Not like you needed any reminders, but we're officially a month away from the start of 2013 MLS season.
That got us thinking: Obviously you're excited (Or nervous. Or worse.) to kick this party off, but what is that one thing you're looking forward to the most?
Rolling into the parking lot for that first tailgate?
Diego Valeri, if you're a Timbers fan?
The Chelís era?
Whatever it is, it's all good. There's no wrong answer, but we'd love for you to share. We'd make a list of our own, but it'd be pretty long.
A crossbar challenge of a different variety from our friends at Manchester City.
Something about this makes me giggle, but I can't put my finger on it. I think it has to do with James Milner's uber-casual kneedrop celebration at :57. Priceless.
Just a real solid effort from Allen Smith here. Really the only thing that's missing is Lionard Pajoy playing that bongo drum sitting idly in the background.
Bonus points for pulling off the training top-pajama pants combo. Way harder than it looks.
Fun little preseason video from the New Englanders. See a picture, say a word.
Gotta love young Kelyn Rowe's performance. Pretty much the same reaction to every image. Also worth noting Matt Reis' take on MLS Cup and Landon Donovan. Ouch.
Preseason is officially here. We're excited, fans are excited and so are the players and coaches, of course. On this fine Friday afternoon, we bring you some of our favorite tweets to begin the journey in 2013.
Please note: We value originality in these parts, so anything that included a "rise and grind" and/or "#hardworkdedication" were pretty much immediately disqualified.
We kick it off with Mike Petke, who didn't really have much to say yesterday but the following:
Sorry I have been quiet today but something came up!!!!!!! Thank u to everyone who reached out to me.
— Michael Petke (@petkemike) January 25, 2013
Our good friend Jay DeMerit admits to a little early soreness:
— Jay DeMerit (@D6MERIT) January 23, 2013
Top overall SuperDraft pick Andrew Farrell starts his journey. Good luck, big son:
— Andrew Farrell (@louisville05) January 20, 2013
This next one from PDX midfielder Eric Alexander really has nothing to do with preseason at all, but it's hilarious so we've included it anyway:
The mighty ducks go through some serious up and downs for a youth hockey team.
— Eric Alexander (@EzDoesIt17) January 23, 2013
And we conclude with a little multimedia from Tim Cahill, who didn't take this photo himself.
— Tim Cahill (@Tim_Cahill) January 23, 2013
Make no mistake, everyone at the Combine is happy to be here, but that doesn't mean getting out of the hotel for a while is the worst thing in the world.
This afternoon we rolled with Yannick Smith, Chris Thomas, Jonathan Mendoza and Luis Soffner to the Miami Seaquarium so the guys could "kick it" with a couple of the sea lions they had on hand.
The trip didn't disappoint, especially since it gave us a chance to get to know a few of these guys away from the field.
Key learning: Yannick Smith is one funny dude. Here he is just before we got started today:
After some introductions to the other humans in attendance, it was time for Yannick and Co. to meet Sarah, one of the sea lions we had the pleasure of spending time with on Monday. We know Yannick is a pretty smooth guy, but when it came time for a kiss, well...
Once the fun had finished up (and we determined that it was unlikely Salty was going to be drafted) Smith gave us his thoughts on the day, and some of the hard lessons he had to learn about the human-sea lion relationship. Just part of being a young professional, you know?
Two matchdays down, just one to go. Sunday's action was a bit more mellow, as you might expect, both on the field and on the sidelines. The players looked more comfortable, and so did the coaches. Frank Klopas was spending some quality time with Chelís again, nothing new. Here's what else happened on Matchday 2.
The game after the games
It was only a matter of time.
Following the conclusion of the second match of the day, two entirely new rosters took the pitch. No, not more college kids, we're talking about 20 or so League and club staff that were in attendance. This is what happens when you get a bunch of soccer people together and make them watch other people play in beautiful weather for four hours a day. They get antsy.
Who was on hand? Our own Greg Lalas and Jason Saghini, player personnel director Ali Curtis and Colorado head coach Oscar Pareja to name a few. In case you were wondering, the 44-year-old Pareja's still got it.
Goal of the day
Unlucky, Drew Beckie.
Beckie was one of the day's top defenders, but he also had the misfortune of being around when Jason Johnson decided to wake up. A couple silky stepovers later, and the ball was in the back of the net. Beckie joked afterward saying that he thought his jockstrap might still be on the field after Johnson's moves. Still, expect his name to be called on Thursday.
Right as the halftime whistle went during the first match on Sunday, Sounders FC assistant Brian Schmetzer had a question.
"Excuse me," Schmetzer asked. "Do you know the score of the Seahawks game?"
"They're down 20."
"What?! Hey! Ezra! The Seahawks are down 20. That's too bad, man."
Later on, as the seconds were winding down and Seattle getting ready to complete their comeback, we caught a glimpse of Adrian Hanauer passing by a TV that was showing the game.
Is he going to stop and watch? Is he?
Yep, he stopped. And as his team took the lead with seconds left to go in the game, Hanauer uttered just one word: "Incredible."
We all know what happened next, the Seahawks lost in heartbreaking fashion and the disappointment among the Sounders staff was very much visible. If nothing else, it was interesting to see these guys pulling for another team in their city. It doesn't work like that in all MLS markets.
That was Day 4 in a nutshell. Now we're off to see some sea lions. This should be good.
While the Combine kids were checking in, we had the chance to give them their first camera time of the trip.
The task at hand: Make us (and ultimately, you) laugh. Above you'll find some of the best, as well as worst, of their jokes. Enjoy.
***DISCLAIMER**** We may or may not have supplied Kofi Opare with his material. You know you love Mice Krispies.
On Thursday evening, the night before the start of the 2013 MLS Combine, pretty much every participant was relaxing in their room after a day of travel and an evening of physicals and paperwork.
That is, everyone but Ryan Clark. You could have looked high and low for the Monmouth University graduate, but you wouldn't have found him.
Turns out, Clark wasn't even at the hotel at all. He was out running. Where to? Not even he knew. The kid just runs.
"I just left the hotel, turned right and ran straight," Clark told us on Saturday, carrying a gallon of water around the hotel and fitted out in tights to help the recovery process from a tough first match in Fort Lauderdale.
You see, Clark is somewhat of an anomaly down here. Usually the college kids need to be taught about the importance of fitness, while Clark has already earned the "young professional" moniker from those who have had the chance to work with him. No detail is too small.
"After the game yesterday I had a recovery shake and everyone was asking me where I got it," Clark said on Saturday. "I was like 'I brought it.' That's just who I am."
There's little doubting Clark's off-field habits helped to get him here, but the interesting thing about his case as a potential draftee in Ft. Lauderdale, is that he shouldn't even be here at all.
On merit, you would expect that a player with Clark's resume would stand a decent shot at an invite to come mix it up with some of the nation's top players. The kid was a freshman All-American before suffering a self-diagnosed double sports hernia at the end of his first term at Monmouth. By the time he'd recovered completely, he was back to his best, dishing out six assists while playing all over the field in his senior year.
So when the college season ended and it become time to take the next step, Clark was hopeful that a Combine invite was on the way.
It didn't come.
"I was very upset when I found out, because I felt like I deserved to be here." Clark said, remembering the call he got from his coach Rob McCourt informing him that he was named as an alternate, just barely missing out on the original list of 54.
Still set on seeking out playing opportunities, Clark took to Seattle to participate in a Sounders FC group tryout before returning to home to New Jersey.
Then one day, just before Christmas, Clark's cell phone lit up.
"There was no one home, and the call was from some random number. I had no clue who it was."
Still, he answered.
"Ryan? This is Jan Osborne from MLS."
Clark didn't need to hear anymore. Through some kind of circumstance, whatever it was, he was in. Alternate no more.
