ORLANDO, Fla. – Hundreds of young players and their families flocked from near and far to Orlando City’s training grounds on Saturday to attend the ninth annual Sueño MLS. Many came from throughout Florida, but others drove from as far away as Texas and New York to attend the tryout.
Kenneth Fernandez and his father Rafael made the 17-hour drive down from Brooklyn, New York, just for the chance to show the Orlando City coaching staff what he can do. Despite the long trek, he was all smiles after his 40-minute scrimmage.
“It’s my first time doing anything like this,” said the younger Fernandez. “When I first got here, I was just nervous. It was nerve-racking. I had the support of my parents though, and my friends from Brooklyn texting me.”
The nerves are understandable, given some of the former stars, coaches, and scouts on hand for the event. Fernandez played an attacking midfield role in his scrimmage, and though his side lost, he left the pitch feeling good about the experience.
“Although I lost, I’m so grateful for the opportunity,” he said. “So many big names here, like [Martín] Zúñiga, all the people just taking a look at us. It’s amazing.”
Orlando City U23 coach Darren Powell said the willingness to making the trip all the way from New York says a lot.
“It just shows you how big the game of soccer is,” Powell said. “That dedication and that commitment to do that shows how much an individual player cares about the opportunity to perhaps play in an MLS academy.”
Fernandez certainly wasn’t short on passion and dedication to the game he loves, though it remains to be seen whether he’s got a shot at winning the 2015 Sueño MLS. He’ll have to advance to Day 2 first, and the Orlando City coaches were tight-lipped regarding who might be invited back for a second look on Sunday.
“I’m just excited for this opportunity,” Fernandez said. ”People told me, ‘You’re crazy for going all the way down to Florida.’ It’s an opportunity. This is what I love. This is what I do.”
So where would he prefer to play if he does someday make it to the pros? Well, to start, there’s no doubt expansion New York City FC has caught his attention.
“Oh yeah, this season, with New York City FC? You’ve got to be [a fan],” said the 16-year-old. “[David] Villa’s a legend!”