LAUDERHILL, Fla. – It wasn't the adidas MLS Combine debut that potential No. 1 pick Steve Birnbaum was hoping for on Friday.
The California center back saw a promising first-half performance for the NitroCharge team cut short after just 33 minutes when a clash of heads with Memphis forward Mark Sherrod left him with a gash on his lower lip. Well after the final whistle, he was still wiping away blood.
"Hit the back of his head and I think my tooth just went though my lip and they just couldn't stop the bleeding so I couldn't go back in unfortunately," Birnbaum said after the match, which his NitroCharge team lost 4-1 to the Predator team. "Hopefully I get some stitches and I'll be back next game for sure."
Goals by Zach Bolden (11th minute), Tesho Akindele (63rd minute), Mamadou Diouf (67th minute) and Pierre Omanga (73rd minute) led the Predator team to an easy win over Birnbaum's NitroCharge, who had the momentary equalizer in the 57th minute by Reinaldo Brenes.
In the 30 minutes, Birnbaum showed off some of the skills that make him arguably the top center-back prospect in the draft: "communication, organizing and some of my passing," he said when asked about what he showed well.
With the abbreviated spell in Matchday 1, Birnbaum says he hopes to get another start come Sunday.
"I would've liked to get into my rhythm a little more, obviously," he said. "But it was good being out there, to get the feet wet a little bit … I'm happy and hopefully I'll be back for the second game. I will be."