Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 USL Men's Player Combine: As the dust settles

Sunday wrapped up the fifth annual USL Men's Players Combine in Charleston, SC.

The final day of the combine featured three more matches.  The teams were supposed to kick-off at 8am but frost on the pitch delayed the start time slightly and forced the first match to be played on one of the Charleston Battery's practice fields.  The second match started off as the sun warmed up the grass and the spectators alike and by the third match it had turned quite pleasant.

The matches definitely were a bit more aggressive, a combination of players wanting to impress and tired legs.  Its always tough to get the whole picture of a player when watching a couple matches with unfamiliar teammates but a few players did impress me over the weekend.

Highlight of the weekend was midfielder Luke Mulholland.  Mulholland scored twice over the weekend, one a wicked free kick from about 25 yards out, but more importantly showed confidence and composure on and off the ball.  Mulholland was a stand out with PDL Reading United AC and will no doubt will find a spot on a team this season.

Another was Ally Hassan.  The 6-3 striker held the ball up and played well with is back to goal.  He was very good with his feet and worked hard off the ball, creating space and opportunities for his teammates.

Tunde Ogunbiyi of Boston College
and PDL side, Ocean City
There were a few others that seemed to shine above the group.  Both the Japanese players, Takashi Kanta and Hodaka Yonesawa played well even they needed to adapt to a more physical style of play.  Forward Aboubacarim Ndaw and Anteneh Lemma  both were very strong on the ball, giving the central defenders fits while they were on the field. 

In the net, Tunde Ogunbiyi (photo at right) seemed to have a good day on Saturday but wasn't really tested on Sunday.

The College of Charleston also had four players in the Combine.  Justin Fojo, Sean Bateau, Sean Flatley, and Kareem Yearwood.  Fojo and Bateau benefited from playing on the same team at the combine.  Fojo seemed to possess some very good leadership qualities in midfield while Bateau made some great runs down the wing.  Flatley was a commanding presence in central defense, winning headers and organizing the back line.  Sadly I didn't get to see Yearwood much and the half he played, he didn't receive the ball much up top. 

But so much more goes into signing a player.  Clubs might be only looking for a certain type of player or a position.  Clubs have budget restrictions, there are limits on foreign players on rosters.  There also are the needs or wants of a player to take into consideration.

Historically only about 20% of the players that attend the combine go on to a professional contract.  I wouldn't be surprised if that number is higher this year.  With MLS expanding their rosters and adding two expansion teams this season and with USL expanding by 9 teams, there are plenty of spots open for these young players.  Good Luck to all the players that attended.

No Quarter would like to than USL and especially Nicholas Murray, Jason Arnold and Jeff McRaney for their support. 

This upcoming weekend the Battery host the second of their open trials.  No Quarter hopes to bring you a bit more insight to those open trials as well.

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