EAST HANOVER, N.J.—Countless years of training finally paid off for the six talented players selected to advance to the final round of Sueño MLS 2016 out of a talented and crowded New York-area player pool on Sunday.
After a fiercely competitive day of play at the New York Red Bulls training facility, members of the club's academy staff selected five field players and one goalkeeper to participate in the final round of Sueño MLS tryouts May 4-7 in Los Angeles.
Red Bulls defender Gideon Baah was on hand to congratulate the final 25 participants, a number whittled down from more than 300 hopefuls who attended opening-day tryouts a day earlier.
With several Red Bull coaches leading the training, players showed off their skills in hopes of garnering an elusive spot in RBNY's highly-touted academy system.
“The joy in some of the players yesterday for being there and participating, it was great to see,” said Red Bulls Director of Youth Programs Bob Montgomery. “For us, it provides opportunity to see some players that we might normally not see, and that was the case this year. Maybe they’re someone that we can bring in and help move along to reach their goals.”
After two days of training with top-level coaches, these six players will take the next step in advancing to the final round of Sueño MLS.
The youngest player advancing out of the group, Alonso battled through a shoulder injury to impress coaches.
“The keeper race was very tough,” Montgomery said. “The edge went to him in his communication, his direction, his organization of his team.”
The 13-year-old Alonso, from nearby Paramus, New Jersey, originally began his soccer career as a field player before a youth coach switched him to goalkeeper based off his natural leadership and maturity at such a young age.
“This means a lot to me,” Alonso said. “This shows me that all the hard work and dedication I’ve put in has paid off and it’s going to keep advancing me. I wanted it.”
Hailing from Queens, Torres impressed coaches with his physical play on the backline.
“One of the younger guys, he’s very mature for his age,” Montgomery said. “He’s a very technical player, played good passes out of the back. He did a solid job defending and helped organizing in the defense.”
The 14-year-old was born in Bogota, Colombia, arriving in the United States a mere three years ago, but has always had a strong love of the game.
“It actually means a lot for me. I’ve been working hard towards this since I was a little boy,” Torres said. “When I was born, my dad told me once that I started walking with a soccer ball. My whole family loves soccer.”
The 14-year-old impressed coaches all day with his tenacity on the field, a stark contrast from his small stature. A natural left back, Argueta had no problem pushing up the pitch throughout scrimmages.
“Some of the coaches made a comment, he’s a young Connor Lade, which I think is quite a compliment,” Montgomery said. “He’s tough, aggressive, but yet with the ball he’s very talented in finding openings and playing balls forward.”
Argueta lives in Stanford, Connecticut, moving from Guatemala two years ago. Although he has had some struggles learning the language, he has quickly found a love for soccer in the United States while supporting the Red Bulls.
Kenneh wowed coaches with his versatility throughout tryouts, suiting up at midfield on the first day of trials before switching over to left back.
“He’s versatile, he’s quick and he gets forward well from that back position,” Montgomery said. “He’s a guy we’re certainly interested in seeing more of.”
The 14-year-old from the Bronx enjoys playing different positions, and displayed an unselfish style of play throughout trials, often finding teammates with scoring opportunities.
“My favorite thing is when someone scores a goal. I just give assists and passes leading to goals,” Kenneh said. “It helps develop us going forward, passing the ball and switching around.”
The oldest player to participate in the camp, the 15-year-old Rivera traveled to Chicago last year in hopes of securing a spot in Sueño MLS. While he was denied a position in the finals a year ago, Rivera improved his game, working with his high-school coach.
“I worked so hard. Last year I went to Chicago and nothing happened,” Rivera said. “I worked harder so I can be here. I did my best. My parents are happy, I’m happy. I have no words.”
Rivera’s talent shone clearly throughout the day, as he and a large group of family supporters traveled from North Carolina in hopes this time around would be different.
“He’s fast, athletic, tricky. He’s not afraid to take on guys,” Montgomery said. “He’s a brave player and he showed quite well today.”
A native of Miami, Ernand participated in Sueño MLS last year with Orlando City SC and earned a spot in the finals, but was unable to participate because of injury. Now healthy, the 15-year-old central midfielder finally has his shot to prove he belongs in an MLS academy.
“The first time, in the finals I couldn’t play. I was injured,” Ernand said. “I wanted to come back and redeem myself.”
Although he was born in the United States, he hails from an international family, with a Venezuelan father and Ecuadorian mother who helped drive his love of the game.
“[Arturo] keeps the midfield intact and helps direct from that position,” Montgomery said. “He can also get forward and be dangerous, so we like that.”
All six players will now return home and continue training in anticipation of the final round of Sueño MLS on May 4-7 in Southern California.