BELL GARDENS, Calif. -- Whittling some 500 players, perhaps more, down to 25 is a difficult enough task on its own, but those who were to determine which select few would advance to the final day of Sueño MLS presented by Allstate in Los Angeles were finding largely subtle difference among the contenders.
Southern California has the richest pool of talent in the country, so discerning the terrifics from a huge pool of really goods offered a challenge Saturday at the Bell Gardens Sports Complex.
Some 900 players came out to show off their skills -- about 500 of them anxious to make it off the waiting list for their chance -- and organizers were trying to fit as many as they could into a 10-hour series of 40-minute matches.
Some 22 field players and three goalkeepers will be back Sunday morning (see final list below), and five field players and a goalkeeper will advance to the May 13-18 national finals at StubHub Center -- joining winners from last weekend's event in Denver and next week's in New York -- to compete for an invitation to join an MLS academy.
“We've seen some very good players,” said Wes Meadow, the Galaxy's supervisor of camps and clinics/fan development, who was in charge of the scouts. “We've seen a ton of good players. Makes it difficult when you have to pick 25 and five alternates.”
The names of those who advance after Sunday morning's final game will be revealed on Univision's Republica Deportiva, which also will announce the national winners in three weeks.
It's a tough assignment for the players, all 14 to 17. How does one stand out among so many good players?
“You don't have to do crazy stuff to get noticed,” said Paul Soufl, one of the coaches from the Galaxy's camps and clinics department. “We try to keep them at ease, but we've all been in this position, where the odds are just crazy. Maybe they don't understand the magnitude of those odds, but we do. The odds are not in your favor, and that pressure gets to a lot of the kids.”
Luis Garcia, 16, from Castaic, Calif., one of many midfield standouts Saturday, knows from experience. He participated last year, in the Galaxy's tryouts, and “it didn't go too well.”
“I was nervous, didn't play my way,” he said. “But I took it positive. I didn't put my head down. I said if I want to do well, I've got to work harder, and that's what I did.”
Jorge Rizo, 15, from El Monte, Calif., was among the top goalkeepers Saturday. He, too, was unhappy with his play in last year's tryouts, said that nerves prevented him from “playing how I play.” A year later, with an understanding of the process, he “was happy with pretty much everything. I think I did pretty well today.”
Soufl, who played professionally in Germany, Finland and in L.A. before MLS, said there were “at least a couple in every game that we've seen decent stuff out of,” but many players will do something brilliant one moment and then make a mental mistake the next. The final factor in determining who moves on is whether the coaches believe a player is good enough for the Galaxy Academy.
“We really have to look very close at these players to see who has the added element, the player that has the vision, that's going to make the killer pass, that's going to make the team better as a whole,” said Andrew Reveles, one of the coaches. “We have noticed there hasn't been that many players shining [above the competition]. But I think that shows the level is getting higher. It makes our job more difficult, but, in turn, the game's going to get better because of it.”
Said Soufl: “We go back and forth: He's got this, he's got that, these are his shortcomings, these are his strong points. At the end of the day, it's could he get a spot on the Academy team at his age.”
Some can. Some aren't ready.
“Every once in a while, I see really good things [in the minigames],” Soufl said, “and I want to run out there and say, 'Look, you're not going to be brought back tomorrow, but I really liked a couple things you did, and if you keep working, you will be a good player. Don't let our decision [here] affect your future. Don't let me take that dream away from you. Keep working.' ”
Invitees to Day 2, Los Angeles
|No.||Pos.||First Name||Last Name||Age||DOB||Hometown|
|1||GK||Jorge||Rizo||15||1999-03-24||South El Monte, Calif.|
|2||GK||Alexis||Villanueva||17||1997-04-08||Santa Ana, Calif.|
|3||GK||Logan||Capiak||17||1997-04-23||San Bernardino, Calif.|
|4||D||Jessie||Echeverria Gramajo||16||1997-09-04||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|6||D||Johnny||Chavarria||16||1997-08-29||Las Vegas, Nev.|
|7||D||Alexis||Hernandez||17||1997-01-31||Bell Gardens, Calif.|
|9||F/M||Luis||Garcia Sosa||16||1998-01-11||Castaic, Calif.|
|10||F/M||Fabrice||Zugarazo||15||1998-06-16||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|12||F/M||Kevin||Rodriguez||17||1997-03-06||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|15||F/M||Anthony||Jimenez||14||1999-06-07||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|17||F/M||Andrew||Macias||15||1998-09-16||Cathedral City, Calif.|
|18||F/M||Jairo||Tomas||17||1997-02-19||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|20||F/M||Michael||Alvayero||17||1997-03-01||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|21||F/M||Diego||Esquivel Ramirez||16||1998-04-24||Wildomar, Calif.|
|22||F/M||Christopher||Estrada||17||1997-03-10||South Gate, Calif.|
|24||F/M||Jose Luis||Rodas||14||1999-07-28||Los Angeles, Calif.|
|25||F/M||Nestor||Vera||15||1998-07-03||Los Angeles, Calif.|