MLS Combine News & Notes
January 14, 2003 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release
SUNRISE, FL (January 13, 2003) - Day Two of the 2003 adidas MLS Player Combine kicked off at 9:00 a.m. ET at the Sunrise Hilton Sports Complex on Monday with the U.S. Under-20 National Team in action against the adidas X-3s to start things off. The adidas Combine brings together the top soccer prospects - both college seniors and Project-40 players - for evaluation by MLS coaching staffs ahead of the SuperDraft which will be held in Kansas City, MO on Friday, Jan. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The following are the records of the four teams after the second day of matches: adidas Mania (1-0-1), Under-20 National Team (1-0-1), adidas Supernova (0-0-2) and the adidas X-3s (0-2-0). The games played thus far set up an interesting final day of competition as the two teams with a win in this Combine (adidas Mania and Under-20 National Team) battle in the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader to close out the event - a battle between current and former D.C. United coaches Ray Hudson and Thomas Rongen, who is the Head Coach of the Under-20s.
UNDER-20 NATIONAL TEAM 2, ADIDAS X-3s 1: The first game of the morning was a hard-fought affair going back and forth at midfield with neither team able to gain the upper hand in the opening 15 minutes. The first scoring opportunity came off the foot of the Under-20s' always-active Justin Moose, who in the 18th minute stung the crossbar with a left-footed shot after a corner kick was deflected his way.
The Wake Forest player was positioned at attacking midfield for the Under-20s and made his presence felt as the U.S. increased its pressure. Moose was involved in a controversial play in the 26th minute as goalkeeper Michael Behonick could not hold on to a shot from Moose's teammate Ricardo Clark. Moose was the first to attempt to pounce on the loose ball in the box but as he fell to the ground the referee allowed play to continue.
The first-half work rate of Phil Swenda of the X-3s was commendable as he did all he could to keep the team's attack moving: changing the point of attack, playing with his back to goal and making the clinical passes.
But it was the U.S. slowly taking a stranglehold on the match. In the 31st minute the U.S. again threatened as a ball trickled to Mike Magee on the left side of the box. The recent Project-40 signee nailed a shot that struck the far right post and caromed out of danger.
The U.S. finally broke through in the 41st minute, as Magee was alert to send a throw-in inside his own half down the left touchline toward striker Knox Cameron who met the ball in stride. The Bronx, NY native charged toward the box, shrugging off a defender and scoring the first goal of the game with a shot that rolled underneath the goalkeeper.
The Under-20s doubled their lead just three minutes after the break as Cameron turned provider, leading Moose into the box. The midfielder, who made a fine run into the penalty area, easily beat Behonick goalkeeper to make the score 2-0.
In the 55th minute, the adidas X-3s showed some life and pulled a goal back. A left-footed strike from the right side of the box by Sherif El Bialy was met by forward Alen Marcina, who barely beat out a defender at the far post to knock the ball into the net at the goal line.
The X-3s could have pulled even in the 68th minute as Damani Ralph, playing at left midfield, displayed a flash of brilliance. The native of Kingston, Jamaica made an explosive run down the left side, dribbling one defender and using a give-and-go with a teammate to get by another. His left-footed shot from the left side of the penalty area struck the far right post which ended the threat.
The Under-20s seemingly let up a bit with the X-3s sensing an equalizer was near. But the final real opportunity of the game came a minute before the final whistle when Magee attempted to take advantage of a goalkeeping error, taking a shot on a loose ball which was cleared by Rich Bradley off the line. The clearance landed on Magee's foot as he missed the target once again with a high shot.
Under-20 Head Coach Thomas Rongen introduced nine new elements to the lineup that tied 2-2 on Sunday against the adidas Supernova.
"We have 21 players in this camp, practically all have played 90 minutes right now," U.S. Head Coach Thomas Rongen said. "We played well today but we're looking to get sharper. Yesterday (Sunday) was the start of our preparation for the World Cup (Under-20) and we have to get better as a team."
