MLS coaches were treated to increased scoring at the adidas MLS Combine. With the draft just five days away, Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney reports on the latest performances at this year's Combine in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
STITCHED UP AGAIN. Wake Forest defender Julian Valentin needed 25 stitches to close a gash in his face inflicted by the shoe of Ohio State attacker Roger Espinoza in the men's College Cup championship game last month. Cut in four places and bleeding badly, Valentin went to the sidelines for the final nine minutes of the Deamon Deacons' 2-1 victory.
Valentin missed the first day of the MLS Combine in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to train with the U.S. under-23s in nearby Bradenton. He arrived in time for Sunday's second day of play and lined up for adidasTrofeo; when he went up for a header, just as he did while being injured in the Division I championship game, he got kicked again, opening up some of the same stitches over his right eyebrow.
"I won the ball on both plays," he told mlsnet.com. Valentin, 20, says he's needed stitches five times in his career. This latest re-injury required seven to close back up. And yes, he answers to "Scarface."
The draft is deep in defenders and the first two days of the Combine were marked by impressive displays by Julius James (Connecticut), Andy Iro (UC Santa Barbara), and a Valentin teammate at Wake, Pat Phelan.
GEARING UP FOR GOALS. After just one goal was scored during the first day of play, six goals hit the net on the second day of the MLS Combine in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
More than five dozen players have been split amongst four teams for the Combine, which began Saturday and concludes Tuesday.
El-Hadj Cisse (North Carolina State) and David Roth (Northwestern) traded goals Sunday as adiTunit tied adidas Trofeo 1-1. Roth put away feed from Eric Avila (UC Santa Barbara), one of six Generation Adidas players whose signings were announced by MLS just prior to the Combine.
Midfielder Peter Lowry (Santa Clara) scored a pair of goals seven minutes apart on combination passes with another GA signing, Alex Nimo of the U.S. U-18 national team, in a 4-0 adiPure romp over Predator PowerServe. Jon Leathers (Furman) tacked on a third goal, with an own goal accounting for number four.
On the first day of play, the only goal came from Gonzaga University's George Josten, who nailed a 20-yard shot from a pass by Shea Salinas (Furman) early in the second half as adiPure beat Trofeo, 1-0. In the other game, PowerServe and adiTunit played a 0-0 tie.
ONE OF THREE. MLS invited a trio of South American players to the Combine to be evaluated by MLS coaches and general managers, though they will not be included in the SuperDraft. Teams expressing interest in the players will be placed in a special weighted lottery.
In the past few years, the league has initiated contacts with representatives and agencies to assist teams in scouting South American players and conducts
Auditioning are Uruguyan Jonathan Sabbatini and Argentines Maximiliano Damiano and Lucas Fernandez. Sabbatini, 19, says he was invited to the Combine three months ago.
"I didn't think twice about it," said Sabbatini, who is playing on the adiTunit team. "I loved the idea. I arrived on Tuesday and have been able to take a bit of a tour of Fort Lauderdale. It's a peaceful city, lots of beautiful girls."
Sabbatini drilled a shot off the goalpost Sunday in the 1-1 tie played by adiTunit and adidas Trofeo.
"It's a good league, said Sabbatini, a native of Paysandu who watches MLS games in his home country. "The players are fast. In Uruguay, the games are more physical. Players take a beating. But in the MLS, there is a lot of quality. The players are skilled, especially with all the new guys arriving from different parts of the world."