CHICAGO – Despite battling cold weather, rain and powerful gusts of wind, participants in Chicago’s Sueño MLS left Chicago Fire coaches and scouts impressed after a two-day camp at Calumet Park.
Players traveled from distant cities like Detroit to try their talents on the pitch in hopes of winning a spot with a Chicago Fire youth team.
The group of players ranging in age from 14 to 18 went through several passing drills, seven-vs.-seven games and, for a majority of the training sessions, full-sided games.
“I think the overall standard has been pretty good,” said Chicago Fire player development coordinator Mark Spooner. “The weather conditions have not made it easy for these kids but they have come out, they haven’t complained and, overall, it’s been pleasing.”
To combat the frigid weather conditions, many Sueño participants wore sweatshirts under their Sueño T-shirts and gloves to keep their hands warm.
Saturday included heavy winds and a consistent rain that made the artificial turf play even faster than the surface normally would.
Also, on Saturday, Chicago Fire players Marco Pappa and Gonzalo Segares made appearances and provided two extra sets of eyes to the Fire player-development staff as they analyzed the talent level.
“It’s a good opportunity for the boys to show their ability and for us to observe their level of play,” said Segares on Saturday afternoon. “It’s great that they get the chance to come and realize their dreams as players.”
So how can Fire coaches pick the best players from a large pool of nearly 400 players? To start, each player has a number on the back of their T-shirts to lessen the burden of remembering hundreds of names.
The members of the Chicago Fire coaching staff then record player numbers that stand out to them and collaborate on their lists at the end of the first day.
On Sunday, the list of 25 was gathered and the coaches referred to clipboards with the lists attached. Each coach then made his list of finalists and once again they collaborated and whittled down the number to just five finalists.
The process isn’t easy and identifying players takes time.
“First off, we are looking whether a kid is technically good and he understands the game,” said Spooner. “When we go from there, we can go into how aware are they of what’s going on around them. Unfortunately, we can only select five and right now the scouts are really looking through a list of 15 to 20 players to pick five from.”
As for finding new talent through Sueño MLS, Spooner praised the program’s effectiveness.
“It gives clubs like ourselves a chance to see players that we might otherwise not have access to," he said. "Our scouting network can only be so big and that means that there may be players that slip through the gaps and something like this brings out everybody in the community.”