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Sueño MLS: Day 1 late bloomer Joseph DeZart, 16, looks to follow in friend's winning footsteps

HANOVER, N.J – The New York Red Bulls’ team of scouts entered the final match of Day 1 of their 2014 Sueño MLS tryouts with a good idea as to which 25 players they would select to advance in the competition.

Then Joseph DeZart II stepped onto the field and made them change their minds.

With a combination of size and skill, the 16-year-old put together a performance that forced the Red Bulls’ staff to take notice before they decided to make him a late addition to Day 2 of the tryouts. The defensive midfielder then took full advantage of that opportunity, putting together a solid performance this past Sunday to become one of New York’s six finalists.

“He was in the last game at the end of a long day and we had almost pretty much finalized our roster at that point,” said Red Bulls director of youth programs Bob Montgomery. “He stood out and he did well, and we thought we needed to give him the opportunity today. Today, he ran the center midfield and did an excellent job.”

DeZart is both tall and strong, and those physical tools made him stand out right away from many of the other hopefuls this past weekend. But that was not all that the Jackson, N.J., native had to offer, as his skill on the ball, passing and aerial ability also set him apart from the other contestants.

“It was tough at first,” DeZart told MLSsoccer.com about his Day 1 showing. “I didn’t come off to a good start, but after a while I started settling in and started connecting passes and playing better. As I went on, my confidence got up and I just started playing the way I knew how to play.”

He did the same in Day 2, and that led to him being announced as one of the finalists on Univision’s Republica Deportiva. It was a surreal moment for DeZart, who had his dad drive him three hours round-trip to the tryouts on both days.

“I was so scared,” said DeZart, whose favorite player is Brazilian star Neymar. “I didn’t think they called my name. I was so confused. I was so happy when I realized it was me.”

The 6-foot-2 DeZart is now hoping to follow in the footsteps of Elizabeth, N.J., native and 2013 Sueño MLS winner Alexander Soto by being the player chosen in the final phase of the competition in Los Angeles next week.

In fact, DeZart only took part in this year’s event after being inspired by friend Soto’s success in 2013, a decision DeZart is clearly happy with.

“It’s very tough [to impress],” said DeZart. “But coming for a cause like this and playing for such a big organization, it’s great. It’s great.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.