"I hung up the phone and just started sprinting around the house." said Clark, beginning to crack a smile. "I was home alone, I wanted to tell someone but I couldn't so I just...ran around. I actually put on that Pitbull song Don't Stop the Party, I put that on, blasted it. I was pumped."
Fast forward a few weeks, and Clark found himself on Prime, led by Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley and some of the draft's top prospects. Trying to fit in (and hopefully shine) on a team with the likes of Eriq Zavaleta, Carlos Alvarez, Blake Smith and Kekuta Manneh can be a daunting task for many less-heralded talents, but Clark took it all in stride.
"I knew a lot of the names, I love playing with good players, I thought we were stacked."
Still, despite the firepower, Prime found themselves trailing adiPower 1-0 at halftime on Friday. Needing some more energy to help gain control of the match, Clark was asked to come on and help put the clamps on an adiPower all-everything midfield combo of John Stertzer and Mikey Lopez. Sure, why not?
"They were having their way with us," Clark recalled. "They told me just to press out, get in their face and run as much as possible to help free up [Alvarez]."
Clark did a little more than that. Midway through the half, the Freehold, N.J. native found himself on the ball and in space on the right. Perfect. Clark curled a left-footed shot toward the backpost that for a moment looked goal-bound before crashing off the bar and over the target (Watch it here). Still, if the goal was to put his mark on the game, that effort certainly got everyone's attention.
— Ryan Clark (@RyanClark610) January 12, 2013
It remains to be seen how Clark will fare over the next two matches, and ultimately whether or not he's selected next Thursday. Still, his Friday performance prompted Real Salt Lake to schedule an interview, with more clubs perhaps set to follow in the coming days.
As for what he's expecting from here on out? More of the same, which should be good enough.
"I know I'm not high on everyone's draft board because a lot of these teams dont really know me as well," Clark said. "I'm not on Fox Soccer Channel, I don't play in all these big games, but I know I have as much talent as anyone here."
The first set of matches at MLS Combine always gets a bad rap. The players are nervous, they don't know each other yet, it's sloppy soccer. Blah. Blah. Blah.
We don't know what changed this year, but eight goals in two games was enough to please us. Here's what went down at Central Broward on Friday:
New coaches get acquainted
Fresh off his appointment as man in change of Montreal Impact, we got our first look at Marco Schällibaum and his new staff, along with a couple others.
Schällibaum, Joey Saputo and the rest of their staff posted up in a "viewing room" with the guys from Sporting KC. If you know anything about Peter Vermes, you know there was zero chance of him just sitting there without poking the bear a little bit. We'll leave it at that.
Caleb Porter did his best Jason Kreis impression by sitting next to Jason Kreis (photo above) and not moving for the entire session. There was a whole lot of serious going on at that bench.
Chelís is here! As you might expect, he wasn't super social, preferring to stand off to the side of the bleachers or watch from the box up above. We saw Frank Klopas meander over to the Chivas USA boss at one point, but then again, Klopas was meandering over to everyone. He's up to something down here.
The MLS Combine: Where you're always reminded you aren't a pro...yet
Following adiPrime v. adiPure, we had the chance to speak to Luis Soffner, goalkeeper for the recently-crowned College Cup champion Indiana Hoosiers. Great kid who put in a good shift for Prime, but really got shafted in the apparel department. Make no mistake, the yellow goalkeeper shirt from adidas looked good. The only problem was that where you might find a team crest, there were just three simple words:
TEAM CREST HERE (see photo on the right)
Looks like Mr. Soffner has a template on his hands this week. Extra motivation, maybe, but it still made for a good laugh.
Dillon Powers is a bad man
Remember those interviews we told you about last night? Powers was included, but we didn't really have anything to say about it because the kid gave the most measured, business-like statements we've heard since Bob Bradley. His approach on the field today was no different.
Minutes into the second match on Friday, the gallery of coaches, trainers, agents and media let out their first collective "Oooooooohhhhhh!" of the weekend. Goal of the day, no doubt:
Tomorrow is an off day for the players before round two on Sunday. Now it's off to the coaches hotel for a while, we'll let you know what we hear.