Scoring Summary: USA: Cameron 41'
USA: Moose 48'
X-3: Marcina 55'
U.S. Under-20s (4-4-2): Clint Baumstark - Heath Pearce, Chris Lancos, Troy Roberts, Drew Moor - Stephen Shirley, Jordan Stone, Justin Moose, Ricardo Clark (C.J. Klaas 46', Devin Barclay 70') - Knox Cameron, Mike Magee.
adidas X-3s (First Half 3-5-2): Michael Behonick - Will Thornton, Rich Bradley, Jon Cole - Brian Carroll, Anthony Curtis (Sherif El Bialy 34'), Guy Abrahamson, Arturo Alvarez, Matias Asorey - Phil Swenda, Machel Millwood.
adidas X-3s (Second Half 3-5-2): Michael Behonick - Will Thornton, Rich Bradley, Jon Cole (Guy Abrahamson 73') - Damani Ralph, Sherif El Bialy, Anthony Curtis, Arturo Alvarez (Donald McIntosh 73'), Matias Asorey (Brian Carroll 73') - Phil Swenda (Machel Millwood 73'), Alen Marcina.
Cautions: Drew Moor 68' (foul on Swenda)
Referee: Ryan Keck (SAR - Long Beach, CA); Assistant Referees: Tony Russo (JAR - Philadelphia, PA), Shane Butler (St. Louis, MO);
ADIDAS MANIA 1, ADIDAS SUPERNOVA 1: For their second game of the Combine, the adidas Mania again proved a tough obstacle to overcome although they had to wait until late to register an equalizer against the adidas Supernova in a match which finished 1-1.
The Mania were dangerous from the start as forward Jordan Quinn struck the crossbar with a header in the 12th minute. The pressure kept coming through shots by Hayden Woodworth (16th minute), Eddie Gaven (missed connecting on a through ball up the middle in the 20th minute) and Diego Walsh (left-footed shot on goal saved in the 23rd minute).
Against the run of play it was the Supernova who took the lead in the 26th minute as attacking midfielder Andres Murriagi fed a ball down the right flank to Alex Blake, who used blazing speed to outrace his defender 30 yards and beat the goalkeeper in the box with a diagonal shot.
Despite the sudden goal, the Mania's defense again provided many highlights. David Stokes, who left to Portugal to join the Under-23 National Team after the match, managed the offside trap with reassuring calm and did not lose a single aerial challenge in central defense. Shavar Thomas may have been even more impressive than his first showing on Sunday as he moved to a right back position (he was a central defender in Sunday's game). Thomas (6-1, 195 pounds) made unstoppable runs down the right flank, covering lots of ground, exhibiting a fine touch on crosses, dribbling in tight corners and even going as far as taking corner kicks.
After going down a goal, the Mania kept coming at the Supernova with Ryan Mack and Woodworth particularly active. In the second half, Ray Hudson even added to the firepower as he switched to a three-man back line with Dimelon Westfield (two goals scored on Sunday), Pat Noonan and Guillermo "Memo" Gonzalez all entering the fray. Noonan and Mack switched positions compared to Sunday with the former attacking down the left and Mack controlling the right side.
As on Sunday it was Westfield who was the most active up top for the Mania, figuring in several opportunities which goalkeeper Josh Saunders turned away. That was until the 85th minute, however, when the Trinidadian connected on a pass from Noonan to beat the goalkeeper.
"There's some talent on my team," said D.C. United's Hudson of his Mania squad after the game. "I like a lot of them - really good footballers. They're building on each other. They've played some lovely, connective football (in last two games), brave going forward and tremendous at the back. I'm really impressed."
Scoring Summary: SUP: Blake 26'
MAN: Westfield 85'
Supernova (First Half 3-5-2): Josh Saunders - Todd Dunivant, Tim Regan, Steve Lawrence - Nate Jaqua, Jacob LeBlanc, Jack Jewsbury, Andres Murriagi, Alex Blake - Mike Tranchilla, Tim Pierce.
Supernova (Second Half 3-4-3): Josh Saunders - Todd Dunivant (Tim Regan 65'), Jason Cole, Steve Lawrence - Alex Blake, Ryan Futagaki, Jack Jewsbury (Jacob LeBlanc 65'), Tim Pierce - Mike Tranchilla, Roger Levesque, Jason Thompson.
Mania (First Half 4-4-2): Kyle Singer - Tim Glowienka, Brent Jacquette, David Stokes, Shavar Thomas - Ryan Mack, Hayden Woodworth, Diego Walsh, Matt Crawford - Eddie Gaven, Jordan Quinn.
Mania (Second Half 3-4-3): Kyle Singer - John Swann, David Stokes (Shavar Thomas 65'), Brent Jacquette - Pat Noonan, Hayden Woodworth, Diego Walsh (Guillermo Gonzalez 65'), Ryan Mack (Matt Crawford 65') - Eddie Gaven (Byron Carmichael 55'), Jordan Quinn, Dimelon Westfield.
Referee: David Simon (Washington); Assistant Referees: Joe Caroccio (Florida), Abiodun Okulaja (Illinois);
HUDSON JUST FEW DAYS AWAY FROM MAKING HISTORY: Head Coach Ray Hudson and D.C. United are currently in line to make the first pick in the 2003 SuperDraft this Friday in Kansas City, MO.
"I think it's about 75 percent to 25 percent we'll keep it," Hudson said on Monday. "We're getting knocks on the door and there are some tempting offers for that first pick and you have to consider them. We also have to look positionally where our needs are. Do we have a need for Alecko Eskandarian immediately? Perhaps not but his talent is high quality and can you pass that up? It's a tough call."
It has long been speculated that Eskandarian, a U.S. Olympic Team member and son of the former Cosmos great Andranik, will be selected with the No. 1 pick regardless of whether it is still in the hands of D.C. United.
"Last year we improved substantially over previous years and that ship is starting to turn around," Hudson said. "I think we've made some nice trades with Kovalenko and the Bulgarian coming in and we'll land our No. 9 player very shortly and he's going to be a high quality player. I'd be happy to go to war with this current D.C. United group. And if we can augment it with one or two players from this Combine, we'll be fine."
"MEMO" GONZALEZ AND ARTURO ALVAREZ MAKE NATIONAL RADIO DEBUT: The two highly touted Project-40 and youth national team players, Guillermo "Memo" Gonzalez and Arturo Alvarez, were live guests at the Radio Unica studios in Miami on Monday night on the popular daily sports program "Unica En Deportes" conducted by Jorge Ramos. The 17-year-old players were on the air for approximately 45 minutes discussing topics ranging from their path to professional soccer, overseas training, their hopes for the 2003 SuperDraft and the allegiances of their households of Mexican (Gonzalez) and Salvadoran (Alvarez) heritage. They also fielded several calls from fans.
Radio Unica, the largest national Hispanic radio network in the U.S., is the home of the weekly one hour radio show "Unicamente MLS" during the MLS season and it also aired live coverage of MLS Cup 2002 live from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro last October. The network, which has also recently entered into a partnership to cover U.S. National Team matches through 2006, will also broadcast coverage of MLS' showcase events of 2003: the Pepsi MLS All-Star Game and MLS Cup 2003.
JAMAICAN CONNECTION AT THE COMBINE: Of the 50 players on the three adidas teams at the 2003 Player Combine there are five players with Jamaican roots: Anthony Curtis (Univ. of Connecticut), Machel Millwood (Towson Univ.), Damani Ralph (Univ. of Connecticut), Shavar Thomas (Univ. of Connecticut) and Alex Blake (Williams College). Millwood and the three former UConn Huskies know one another from Jamaica.
"Ever since I was a kid in Jamaica this is what I wanted to do: play pro soccer and I have a good opportunity and I'm just taking it," said Thomas, who has been impressive in his first two games of the Combine, equally effective at central defender and right back. "I take this opportunity as a stepping stone to a pro environment and we look toward to the future. This is just the start."
FAMILIAR FACE IN TOWN: Spotted at the 2003 adidas Player Combine was former MLS striker Aleksey Korol. The former Chicago Fire player (appeared in one match for the Fire in 2002), is in Florida training with a friend looking to gain top form after recent surgery for bursitis in his left knee. He had also made the trip to Ft. Lauderdale, FL in December before heading to Chicago for Christmas.
The 25-year-old is currently looking for a new club after his experience with the Rochester Raging Rhinos of the A-League, the team he joined after his period with Chicago. For Korol, a native of Ukraine, the signing with the Rhinos was a homecoming. When he immigrated to the U.S. in 1992, he stayed with an American family in Rochester and completed his high school education in the city.
The bursitis, which he suffered prior to the 2002 MLS season in training camp, forced the Fire to waive him on July 18, 2002 after acquiring him on January 15 from the Dallas Burn in a trade. Korol originally entered the League with Dallas as the fifth overall selection in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft after a stellar college career at Indiana, where he earned Soccer America's 1999 College Player of the Year honors.
Korol hopes to earn his green card at some point this calendar year, something he believes will help his chances and increase his options as he seeks to resume his professional soccer career. He was classified as a Senior International when he parted ways with the Fire.
RETURN TO HIS ROOTS: Another former MLS player in Florida is former Colorado Rapids and Tampa Bay Mutiny defender Steve Trittschuh. The 37-year-old, however, is not just visiting. He has a pad and pen in his hands as he evaluates talent for the Colorado Rapids for which he recently was named first assistant coach.
"It's only been a few weeks," Trittschuh said of the appointment by Head Coach Tim Hankinson. "I was living in Tampa after I retired and I was the director of coaching for a club called Black Watch. I always wanted to go back to Colorado - I had been there for three years (1996-98). I had moved back there about a month ago to work with the Colorado Rush club team and this opened up for me. It was a no-brainer."
A member of the 1996 inaugural season Rapids team and a critical component to the 1997 MLS Cup final run, Trittschuh played for Hankinson in Tampa Bay for three seasons from 1999-2001.
"Two months ago I went for a trip to Denver and settled things with the youth club (Rush) and Tim said he wanted me involved in the club (Rapids) in some capacity," Trittschuh said. "So I knew I would be doing something with the Rapids but I didn't know it would be in this capacity. It's a good situation for me and I couldn't pass it up."
Trittschuh's hiring is another which sees a former MLS player being called into the coaching ranks after his MLS playing career. Former Kansas City Wizards forward Mo Johnston joined Bob Bradley's staff with the MetroStars this offseason while Columbus Crew legend Robert Warzycha was designated an assistant coach beginning last year.
NSCAA AT THE SUPERDRAFT ... AND AT THE COMBINE: The MLS coaches who are at the Sunrise Hilton for the 2003 adidas Player Combine are not the only coaches walking the complex's field. Over the past weekend, more than 300 coaches have made the trip to Sunrise, Florida as courses for the NSCAA's National, Advanced National and Premier Diplomas, the highest coaching certification in the United States, were conducted at the same site (Jan. 6-12) - the Sunrise Hilton - for the first time. Those courses were followed by the Goalkeeper Diploma III courses which kicked off Jan. 12 and will run through Tuesday.
Friday's 2003 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas is being held in conjunction with the NSCAA Coaches Convention, among the largest annual soccer gatherings in the United States.
THE POWER OF BELIEF: Among the more than 50 players invited for the 2003 adidas MLS Player Combine are two Division III players, including reigning NSCAA Division III Player of the Year Hayden Woodworth (Messiah College). The native of Boothwyn, PA, has frequently been praised during games by adidas Mania Head Coach Ray Hudson (D.C. United) for his composure and quick thinking on the ball in the two matches he has played as the central playmaker on Sunday and Monday.
But recognition at times could be hard to come by at a Division III school and for a while Woodworth lost hope he was going to be invited to the Combine.
"I was waiting for the call," he said. "Then I was beginning to think it was not going to happen with the preliminary list that was issued and I wasn't expecting to be part of it. Then I got the call when there were five days until we had to be in Florida."
The choice of Messiah College and Division III did not come after rejection from the collegiate structure's top flight. In fact Woodworth could have also attended Drexel and Penn State but Messiah, a Christian liberal arts college, was the best fit on every level for him.
"As a Christian college, it was a good environment," he said. "It was good soccer, too. And I really liked the coach at Messiah. I felt that's where God was leading me and that's a big part of my life. The religious part is the big part. It is my life."
Two Division III national championships (2000, 2002) later, Woodworth heads to Kansas City, MO on Friday to accept the award for NSCAA Division III Player of the Year. While he's there, the Baptist and former Methodist will probably peek into the convention room hosting the 2003 MLS SuperDraft hoping to see his name appear as one of the 60 possible selections.
"I think I have maybe turned a couple of heads," Woodworth said of his time at the adidas Player Combine. "I hope I've impressed enough to earn a SuperDraft spot and I'm looking forward to Friday. "There are some great players in Division III," he said. "I don't think they always get recognized as they should. I know a bunch of players that could have been here at the Combine. I'm happy to be here and represent Division III and hopefully I'll make a name for it and more players will be selected in the future."
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