ORLANDO – On an absolutely perfect spring day in Central Florida, the ninth annual Sueño MLS kicked off on Orlando City SC’s pristine training grounds at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Sanford.
While there was an air of excitement among the staff and coaches on hand, the intensity level was high for the 400 youth players registered for the event. The field will be narrowed down to only 30 for the second day on Sunday, and each player had just one 40 minute match to make an impression on the Orlando City scouts.
“What we look for first and foremost is technical ability,” said Orlando City U-23s head coach Darren Powell. “From there, we’ll look for their understanding of the game, or what we refer to as tactical ability.”
While technical and tactical ability are certainly necessary for any potential academy player, soccer skills weren’t the only thing the scouts were keeping any eye on. Without fail, all of the coaches and scouts referenced “character” as an equally important trait for any youth player.
“The other thing we pay particular attention to is the character of the players,” Powell said. “Are they a good teammate, do they work hard, and do they respect the game of soccer?”
Of course, most of the youth players on won’t go on to play professionally, but all relished the opportunity at hand at Sueño MLS. Midway through the day, to the delight of the kids on hand, rehabbing Orlando City star Pedro Ribeiro made an appearance to offer some advice.
“If soccer is your passion, if that’s what you want to do, just give it your all every day,” Riberio said. “Keep working hard every single day. If you work hard, the rewards will come.”
The second-year Brazilian player fielded questions from the kids, and stuck around to sign autographs as well. He injured his hamstring four week ago against Portland, but is on track to return to action ahead of schedule according to team doctors.
Former Chivas USA ‘keeper and Mexican International Martín Zúñiga worked with the young goalies. He’ll be back tomorrow as well, though he’ll have quite the 24 hours before then.
Zúñiga is flying to Los Angeles this afternoon for the LA Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids match, and then he’ll fly back overnight for the second day of Sueño MLS on Sunday. Clearly, the former netminder is very passionate about working with the young ‘keepers.
“They’re working really hard,” said Zúñiga. “The truth is, I see now more [from them] now than I expected. It’s going to be a hard decision tomorrow.”