PHILADELPHIA — Iain Munro, the oldest and most experienced of the talent scouts in Philadelphia for Sueño MLS 2011 - presented by Allstate, is a soccer purist. He has set-in-stone ideas about the sport he played and managed professionally in both his native Scotland and England.
Chief among his core beliefs is that substance always trumps style.
“Ninety-nine percent of soccer should be ordinary—only one percent of the time should players try to be clever,” the former Rangers, Stoke City and Sunderland midfielder said while watching contestants perform last weekend at YSC Sports Complex, where he runs the Philadelphia Union’s Juniors Soccer Academy.
But even a no-frills guy like Munro was impressed with one of the more “clever” players at the tryouts: Richy Amador, an 18-year-old playmaker with the skills, creativity and technical prowess that put him a cut above the competition.
Munro wasn’t alone in his praise of Amador. Everyone from fellow assessors to random spectators raved about the youngster from California who seemed to pull out a new move from his bag of tricks every time he touched the ball.
Even Amador himself realized how good he was this past weekend.
“There were some really great players out there, but I knew from the beginning that I was different from most of the guys,” he said after his two-day trial.
The difference for Amador was an ability to constantly generate offense and keep defenders off balance with his formidable ball distribution skills.
That said, talent can only take you so far if you don’t have the confidence to back them up. Fortunately for Amador, he has both in spades.
“Every time I have the ball, I just bring it to my opponents,” he said. “That’s how I play. It can be one or two guys covering me—I try to find an opening and create a scoring chance for my teammate.”
However, like any player who models his game on Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, Amador will shoot on goal if the opportunity presents himself.
“During Saturday’s scrimmage, I was face-to-face with the goalie and I didn’t hesitate. I shot from close range and showed that I can score as well.”
But it was entirely possible that Amador wouldn’t get his chance to play in front of the assessors. A resident of Santa Rosa, Calif., he had to convince his father to take him cross-country to Philadelphia to compete in Sueño MLS.
“It costs money and it’s a pretty significant investment, but I’ll follow him wherever he goes,” Richy’s dad, Victor, said as his son rested between scrimmages on Sunday afternoon. “He always succeeds whenever he puts his mind to something, so I’m going to support him in this.”
For someone who’s so committed to seeing his son reach his soccer dreams, it’s ironic that Victor had nothing to do with Richy’s passion for the sport.
“I’m not really a fan, but as far back as I can remember he was playing with the ball. He’s loved it since he was a little kid.”
And this love of soccer has brought Amador to the home of his favorite MLS team, the Philadelphia Union, and his favorite player, Union midfielder Roger Torres. Now Amador hopes the next stop in his journey will be a trip to the Sueño MLS 2011 – presented by Allstate finals in Dallas on May 7-8.
"I'm still young and I still have a lot to learn,” he said. “I'm excited about the possibility playing at a higher level with bigger and better competition. It can only make me a better player."