When we last caught up with top SuperDraft prospect Joshua Yaro, he was just getting acclimated to the scene at the adidas MLS Combine 2016. Since then, a lot has happened at the Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- the athletes have played in two sets of games, started to meet clubs’ staffs, and sat down for formal team interviews.
So how has all that felt from the player’s side? We’ll let Yaro tell you, breaking it down day by day.
Friday, January 8: The first day of Combine games
On the first day, everyone was excited. But it’s tough when you’re training with guys you don’t really know that well. You could tell from the game that there was some miscommunication, just because we didn’t know each other’s style of play. But it was also fun, because you learn about everyone really quickly, their names and what kind of player they are on the field.
To our credit, I think my team made the best of our differences and made the most of the situation, and we won our game 1-0. That one goal came because of a goalie assist -- I was actually sitting down at that point and watching and was like, “Wow, the goalie has an assist. That’s awesome. That’s amazing.”
The coaches are also put in a really weird situation, because they obviously don’t know everyone, and they couldn’t really coach on that first game because there was no practice session. So our coach just told us to relax and play the way we’ve been playing, and do what we do best.
At the same time, all the clubs were watching, but for me it felt normal, because it can’t change the way I play. Once you start worrying about something you’re not, that’s when you start panicking and making mistakes. I just took it as an opportunity to showcase what I can do, and be myself, and be calm and play the way I know.
Saturday, January 9: Rest day
We started off with a regen session -- we went down to the beach and stretched, and then a bunch of us went to the pool and relaxed. It was a pretty light day.
I actually went down to Miami and visited South Beach, where I went to the adidas store to get some stuff. South Beach was pretty crazy, like nothing I’d ever seen before. It’s definitely a different place than anywhere I’ve been -- but it’s nice to get to see different environments.
Sunday, January 10: The games continue
At this point we knew each other better than the first day, and you could see it in some parts, how comfortable we felt around each other.
I actually played out of position that day. I started at right back, and I’m a center back. My coach for my Combine team came up and give us the positions, and I didn’t say anything, just “yes, OK.” It was cool to be able to explore a different position and learn more about who you are as a player, and what a position is about.
It’s not where I want to play, ideally, but I did try to enjoy it and learn. A lot of people are playing out of position in this combine. Right back requires a different kind of fitness, and the timing of everything is totally different. Pretty much everything surprised me.
Monday, January 11: Team interviews
I wasn’t really nervous, because these interviews are just like talking to anyone -- it’s not like you go and dress up and everything’s really formal. You’re talking to coaches who are ultimately going to make a decision about whether they want you or not. But you also get a chance to get to know all the teams. If I’m going to go to a team, I want to know that I’ll fit into the system and flourish as a player.
A lot of the questions are general getting to know you questions about your background, but a lot of them asked, “What’s your greatest failure?” Another big question is, “What if we pick you up, and it’s six, seven, eight games into the season, and you’re not playing, what would you do?”
I find those kinds of questions really hard to answer, because it’s hard to say exactly what you’d do in a situation until you’re put in it.
But for the most part, it was pretty straightforward, about me, my background, and what I want out of my professional career. There weren’t too many stressful questions or many I had to think about for a long time. I definitely didn’t practice for the interviews ahead of time, because I wanted my answers to be genuine, on the spot, right there.
I also got to ask them things like where they see me playing in the league, and what position I could play. Also, if they pick me, are they picking me because I’m a top prospect from college, or because they really want me as a player?
To be honest, all the teams were really nice and honest and open and seemed great. I think wherever I end up, I have no doubt it’ll be a good place for me.
--As told to Arielle Castillo