The 2014 North American Soccer League Player Combine kicked off today at the University of California, Irvine with more than 80 invited players from 24 countries participating in the three-day event.
Casting a watchful eye over the elite roster of domestic and international players is former U.S. Men’s National Team Assistant Coach Ralph Perez, who is working alongside each NASL team’s coaches as well as group of experienced college coaches to coordinate the league’s first foray to the west coast to search for talent.
Following the arrival of coaches and all invited players, the NASL Combine kicked off with first of two consecutive days (Jan. 24, 25) of tripleheader matches along with training sessions from 10am to 11.30am, 12pm to 1.30 pm and from 2pm to 3.30 pm.
Forward Franco Figueroa, who is one of half dozen Argentinean players participating commented after his first match at the Combine: “I feel fine, I think I can do more. Tomorrow is another chance to play. If you start playing like a team, all things come naturally. You can play well individually, but overall, it’s about the team.”
The common goal for all the players on the Combine is to earn a place at an NASL team preseason training camp and ultimately a professional contract.
“Everybody’s going 100%,” said Norwegian forward Elrik Bjorno. “I’m excited to be here and it’s a great opportunity. It’s really great that the NASL has taken this initiative and look at both American players and us from abroad and give us a chance to try out for the league.”
After tomorrow’s tripleheader of matches, the coaches will complete their final evaluations and then NASL Combine concludes with full and small sized game for those invited to participate in the second phase on Sunday, January 26, from 9am to 10.30am.
“They’re looking at their system of play and seeing how these players can impact that system,” said UNLV Head Coach Rich Ryerson, who is one of the collegiate coaches assisting at the NASL Combine, when asked what the NASL coaches are looking for. “They’re starting their preseason pretty soon, so now they’re filling in gaps they need to.”
“I thought, to start, everyone was a little bit edgy today, a little too excited and nervous as it was very fast to begin with. Obviously there are good players here. Half the group is international, a lot of them come from colleges, it’s exciting to be a part of it, my small part anyway, and just see how the guys do.”
This is the fourth time the NASL has held a combine and the first ever on the west coast, which has previously led to several players earning professional contacts, including Mark Anderson of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who was the third top goal scorer in 2012, and Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Jordan Gafa.
2014 NASL Combine Schedule at UC Irvine
10 am – 11:30 am: Game #1
12 pm – 1:30 pm: Game #2
2 pm – 3:30pm: Game #3
9am – 10:30 am: Full/Small Sided Game (All Star invitees)
Media Note – All three NASL Combine Games on Saturday as well as Sunday’s All Star Matches are only open to media with coaches and selected player available afterwards with coordination with the UC Irvine SID Contact (Alex Croteau) onsite. Media wishing to attend the sessions are asked to contact NASL PR Coordinator Steven Torres: firstname.lastname@example.org