Making the Crew: Columbus bound
I know where mine is, unlike a certain future teammate of mine on the Crew -- you won't see any stamps from Madrid or Santiago.
Needless to say, I was pretty surprised when I got a call a few weeks later (and about a week ago) during a day off and a familiar voice on the other end asked me if I still wanted to go try out for the Crew. And that is how my professional soccer career begins ...
Admittedly, it isn't quite the splash that Freddy Adu made at the 2004 MLS SuperDraft and there is slightly less coverage about it in the soccer press, but this is my moment. In less than a week I will board a plane for the great Midwest where I will sweat it out with, well, I have no idea who else. But I'll sweat it out with whoever else is there as we do our best to make an impression on the members of the Crew technical staff who aren't on the road with the team for their match against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
Next weekend's adventure will be my second trip to Columbus this season. I was at Crew Stadium for the 2005 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game in July. I wasn't on the field (or even on the bench) as the MLS All-Stars handed Fulham FC a 4-1 loss, but I was in the press box writing about the action. I have worked closely with several members of the Crew staff over the last few years during my involvement with the league, but the technical staff and coaches don't know me at all. When I lace up the boots on Saturday for action, I will be on the same playing field -- literally and figuratively -- as everyone else there. I will pay the $50 registration fee, which goes to the Crew's charitable arm, and I will do my best to make an impression.
It has been a long time since I've played real, competitive soccer, but I figure I'm in my prime. I turn 25 two days before the tryout, so I should be the perfect age to make a contribution on Bruce Arena's 2006 U.S. World Cup squad. Wait - maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here. But I do have a soccer past and while my soccer resume might not compare with many others, I suspect I'll be able to hold my own when I get to Obetz (the Crew's training center) next weekend. Hopefully my Urban Soccer League matchup on Monday night on the Lower East Side will be good preparation.
I grew up in the soccer hotbed of Shreveport, La. It's no Kearny, N.J., but we had a "Futbol Club" that gathered up the "best" players from the area to travel around to other southern cities and play in tournaments, most small, and some a little bigger. My teams were never that great. My older brother must have been a part of the Shreveport "Golden Generation", because The Sting won everything, but Santos, of which I like to consider myself the Pele, played much like Chivas USA this season. It really wasn't my fault though.
I was a member of the Louisiana state team in my teenage years, the captain of my high school team and I won a few honors my senior year. It was nothing spectacular, but the good ol' days were a lot of fun and rooted a passion in me for the game that has never subsided. I've always been more of an attacking player, but versatility was also a strong suit. I'm comfortable in any spot in the midfield or up front. I'm not a big guy, so I like having the ball at my feet. Like any good attacker, I love scoring goals so hopefully I can wind up and let a few fly. Thanks to my quickness and passing ability, I'd make a good partner for a taller target forward like John Wolyniec. Watch out Edson Buddle: I'm gunning for your spot.
I have worked in soccer since graduating from college and I love my job. But I must admit that I'm pretty excited to get to Columbus, dust off my old Copa Mundials (notice the adidas reference) and throw myself into a few tackles, maybe score a few goals. I bought a round-trip ticket, but who knows, maybe I will have to save the return leg for a visit to see my old friends during the offseason.
Then again, I may just need to save the money until I secure a senior roster contract.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. Although, that could change after this weekend. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.