Gonzalo Segares

Wet weather disrupts MLS Combine

This has been southern California's wettest winter in recent memory, and heavy rains have played havoc with the MLS adidas Player Combine schedule.

Saturday's opening workout at Home Depot Center was cancelled, and Sunday's game schedule was changed twice because of the conditions. Local news reports had 18 inches of rain falling on Los Angeles in a 60-hour period through Sunday afternoon, and the worst of what's expected to be a weeklong storm was on the horizon.

Action was supposed to commmence Sunday morning at 9 on the field at HDC's track and field stadium, but MLS officials on Saturday pushed the games back four hours, hoping to avoid the second wave of a three-pronged Pacific storm. After another heavy downpour Sunday morning, the doubleheader was rescheduled for 6 p.m. on the HDC's FieldTurf training field.

Monday's twinbill, initially scheduled for 9 a.m., has been changed to 1:30 p.m. PT.

"I think I brought this weather with me from France," said local boy Jack Stewart, a Notre Dame defender who was on trial last month with Auxerre. "It's been like this in France the last couple of weeks."

January usually is one of the nicest months in southern California, but the L.A. area -- the "Southland," in local parlance -- has been hit with a series of torrential storms since Christmas. Two systems sandwiched the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day. The parade, as always, went off in sunshine.

The Combine wasn't so fortunate. Forecasts call for more wet stuff Monday and Tuesday.

"Next time, they should hold this in Denver," one player quipped. "There may be some snow, but at least it will be sunny."

JUST SAY NO: It was easy, Scott Sealy said, to tell his national team no, at least this weekend.

The Wake Forest University senior, among the top forwards available in Friday's Major League Soccer SuperDraft, turned down a Caribbean Cup assignment for Trinidad & Tobago to perform for MLS coaching staffs and general managers at the 2005 Player Combine at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

He did so with the blessing of Soca Warriors coach Bertille St. Clair.

"The priority now," Sealy said, "is to try to secure a future to play professionally, so (there are) sacrifices you have to make."

Trinidad & Tobago defeated St. Vincent & the Grenadines 3-1 on Sunday in a Caribbean Cup third-round match, but Sealy was suiting up for adidas Premio, one of four squads the 74 players at the Combine have been divided into.

Sealy made his international debut last summer, before a spectacular senior season at Wake Forest. He played in three World Cup qualifiers for Trinidad & Tobago, scoring a goal in a preliminary-round romp over the Dominican Republic. The Soca Warriors open final-round CONCACAF qualifying Feb. 9 at home against the United States.

Sealy was involved in 27 of Wake Forest's 41 goals last fall -- he scored 17 goals and assisted 10 more -- as the Demon Deacons were seeded No. 1 for the NCAA Tournament. They were eliminated in the third round on penalty kicks by Virginia Commonwealth.

Sealy scored 43 goals in four seasons at Wake Forest, No. 2 on the school's career list. The 23-year-old forward wants to show coaches his "diversity" during the Combine, which runs through Tuesday.

"I think I possess a lot of strength in terms of not just scoring goals, but passing as well, giving assists, playing with my back to the goal, playing off other players," said Sealy, who has followed MLS -- and its Trinidadian players -- since the league debuted in 1996. "That's something I can bring to the table."

SWIMMINGLY: Sealy, the Wake Forest forward, seems ideally suited to the wet conditions. Before he started on his path to Trinidad & Tobago's national soccer team, he represented T&T as a swimmer.

"I swam at the Central American Games and in Caribbean competitions," said Sealy, who was a breaststroker from age 10 to 16. "But soccer was what I really wanted to do, where I wanted to put my foot."

SUNDAY'S RESULTS: In Sunday's first match, adidas F50+ led adidas Predator Pulse 2 by two goals at halftime and held on for a 2-1 win. University of North Carolina midfielder Marcus Storey and Bradley University midfielder Luke Kreamalmayer notched the goals for F50+, while University of Kentucky midfielder Jamal Shteiwi converted a penalty kick for Predator Pulse 2.

The result in Sunday's late game was identical, with adidas Premio pulling out a 2-1 win over adidas Aveiro. Sealy and University of Hartford forward Alon Lubezky scored for Premio, and Alabama A&M University forward Eugene Sepuya tallied for Aveiro.

Scott French, a veteran soccer journalist working for the Los Angeles Daily News, is covering the 2005 adidas MLS Player Combine for MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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