CARSON, Calif. – Brian Loaiza spent two months training with Deportivo Cali in his native Colombia. Edgar Villalpando gains inspiration from his cousin, Chivas USA rookie Carlos Alvarez. Cristian Soto has been here before.
The competition for the next Sueño discovery is heating up at the Home Depot Center, where two winners – one field player and one goalkeeper – will be announced Sunday on Univision's Republica Deportiva, and there's a lot of talent to choose from.
One of those talented youngsters is Loaiza, 16, a defensive midfielder from Royal Palm Beach, Fla., who has been buffering his skills back in his homeland.
“I lived in Cali for two months, just training with the team and everything,” said Loaiza, who emerged from the Colorado Rapids' tryouts after D.C. United's filled up before he could sign up. “It was a good experience. Actually, what I know now, I learned a lot from there. It got me a lot more aggressive and everything.”
Villalpando, 16, had the shortest trek of the 18 finalists. The striker, who came out of the LA Galaxy tryouts, lives in Wilmington, a part of Los Angeles that neighbors Carson. He roots for the Galaxy's archrivals, thanks to family ties. Alvarez was the No. 2 overall pick in this year's SuperDraft.
“Since he started playing with them this year, since he got drafted, I started to follow Chivas USA more because he's my cousin,” said Villalpando. He didn't check in with Alvarez, whom he doesn't see on a regular basis.
“I actually haven't been in contact with him or anything,” he said. “I don't know why. I'm in contact with his parents, they know about this. So they probably told him.”
Soto, 17, emerged through the Chicago Fire's tryout and was a finalist in Texas two years ago. The playmaking midfielder from Indianapolis, who came through D.C.'s tryout this year, says that experience – although he was played out of position, in central defense – prepared him for this week.
“I didn't know what to expect [the first time],” he said. “I had to play hard, had to work hard, do everything right. There was a lot of pressure. You didn't want to mess up and look bad, but I'm more comfortable now.”
One of the best things about taking part is getting an opportunity to train under players such as Carlos Valderrama, a World Cup star for Colombia and Major League Soccer's first MVP.
“Ooh, it feels great. It's a good experience,” Soto said. “He's telling you everything he knows, and you're listening to him – taking tips, notes, all that stuff. Always listening to him, because he knows his stuff. He played big-time. He knows what he's talking about.”