LAUDERHILL, Fla. -- Saturday was an off-day in between doubleheaders at the 2014 adidas MLS Player Combine and MLSsoccer.com took advantage of the downtime to chat with a group of the participants. A series of curious anecdotes emerged from the sit-downs:
Generation adidas signing and arguably the top right back in the SuperDraft, Creighton's Eric Miller, revealed that he probably wouldn't be on the verge of a pro career had it not been for the fact that his tee ball coach never called his house to follow up about joining the team. So he took up soccer instead.
"I'd like to call him and thank him," Miller said. "That'd be nice."
Brazilian prospect Pedro Ribeiro of Coastal Carolina is a diehard Atlético Mineiro fan. So much so that when he found himself playing for their bitter rivals Cruzeiro during a six-month spell as a teenager, he made sure to put on his Atlético Mineiro jersey underneath the Cruzeiro blue "so it wouldn't touch my skin."
Speaking of big teams, midfielder J.J. Koval can claim he played against Gareth Barry, Shaun Wright-Phillips and the rest of Manchester City during a recent US tour. The Stanford man was defending the colors of PDL side Ventura County Fusion and the losing score line was a mere 0-2, although Koval claims Man City "had 98 percent possession."
Too bad he didn't get a chance at a jersey exchange: "I wasn't allowed to switch jerseys. We only had one jersey and I wasn't about to pay for a new one."
Have you ever been on a family outing … to a concert? Georgetown midfield maestro Steve Neumann says that the Dave Matthews Band is his family's favorite.
"We've been to a number of concerts," he said.
What Jamaican doesn't like himself some Bob Marley music? He's so big there that he just goes by "Bob." At least to UConn goalkeeper Andre Blake, who threw down some reggae knowledge: "I like Bob for sure," he said in reference to Marley. "I like Jimmy Cliff — you guys may not know him."
From Marley to "Marley Mar." That's the nickname of Blake's fellow GA signing Marlon Hairston of Louisville.
Maryland GA product Schillo Tshuma will be waiting for an MLS team to call his name next Thursday, but he's been a member of an MLS team before: D.C. United's Under-23s. He says he was once the only high school senior on a U-23 team coached by none other than MLS and United legend Jaime Moreno: "It was cool. He's a good coach and as a former forward he had a lot of advice to give me."
MLS legends are truly inspiring the stars of the future. In fact, Cal Poly scoring ace Mackenzie Pridham recalled "the honor of training 1-on-1 with Dwayne De Rosario" when the two-time MLS Cup champion played for the San Jose Earthquakes and paid a visit to Pridham's club team.
But you don't have to be an older player to be a role model. Potential No. 1 SuperDraft pick Steve Birnbaum has a more modern point of reference: LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez.
"I look up to him," he said. "He did great coming out of college and started right away with the Galaxy and now he's with the national team and a DP. He's doing great. And if I could follow in his footsteps, I'd love to."
You don't always hear Chelsea's John Terry cited as a role model for up-and-comers given his off-field issues. But Wisconsin's A.J. Cochran admires him with a caveat:
"I'm a big John Terry fan as far as on the field," he said. "I really respect the way he plays and I kind of looked up to him on the field. Size, left-footed center back, plays for a great team and I really like the way he plays."
MLS idols: Moreno, DeRo, Gonzo and … Mac Kandji? UConn forward Mamadou Doudou Diouf, still remembers watching the MLS Cup 2010 hero and Senegalese countryman talking about MLS on national TV back home in Africa. But Diouf's fondest memories revolve around stops at grandma Fatou's home, where he took naps after soccer practice: "She would tell me stories until I slept."
Before sitting down to chat with MLSsoccer.com, projected No. 1 pick Christian Dean headed for a dip in the hotel pool. Except it didn't go as planned when he was asked to exit … by mermaids. The local hotel does an evening mermaid show for restaurant patrons who watch through the windows. Dean would eventually get a few brief minutes in the water.
Who said it's easy being a big-time rookie in the spotlight? Dean talked about having to tweet a correction after negative reaction to his use of "the MLS" on Twitter a couple of days ago. You can be sure he won't make that mistake again.
Attention to detail. Well done. RT @christiandean22 Not joining "the" mls, joining mls.— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) January 6, 2014
Lastly, if central defender Grant van de Casteele can get drafted into MLS, we may have the making of the next Jimmy Conrad. Like Jimmy, he's already on YouTube as well. And we promised to do our part to help his Grant & Max 1080 segment go viral. Here's what he calls the best episode featuring an interview with ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas.