For the first time in club history, the Colorado Rapids will host a Sueño MLS tryout next week when an estimated 500 players ages 14-18 converge at Dick Sporting Goods Park to pursue the dream of professional soccer.
This may be a first for Colorado, but head coach Oscar Pareja is no stranger to this extensive talent search featured on “República Deportiva," a weekly Univision Network sports entertainment show.
"We had a great experience when I was in Dallas," Pareja recalled of the second year of the contest in 2008 when he bagged one of the two co-winners. "The winner (Rogelio Gabriel Funes Mori) is now playing at River Plate, costing millions of dollars. That says a lot about the program. He played with me for seven months. It was hard for us because we wanted to keep him. We need to keep fishing for those guys."
The Rapids coaching staff - from Academy to first team - will be involved from April 20-21.
"It's not just publicity for us," Pareja said. "I'm hoping that we can find a player who can come and make things happen here."
The Colorado event will send five field players and one goaltender to join the winners from the D.C. United and Los Angeles Galaxy tryouts for the final selection at the Home Depot Center from May 9-12. It's a much different path than what Pareja took to the professional ranks.
"My dad played, and that helped," Pareja explained. "He told me that at some point you have to belong to the structure. But he let me play in the streets with my friends too. Both helped."
Pareja blossomed in the youth system at Atlético Nacional, and he eventually made his professional debut at Independiente Medellín in 1987 and continued his career until he retired in Dallas in 2005. He also played quite a few matches with the Colombian National Team.
Today, Pareja sees that the process has changed, but he believes it's important for developing players to learn how to be disciplined while also finding the joy and creativity from freeform play.
"Unfortunately, I think it's generational. Everything has changed a lot," Pareja said. "You don't see kids playing in the streets. Even in my country, you don't see the ball rolling in the streets as much. We miss that part. The clubs have to provide that. I think there's a way to provide that freedom and casual way of playing in the street."
Ultimately, Pareja believes in the dream approach that Sueño MLS provides.
"It's an opportunity to see talent that is now in the shadows," the Colorado coach said. "I'm very positive that there is a lot of talent that has not been identified."
When the Colorado tryouts conclude on April 21, MLS soccer fans will learn some new names and faces for the future.
Shea tried out for the Colorado Rapids in 1995 and, after failing to make a team, wrote a 1,000-word description of his unsuccessful tryout. He then proceeded to cover the Rapids for 15 years for various websites and local media outlets, up to and including the club's MLS championship in 2010. In between, he dared to try out again in 2002 and 2006. Send comments and feedback to Shea at firstname.lastname@example.org.