Justen Glad, center, helped Catalina Foothills to the 2012 state semifinals as a freshman, but that was only the beginning. Since then he has played for the United States in U17 World Cup qualifying and is now attending Real Salt Lake Arizona Academy, a training program in Casa Grande. The future? He'd like to play college soccer, then see about a pro career.


Forget about the frying pan. Justen Glad jumped directly into the fire.

Less than two months after turning 16 and a little more than a year after his freshman season at Catalina Foothills High School, Glad found himself taking the field in Panama City for his debut with a national team. All that was on the line was a berth in the Under-17 World Cup.

"I was nervous, really nervous," Glad said Friday while watching a scrimmage at Kino Sports Complex. "I had so much adrenaline. I was ready to play, but it was a lot hotter than I expected. It was really humid."

The United States entered its CONCACAF Under-17 Championship quarterfinal with a chance to reach a 16th straight Under-17 World Cup. The April 14 match was tied at 1 when Glad came on as a second-half substitute. Honduras scored 12 minutes into the second half. Eleven minutes later, it was 3-1 in favor of Los Catrachos. Eleven more minutes on, Glad was shown a yellow card.

The roughest of starts ended with a 3-1 loss and no berth in the U17 World Cup.

It could be a break-your-spirit type of moment. But not for Glad.

"Unfortunately we lost, but it was a great experience," Glad said.

Just one of many great experiences for Glad, who continues to climb the soccer ladder while splitting time between the U.S. national U17 team - he's made four appearances at that level - and the Real Salt Lake Arizona Academy, a residency program in Casa Grande.

On Saturday, he played at right back as RSL's reserves drew 0-0 with host Phoenix FC.

"It's been a real crazy experience," Glad said of his recent ascent in the game. "It was kinda out of the blue, but it's been real fun.

"If you had asked me before I went to RSL if I would ever play for the national team, I would have thought it was ridiculous."

His next stop with the national team will be Japan in July. The 6-foot, 140-pound defender said the U.S. will play three matches, including one against Japan's national team, during the trip.

Until then, he'll be training in Casa Grande and living in the Francisco Grande Hotel.

He spends Monday through Friday at the resort, honing his skills at Grande Sports World and going to high school at Casa Grande Vista Grande, and enjoys the weekends in Tucson with his family and friends.

"It's really beneficial," Glad said of the academy. " ... You're getting better every day. There's a lot more potential to be recognized. The environment is really good for training and getting better."

Even though he's moved on, he still misses his days when he helped Catalina Foothills to the state semifinals.

"It's hard just because my freshman year at Foothills was debatably the most fun soccer I've ever played," Glad said. "I loved it, but it's worth not playing high school soccer to go on to bigger things. But I definitely miss it."

Bigger things could include playing at the college level.

He's looking at becoming the third member of the family to join a college program. His sister, Jenna, played at Colorado and his brother, Eric, is playing at Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, Texas.

"I'm trying to go to college first and then after college, hopefully a pro contract will come my way," Glad said.