Glorious site: Hoosiers return to L.A.
Drew Moor, Jay Nolly and Danny O'Rourke carry warm memories of The Home Depot Center. Their last visit finished with a wild celebration, following Indiana University's triumph last month in the NCAA Division I championship game.
"Oh yeah," said Nolly, one of seven goalkeepers at the 2005 adidas MLS Player Combine, when asked about the USA's finest soccer facility. "Coming out with a win, it's always nice to come back, and especially for a cause like this."
The Hoosiers claimed their seventh NCAA crown -- and their second in a row -- with a Dec. 12 victory on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw with upstart University of California Santa Barbara. They were the first team to repeat since Indiana won championships in 1998 and 1999.
"(Back-to-back titles) is something you dream of when you're little," Nolly said. "You're not sure if it'll ever happen. To get the opportunity to do it, and then it actually come true, is amazing."
Now Nolly, Moor and O'Rourke are back, this time to impress MLS coaching staffs and general managers in advance of Friday's MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore.
All three arrive with strong buzz. Nolly, from Littleton, Colo., is among the nation's best collegiate goalkeepers; his two saves during the shootout were pivotal in the Hoosiers' victory over UCSB. O'Rourke, a holding midfielder from Columbus, Ohio, last week was awarded the MAC Hermann Trophy as college soccer's top player. Moor, a defender from Dallas, is among eight underclassmen available in the draft.
Moor and Nolly have played for U.S. national youth teams, and Nolly was involved with three U.S. camps when he was 16. All three have sizable goals this week.
Asked what he hopes his play in three Combine doubleheaders would say to MLS coaches, O'Rourke replied: "Just that I'm not going to change. I've been doing the same thing all along. I'm not going to come out here and try to show off. I think more important, I'm with a team, and every time I'm with a team, I like to win. If we can get three wins this weekend, I think that would show."
O'Rourke was the pivotal player for Indiana, a tough ballwinner and team leader who captained the Hoosiers' back-to-back title teams. He assisted on the overtime winner in a 3-2 victory over Maryland in the NCAA semifinals at HDC and anchored a defense that shut out 11 foes.
"It's awesome (that Danny won the Hermann)," Nolly said. "He deserved it. He's worked his butt off for four years, and it's awesome (the award) came back to Indiana."
Said O'Rourke: "Winning the national title was icing on the cake. (The Hermann) was the cherry on top."
O'Rourke is the sixth Hoosier to win college soccer's top prize, the first since 1994, when the MAC and Hermann awards were separate and Indiana stars Brian Maisonneuve and Todd Yeagley split the honors.
O'Rourke would love to follow Maisonneuve and Yeagley to Columbus, where both played after their college careers.
"I'm a big-time Crew fan," O'Rourke said. "Obviously, I would love to go play back home. I don't know if that's going to work out or not, but I would love it. I've been a fan since '96. I go to all the games when I'm home."
Moor transferred to Indiana from Furman University following his freshman season, partly in response to the death in an auto accident of teammate Gray Griffin, a heralded defender.
"That was definitely part of it," said Moor, who also was concerned Furman would not be able to compete nationally after losing several top players. "Gray was awesome. We became very close. ... Some of my friends at Furman have asked me to come back, and I haven't visited since then. I think I'd get that sick feeling in my stomach if I went back. It would be tough to go back."
Moor, one of the nation's top college defenders, says he's "been hearing I might stay in Dallas. That would probably be my No. 1 choice. I really don't have a No. 2 choice or anything. Whoever wants me, you know, then I want to play there."
Nolly is weighing MLS against opportunities that might develop overseas. He's looking into possibilities in Belgium, Spain and Italy.
"I'm trying to see every option I can get," he said. "We'll have to see how things go the next month or so, how everything pans out. I just want to play. Hopefully, I'll get a good opportunity, and we'll see what happens."
O'Rourke, too, has options in Europe, but he's not interested.
"There's a couple opportunities to go and try out, but I like MLS," he said. "I've always liked it. Growing up in Columbus with the Crew, I just love what American soccer is doing, so I don't see why I would have to go over there when I could get just as good soccer here in the States."
Scott French, a veteran soccer journalist working for the Los Angeles Daily News, is covering the 2005 adidas MLS Player Combine for MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.