Folks, I’ve got a wonderful interview with Justin Douglass, Missouri State Bear’s defender who is in his first week at the Houston Dynamo’s training camp. You may recall he attend the MLS Combine in early January which led to his being drafted by his hometown Houston Dynamo.
While I’m working to complete the interview prior to the end of the two week commitment he received from the team, I wanted to point you to a journal from the Combine. In this case, it’s written by Dale Schilly, Program Director of the Metro United Soccer Club. You may not know Dale but you know his work as the Metro United College Showcase Tournament is one of the top draws for College Coaches in our region. His club was also the host of the Final Four Adidas Showcase that was scheduled to run along with the Final Four tournament last December. So let’s find out about Dale’s experience at the Combine over the next couple of days and then I’ll have the Douglass interview ready.
I leave tomorrow morning for the MLS Combine. The MLS Combine is an invitation-only Showcase event for the better college players in the country. I was asked to coach one of the four all-star teams that are playing in the combine.
This came as a complete surprise to me. Often in the coaching business, you have a feel for what is coming at you or an indication of an honor headed your way. I remember I was driving to Davenport on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when I got the call. I had my wife and two kids in the car; I was taking them to my in-laws for the weekend as I had a 6:00 AM flight. I was headed to Orlando for an ODP Event, another Holiday away when I got the invitation to go to Fort Lauderdale for the MLS Combine. I was told there will be 4 college coaches and 4 youth coaches who are matched up to coach teams at the combine. I was dumbfounded when I got off of the phone, absolutely speechless. I could not believe they found me at Metro United to help with the MLS!
As I packed tonight, I began thinking of the weekend and reviewing the itinerary. The importance of the task then began to sink in. This was not just an event where guys were coming in to play and have some scouts watch. The coaching staff from all of the MLS teams will be in Fort Lauderdale. I am sure that some international scouts will be there as well trying to pick off some young talent at a fair price. But this weekend is more. As a realist we look at competitive youth soccer as an opportunity to play at a collegiate level. But for the majority of young boys playing at a high select level, dreams of playing in the MLS or overseas is the motivation for training by themselves, for juggling, for running, etc. 99% of the players invited this weekend have been developed through the club system. Metro United is part of that club system. My task, just as always, do what is best for the best players and help all of them achieve what they deserve based on their talent, commitment, and drive.
Chris Loftus, a Metro alum, will be playing in the MLS Combine this weekend. Unfortunately, he is not on my team or I would make sure that he would start every game and hit all of the restarts! This is a big weekend for Chris, as he has limped through an injury filled senior year at Duke University. This is a chance for him to reignite the fire with some of the scouts who were turned on to him last year when he had a terrific junior season. Luke Kreamalmayer, another Metro alum, propelled his career by winning the MVP for this event 2 years ago. Luke went from unknown to one of the top draft picks in the league and starting the opening game for Real Salt Lake.
As much as this is a HUGE soccer moment in my life, it is also going to be a great homecoming of sort. I played at Florida International University, just down the road in Miami. I emailed Tommy, David and Jimmy my roommates from 24 years ago to try to get together and reminisce. Even more rewarding is that former Metro United standout Chris Norbet, who is completing medical school at University of Miami, has some free time and is going to meet me for dinner. I think that I will call Loftus up and get all three of us together. I think I will do a lot of head nodding as Chris is finishing med school, Chris finished Duke in 3 and ½ years in the pre med tract and aspires to be a Dr., and I am a soccer coach. While they are discussing hemoglobin and platelets, I will be injecting the similarities between sharks and minnows and passion games. This will be fun. For those a bit older you, will remember that when we were reaching a level and had a chance to travel to major events, it was mandatory for the kids to do journals, so I guess what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Maybe it will be good enjoyment for those in the club. Maybe it will inspire others to achieve!
Thanks Coach Schilly, I appreciate the opportunity to share your story with the readers. An a hat tip to Coach Nick Schmitt at Zizzersoccer.com who pointed me to the articles!