Breaking down the role of a trialist and the top trialists in MLS camps right now

Eric Avila - Orlando City SC - Hard Charging

We’re in the midst of preseason training camps and each team’s roster is starting to take shape. Most have just a few spots available and those could be filled by players they have been chasing all offseason.

But there’s another type of player that could be filling those roles. That is the infamous player known as “Trialist.”

Every preseason, teams bring in non-rostered players to try out for the team. The success rate of these players varies wildly as some make it through the entire preseason and are offered a contract, while others may not make it even a week.

Regardless, these players will be making appearances with clubs throughout the preseason, but you will not always know who they are.

A practice of some MLS teams is to not name trialists when they play in preseason games. You can see this in a couple different instances below:

It’s always fun to try and find out who these players are and your best plan of action is usually to check in with a team beat writer, who follows the team on a daily basis.

One recent trialist success story came last season. Mike Grella was on trial with the New York Red Bulls for the beginning stages of the 2015 preseason before signing a contract with the club on February 17. He went on to appear in 33 games with the Red Bulls, starting 30, scoring nine goals and collecting seven assists.

Many teams currently have trialists in their camps and here are some of the names officially announced you should keep an eye on:

Eric Avila – The champs don’t need much but the Portland Timbers have brought in this eight-year MLS veteran. Portland could be looking at him as a depth piece for right back and right midfield, as the 28-year-old has played both positions over the course of his MLS career.
Jeb Brovsky – Brovsky is an experienced fullback, who has shown the capability to play either right back or left back over the course of his five-year MLS career. That could come in handy for the New England Revolution, who saw Kevin Alston depart this winter after seven seasons with the club.

A.J. Cochran – This former first-round pick by the Houston Dynamo has made 19 starts for the club over the past two seasons. He is currently on trial with the New York Red Bulls, who could use some center back depth after the reported departure of Matt Miazga to Chelsea.

Santiago Dittborn – This 23-year-old Chilean midfielder has long been on the radar of MLS teams and is in D.C. United camp this preseason. He could provide some punch on the left wing after the club saw Chris Pontius leave this offseason.

Chris Konopka and Paolo Tornaghi – With Bill Hamid out for 4-6 months, it’s no surprise that D.C. Untied have brought in some veteran goalkeepers to compete with Andrew Dykstra and Travis Worra. Konopka made 21 starts for Toronto FC last season, while Tornaghi has served as the backup to David Ousted over the last two seasons in Vancouver after serving in the same role behind Sean Johnson in Chicago.