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?
As befitting a centenary year, the US Soccer Federation has released a special crest commemorating the landmark occasion for American soccer.
It's not a radical departure from the norm – a sash reading "1913 ~ CENTENNIAL ~ 2013" has been placed under the normal crest – but it catches the eye without much change to a recognizable logo.
Of course, a commemorative crest isn't the only thing the USSF has planned to honor the federation's centenary. Though the USSF has yet to confirm them, there are strong rumors floating around that the US men's national team will face off against Germany in May, a match that would pit US manager Jurgen Klinsmann against his former team and former assistant Joachim Löw.
And while that is all well and good, there is still one overarching present that would make the USSF's centenary a truly celebratory occasion: qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which would be the USMNT's seventh consecutive appearance.
What do you think of the crest? Too much? Not flashy enough? Feel free to share your thoughts and any others about US Soccer's centenary in the comments section below.
Le marché des transferts entre la MLS et l’étranger a été très actif depuis le retour de vacances, que cela concerne des arrivées définitives, des prêts, des départs, des rumeurs ou des joueurs désignés.
Ainsi, deux nouveaux joueurs désignés sont arrivés sous forme de prêt. Portland pense avoir trouvé son maître à jouer en Diego Valeri, en photo ci-dessus sous le maillot de son ancien club, Lanús (Argentine). De son côté, DC United a été chercher à Bahia (Brésil) l’attaquant Rafael, deuxième plus jeune joueur désigné de l’histoire de la MLS. Autre prêt, celui à Montréal du milieu italien Andrea Pisanu par Bologne.
Alors qu’il a laissé partir Kevin Hartman, Dallas lui a trouvé un remplaçant en la personne de Raúl Fernández, gardien de l’équipe nationale du Pérou acquis à titre définitif aux Français de Nice. Autre international qui fera ses débuts en MLS, le défenseur équatorien Diego Calderón quitte le LDU Quito pour Colorado. De son côté, Vancouver a ramené sur le continent le géant américain Brad Rusin, qui avait tenté sa chance au Danemark. Le principal transfert interne du début d’année est le passage de l’Estonien Joel Lindpere de New York à Chicago. Notons aussi que Tyson Wahl, laissé libre par Colorado, a signé à Columbus.
Le départ qui a surpris bien du monde est celui d’André Hainault, qui quitte Houston pour rejoindre Ross County, mal classé en D1 écossaise. Le fait que Roger Espinoza rejoigne aussi les îles britanniques, et plus précisément Wigan, était en revanche attendu depuis longtemps. Son coéquipier Graham Zusi s’entraîne pour sa part à West Ham. Andy Najar (DC United) a réussi son entrée en matière à Anderlecht (Belgique), où il est prêté pour un mois. Fredy Montero a déjà dit au revoir à ses coéquipiers, même si son départ de Seattle n’est pas encore officiel. On l’annonce à Millonarios, en Colombie, pays où pourrait aussi aboutir Carlos Valdés (Philadelphie).
Stuart Holden is back.
The hard-luck US national teamer is expected to be on the gameday roster when Bolton take on Sunderland on Tuesday, giving the former Houston Dynamo midfielder his first chance to suit up in an official first-team game since he appeared in an FA Cup match in September 2011.
He underwent what was expected to be a routine follow-up procedure on his right knee following that match, but the examination revealed more serious cartilage damage than was expected. He's been rehabilitating ever since, and earlier this month began appearing in games with the Bolton reserves.
Freedman: "Stu Holden and Josh Vela are both in the squad for tomorrow's game at Sunderland." #BWFC
— Official BWFC (@OfficialBWFC) January 14, 2013
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 worst-kept secret in the days leading up to the MLS SuperDraft next Thursday is what Chivas USA want to do with that second overall pick.
And if there was any ambiguity as to what new head coach "El Chelis" Sola will do with his first-ever shot at the draft, he pretty much put that to rest on his Twitter account on Friday from the first day of the MLS Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
It looks like he's doing a couple of things with this one. He's clearly tipping his hand about his intentions to snag North Carolina midfielder Mikey Lopez or Connecticut's Carlos Alvarez, two talented prospects and the best Mexican-American players in the draft. Alvarez, in fact, fits the bill nicely with an East LA background and a father who once played for Chivas Guadalajara.
But is he also hinting that one day these guys might play for the Goats' Mexican brother down in Guadalajara? It certainly sounds like it (we'll assume Maeve is a misspell or translation snafu for "maybe'), which means Chelis might have visions of turning his players into Mexican leaue prospects for the future. It's about to get real, real interesting at Chivas USA.
@cdchivasusa all the young is very good, but chivas need Mexico-American young players, because in a future Maeve play in Mexico.
— José Luis Sanchez (@Elchelis) January 12, 2013
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.
Ce jeudi 17 janvier aura lieu le SuperDraft de la MLS, grande séance de recrutement annuelle permettant aux clubs d’embaucher des talents en herbe, pour la plupart issus des universités américaines. Vous avez envie de suivre l’événement en direct ? Ça tombe bien, il sera retransmis dans le monde entier !
Alors que le premier choix sera diffusé en direct à l’émission ESPN SportsCenter, la séance sera retransmise dans son intégralité sur ESPN3, ESPNFC, MLSsoccer.com, les sites des clubs de MLS et YouTube, le tout en haute définition et commenté par Alexi Lalas et Taylor Twellman.
« Nous prenons une voie plus progressiste et centrée sur les supporters pour notre façon de diffuser et de produire le SuperDraft 2013 de la MLS, a déclaré Howard Handler, directeur commercial de la MLS. Nous avons une base de supporters jeune, diversifiée et friande de nouvelles technologies, qui regardera l’évènement de la maison, du bureau, du café ou de n’importe où ailleurs. Le soccer est un sport planétaire et cette nouvelle initiative nous permet également de continuer à nous adresser aux passionnés de la MLS à travers le monde. »
Votre club favori va peut-être profiter de l’occasion pour recruter le prochain Nick DeLeon, Austin Berry, CJ Sapong ou Darlington Nagbe. Les recrues potentielles sont actuellement réunies en Floride pour l’Évaluation annuelle des espoirs de la MLS et se produisent devant les prospecteurs et entraîneurs des 19 clubs. Ces derniers connaissent les joueurs à surveiller, car ils les suivent depuis plusieurs mois. Si vous souhaitez les découvrir, lisez ce qu’en disent les experts de MLSsoccer.com qui ont fait leurs prévisions de recrutement.