U.S. covered 7,500 miles and lasted 15 hours. Khalid remembers it as if it occurred last week.

“I remember that I never went to sleep, not for a second,” Khalid said. “I wanted to remember it all.”

While Khalid and Hayat spoke Ahmaric, the language barrier didn’t last long.

“They were bright kids and they learned English  by watching a lot of cartoons,” Tony said. “We lived in Rockwell then and we put them in Grace Academy. Khalid started out in a kindergarten class. Then he moved up to second grade, then to fourth grade, and then he caught up with his age group.”

Khalid was thin, but there was athletic ability present. As slight as he was, he had hands as big as Tony’s, and he had serious speed. Tony had excelled in football and baseball at North Rowan High in the early 1980s and also had played varsity basketball. Initially, he had dreams of Khalid becoming a pitcher, quarterback or point guard, but he kept all the options open. He got Khalid to a tryout for a soccer program.

“I knew nothing about soccer then, didn’t know the rules, had no clue why people were yelling at the refs or why they had blown a whistle,” Tony said. “But Khalid had played a little soccer. He’d kicked a ball around in the orphanage, inside cinder block walls, because it wasn’t safe for the kids to play in the fields.”

Khalid’s introduction to soccer in America came with a stellar youth travel team coached by Frank Cardelle and Steve Fisher. Khalid’s teammates included Max Fisher, Brandon  Flores, Landon Goodman, Cristian Uribe and Ricky Maldonado, all of whom would make an impact on Rowan high school soccer.

“No one could beat them,” Tony said. “And playing on that team catapulted Khalid.”

Khalid played jayvee basketball at Carson, but he knew  it wasn’t his thing. He quit basketball to focus all his energy on the soccer pitch.

Khalid played on terrific Carson teams his first three seasons, with the Cougars going 57-10-1 overall in that span and 44-5-1 in the South Piedmont Conference. Carson won three straight league championships.

As a fearless freshman on a loaded varsity soccer team in the fall of 2013, Myers scored eight goals.

South Rowan coach Kyle Neal was a Carson assistant then.

“I remember the first time I saw Khalid he was skin and bones and about a foot taller than everyone else,” Neal said with a laugh. “Then he was a freshman on a team with really great scorers. In our second game, we’re in a tough match at South Iredell, and he’s asking to go first on penalty kicks. That’s how much confidence he had.”

As a sophomore, Khalid kept improving. There was a hat trick  against East Rowan. He scored the ice-breaking goal in a tough battle with Central Cabarrus.

As a junior, he was All-Rowan County and All-South Piedmont Conference and made the All-Region team chosen by the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association.

A much younger Carson team struggled Khalid’s senior year.  Carson finished seventh in the SPC with a 5-12-1 record. In a 7-3 win against East Rowan, Myers had four goals and three assists. He did his best to lead by example.

“I don’t get tired, and I just try to be a team player every game,” Khalid said. “The goal I remember most from this season was scoring (with four minutes left) to beat South Rowan, 1-0.”

He accounted for 19 goals and eight assists last fall despite being the focus of every opponent’s defense.

“Khalid would not  quit, regardless of the score or anything, and in turn, he expected that of everyone else,” Carson coach Ken Correll said. “He was always a threat, regardless of the opponent, and was capable of turning the momentum and putting one in the back of the net at any moment. His work rate made him deadly. He never, ever stopped, more so than any year I’ve seen him.”

As a senior, Myers repeated on all-region, all-conference and all-county squads. The choice for Rowan County Player of the Year was  South Rowan goalkeeper Cameron Corriher, but Myers was a close second.

“Khalid always was a pleasure to coach,” Correll said. “His attitude during games and practice was excellent.  He worked hard, but he  had fun in his quiet kind of way.  He’s meant a lot to Carson and to the growth of soccer at his school and in the county.”

There was significant recruiting interest in Khalid, who had the speed for Division I soccer but not the size.

Lander, a Division II school in Greenwood, S.C., was interested.

USC Aiken, another strong D-II program, was excited about Khalid because the soccer program is led by coaches from Africa. USC Aiken head coach Ike Ofoje played on Nigerian national teams.

But Pfeiffer, a national champion as recently as 2015 and a 19-3 squad last fall, offered the most attractive financial package.  Khalid made things official with the nearby Falcons on Friday.

“I already know some of the guys there and I really like their recent history,” Khalid said. “I’m fortunate to get this opportunity. I’m grateful to all the people who made it possible.”

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