Sueño MLS: Colorado Rapids' staff winnows down "fruit salad" with final decisions looming on Sunday
COMMERCE CITY, Col. – The first Colorado tryout in the seven-year history of Sueño MLS, presented by Allstate, opened the floodgates for a bevy of pent-up talent at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Saturday.
Dozens of goalkeepers and hundreds of field players had less than 60 minutes each to convince Colorado Rapids development coaches and goalkeeping legend Felix Fernandez to include them in Sunday's pool of 30 players.
Only 10 preregistered players failed to show, and the wait list of 200 grew longer during the day. For Brian Crookham, senior director of youth development for the Rapids, the flood of quality challenged his staff to look for subtle differences.
"At this age, they've got to have good technique," Crookham said. "They must be able to manipulate the ball. From there, you look at their decision-making, their physical makeup and their psychological makeup."
The format included 12 full-field games with 25-minute halves on two adjacent artificial-turf fields. Games started at 9 am MT and continued until the Rapids hosted the Seattle Sounders across the street seven hours later.
During the noon hour, Fernandez ran the goalkeepers through a series of tests while Rapids players Martin Rivero and Jaime Castrillón spoke to field players.
"I always had the dream," Rivero recalled. "It takes dedication, sacrifice, and working hard, but you should also make sure you are happy being on the field."
Although most of the talent pool came from Colorado, some of the 30 finalists listed below traveled from Texas, Florida, Kansas, Nebraska and New Mexico. Ages ranged from 14 to 17 and the physical stature varied accordingly, but the soccer sophistication was consistently high.
"We were very conscious of their birth dates," Crookham explained. "We compared the criteria where they should be in their development, not necessarily if an 18-year-old could bully a 14-year-old."
The high-paced games featured aggressive, assertive play without major injuries. With three defenders, four midfielders and three attackers on each team, players wore traditional numbers to reflect the position they registered to play.
The format on Sunday allows players to show versatility in different positions and other characteristics.
"As the quality of the play tightens up," Crookham explained, "we'll see who can separate themselves from the group."
Looking ahead to the final selection of five field players and one goalkeeper on Sunday, Crookham said, "That's where the pressure cooker comes in. We'll focus our efforts on sorting apples and apples. Today was a fruit salad."
GK – Livan Aguirre (Brownsville, Texas)
GK – Daniel Ontiveros-Rascon (Denver, Colorado)
GK – Juan Pacheco (Thornton, Colorado)
RB - Jonathan Amador (Lexington, Nebraska)
RB - Amon Frazier (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
CB - Erik Alejandro Alonso (Brownsville, Texas)
CB - Jorge Ramirez (Aurora, Colorado)
LB - Erik Barragan (Garden City, Kansas)
LB - Luis Salas (Wheat Ridge, Colorado)
DM - Marco Carillo (Pittsburg, Texas)
DM - Angel Perez Rodriguez (Longmont, Colorado)
DM - Brian Loaiza (Royal Palm Beach, Florida)
DM - Gilberto Galvan (Commerce City, Colorado)
RM - Jose Felix Elias (Aurora, Colorado)
RM - Gilberto Tovar (Garden City, Kansas)
RM - Luis Galvan (Commerce City, Colorado)
LM - G. Ty Lang (Denver, Colorado)
LM - Brayan Arreola (Denver, Colorado)
LM - JuanHernandez Rodarte (Evans, Colorado)
AM - Miguel Jaime (Glendale, Colorado)
AM - David Amaro (Garden City, Kansas)
AM - Fernando Hernandez (Englewood, Colorado)
RF - Jonathan Roman (Denver, Colorado)
RF - Alvaro Omar Sandoval (Centennial, Colorado)
RF - Hector Rodriguez (Wellington, Colorado)
CF - Jose Antonio Hernandez (Dallas, Texas)
CF - Cristian Prado (Aurora, Colorado)
CF - Jason Alarcon (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
LF - Ismail Mbaruku (Denver, Colorado)
LF - Alejandro Avila (Lakewood, Colorado)