Tommy Soehn is at the MLS Combine in Los Angeles.
Tony Quinn/MLS/

Behind the badge: In with the new

Rain-soaked Combine
The top prospects of college soccer have all gathered at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles for the adidas MLS Combine to showcase their skills and, hopefully, grab the attention of the coaches and general managers in attendance. Those representing United at the combine include Kevin Payne, Dave Kasper, Peter Nowak, Tom Soehn and Mark Simpson. The group has been closely evaluating the players and planning draft day strategy ahead of Friday's MLS SuperDraft in Baltimorre, Md.

At the combine, the players were split into four teams to play doubleheaders on the mornings of Jan. 9-11. Torrential rains drenched the fields of The Home Depot Center and games were moved from the HDC's track and field stadium to the FieldTurf training field. The foul weather, however, has not affected the desire of the participants to show their wares.

For the second straight year, Brain Goodstein, United's athletic trainer, is assisting with the adidas MLS Combine teams. Last year, Goodstein's work earned him MLS Trainer of the Year Honors.

Eventful Los Angeles
Also training at The Home Depot Center is the United States men's under-20 national team. Yesterday, coach Sigi Schmid announced the 18-member roster that will represent the United States later this week. The team will be attempting to qualify for their fifth consecutive FIFA World Youth Championship. United's Freddy Adu was one of four Major League Soccer players to make the final roster.

The six-game round-robin tournament will consist of three doubleheaders. Tomorrow, the U.S. will host Trinidad and Tobago at 8 p.m. at The Home Depot Center. The U.S. will then face Panama on Jan. 14, and Costa Rica on Jan. 16. The top two finishers from the qualifying tournament will advance to the World Youth Championship to be held in the Netherlands from June 10 to July 2.

Hawaii get-away
Attention United fans: escape the cold and travel to beautiful Hawaii with D.C. United. On Feb. 26, D.C. United will square off with the Los Angeles Galaxy at Aloha Stadium on the island of Oahu. Fans are being given a unique opportunity to journey to Hawaii with D.C. United from Feb. 20-27, see the exhibition match and enjoy a warm and sunny winter break. Golf Travel Center has put together a variety of air and land packages that include match tickets, hotel accommodations and much more. For more information call 1-888-Soccer-3. Aloha!

Nelsen, Convey ready to step in
After last weeks move to the English Premier League's Blackburn Rovers, Ryan Nelsen is very anxious to break into the first team.

"Everybody wants to play in the Premiership and Blackburn have given me an opportunity and I thank them for that," Nelsen recently told local reporters. He could see action in the very near future as Blackburn's porous back line has been ravaged by injuries.

Rovers have three important games approaching in the next three weeks, facing Portsmouth on the Jan. 15, Bolton on Jan 24, and league-leaders Chelsea on Feb. 2. Nelsen was unavailable for this week's FA Cup match, but in upcoming weeks could step into his familiar central defender role. Results are at a premium for Rovers, as Blackburn are only six points away from the drop zone and relegation.

In the meantime, Bobby Convey is beginning to make his move with Reading. Convey has made 20 appearances for the club since his transfer from D.C. United. Recently, Convey started the FA Cup tie against Swansea and his dangerous set pieces and corner kicks proved troublesome for the Swansea back line.

Coach Steve Coppell said of Convey's performance that "he put in some great crosses" and "he can be well pleased with his contribution today."

The wide midfielder has seen action in two of Reading's last three games. The club is currently in fourth place in the English League Championship, only seven points behind league-leaders Ipswich.

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