End of the beginning for 'Johnny X'
Sixteen-year-old Johnny Exantus (aka "Johnny X") did something that many older and more experienced players were unable to do at first team tryouts: he made it to the end.
Although that in itself would be considered a victory for the MetroStars Academy star, Exantus even took it a step further and impressed MetroStars head coach Mo Johnston at the tryouts.
"So far, Johnny X has shown a bit more than most," Johnston said. "He's one for the future. He's one that you look at and spend some time on. He's a threat. He has good pace. He's got an eye for the goal."
Unlike the previous training sessions in the Giants Stadium Bubble, Friday's practice was played on the main field at Giants Stadium. Players not only had to get used to playing a full field scrimmage, but the below-freezing temperatures as well.
Exantus felt good about his performance.
"I'm just as confident as I was at the beginning of the tryouts, but I'm looking forward to the next level," said the Haitian-born striker. "I feel I'm ready. My goal is to join the Metros and bring them to better success."
However, Exantus still has to get adjusted to the intensity of practices with the first team.
"The only problem was I was a little banged up from the previous practices, so I wasn't able to do what I wanted to today," he said. "But I feel good; I'm excited."
While at the tryout, Johnny X made sure to represent the MetroStars Academy to the best of his abilities.
"It's a good team - it's one of the strongest teams in the country. There's more talent on the Academy (team) that could possibly make the (first) team. My goal is to represent the Academy so people know there is more talent at the Academy."
Johnston was optimistic on the future of the Academy.
"I'm excited about the Academy. It's good that we can hand pick certain players and bring them into our system to hopefully make them better," he said. "They've done a great job in developing players and hopefully this is a stepping stone in terms of getting other younger players in the Metro area."
He added, "When we started this academy, it wasn't just to make kids in the area better; it's to secure the future of the MetroStars."
However, some issues surrounding the MetroStars ability to sign Johnny X have surfaced recently. It has been reported that Johnny's age prevents him from being signed to anything but a Generation adidas contract. But if he were to sign a Generation adidas contract, then any of the 12 MLS teams would be able to acquire him.
"For the past few years, the MetroStars have spent considerable time, resources and money on our youth development programs," said MetroStars president and general manager Alexi Lalas. "Johnny X is already a member of the MetroStars family and we think he has the ability to make the jump to our senior team. It would be a crime for another MLS club to reap the benefits of our investment."