ORLANDO, Fla. – As Sueño MLS wrapped up Sunday afternoon at Orlando City SC’s training ground, six young men left with the knowledge that they had beaten out 400 others to move on to the next round of the competition in Los Angeles.
It was an intense two-day tryout for the teenagers, and the pressure only increased on the second day once the field had been cut down to 25. The players arrived at 9 am for a training session with Orlando City’s U-23 coach Darren Powell. They ended the soccer portion of their day with a scrimmage just before noon in front of members of the Orlando City coaching staff, who looked on intently.
That was just the start for the youngsters, who assembled after the match for the announcement of the six finalists in front of the Univision TV cameras. Each player had friends and family there with them, and a couple of the parents were visibly emotional as their sons' names were announced.
It was certainly a lot to take in for the young players, who mostly expressed that they had never competed in an event like Sueño MLS before. After the selections were announced, Powell elaborated on how the staff reached their decisions.
“It was very difficult,” Powell said. “We were talking about players until the very last game. What stood out was players who just had a little bit extra, whether that was their technical ability or their ability to influence a game.”
While Sueño MLS will only have one winner after the next rounds in LA and Chicago, Sunday was also an opportunity for youth players to get noticed by the Orlando City scouts. Powell was open in his interest in having another look at a few of the participants.
“Every moment in this event is an opportunity for you,” Powell said. “We’d like to see a few of them in our environment and see how they perform.”
Izui Villasana, one of the five field players selected as a finalist, drove 22 hours from Texas with five of his club teammates to take part in the event. When his name was announced, his friends swarmed the set to hug and congratulate their teammate.
“It’s crazy, it was my first time at an event like this,” Vallasana said. “I was nervous, but I just kept working hard. You’ve just got to keep believing in yourself.”