Teenage soccer star Julian Araujo is among the first to lend a helping hand, having been voted as the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Humanitarian of the Year after teaming with his mother to feed farmworkers near his hometown of Lompoc.
And now he’s lending a helping foot to American soccer.
Araujo, a recent addition to the National Senior Team, assisted the United States’ fourth goal in a 6-0 victory over El Salvador on Wednesday in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. He considered it an early Christmas present for his parents, Jorge and Lupe, who immigrated to America before he was born.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to play at the international level, and for them just to see me play with the U.S. would be something for me to check off on my dreams,” he said. “I always want to just try to make them proud and happy and give them back what they deserve, because throughout my whole life and my career they’ve given me everything to get to this point.”
Earning a national team cap is the latest achievement in Araujo’s meteoric rise in soccer. It began with the U13-U14 teams of the Santa Barbara Soccer Club and continued at Lompoc High School, where he also kicked for the Braves’ Los Padres League championship football team.
As a sophomore in the fall of 2016, he booted 59 extra points and five field goals including a 49-yarder during a 12-1 football season which didn’t end until the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 semifinals.
He headed for Arizona the following year to play for Barcelona’s Barça Residency Academy while also drawing an invitation from the national program to play for its U16 team. He returned to Southern California a year later, however, to join the Galaxy’s academy team.
Araujo, who turned 19 in August, was planning to play for UCSB in the fall of 2019. The Galaxy circumvented that, however, by signing him to a pro contract that spring while promoting him to its Major League Soccer roster. He’s made 35 appearances in two seasons with the club, starting all 17 of this year’s matches while scoring a goal and assisting three others.
“I’ve seen him progress so much,” Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget said. “A lot has been asked of him… he’s really stepped up. His energy is incredible, his pace, his hunger. It’s contagious for all of us, having a guy that young being fearless.”
Araujo credited the team’s veterans for bringing him along.
“Last season, I think I was a lot more shy, more calm and not really the way I am now,” he said. “Having the teammates that we have around me definitely gave me a confidence boost, on and off the field.
“I’ve felt like I’ve grown and matured as an adult now and I feel like I will continue to learn from them and take a lot more from them.”
He’s already assumed a leadership role in the Lompoc community, helping to feed farmworkers last June. In each meal, he included a note which said, “When the sun rises, you go to work. When the sun goes down, you continue working. Thank you for working with your hands, your mind and your heart.”
Araujo said he wanted to use his “platform to bring attention to the grueling conditions and low pay that our field workers are experiencing every day.”
“A bunch of my family has worked in the fields, coming from Mexico at a very young age, their first jobs were working in the fields,” he said. “They wake up early to go to work, they get home late.
“It is something that hit my heart and something that I felt I could use my platform and hopefully help them out and let them know that they’re not going unrecognized.”
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter summoned Araujo to the senior team’s training camp last month with an eye to what will be a busy 2021 season. The young defender is also a strong candidate for the Under-23 Olympic Team.
“Julian’s an example of a guy that you want on your team,” he said. “He’s a guy that goes out and puts everything on the line every time he’s playing, and that’s what we like about him.
“We see him as a fullback, and we want our fullbacks attacking, we want them to be aggressive. So I think he fits right into what we do.”
Araujo’s assist on Wednesday came during the 25th minute. He settled the ball just beyond the corner of the box before looping a cross to the far post. Chris Mueller finished it with a perfectly timed, diving header.
Although he was born and raised in Lompoc, Araujo is also eligible to play for his parents’ native country. Mexico head coach Tata Martino confirmed that he has contacted him about joining his team. Araujo, however, prefers to focus on just the task at hand.
“Obviously it’s a tough decision, and it’s something that is really hard for me, but I don’t think about it too much right now,” he said. “I just want to grow as a player and continue to get better each and every day.”