MLS Player Combine: A job interview with your competitors

January 12th, 2014

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LAUDERHILL, Fla. – College stars from across the country travel to south Florida in January to reinforce their credentials before the MLS SuperDraft.

They congregate for the MLS Player Combine, an exacting and peculiar exercise designed to provide one last look at these players before a handful of them make the leap to the pros. These players are chosen by a selection committee, dispatched to teams with unfamiliar faces and told to work with each other for three matches as they jockey for position on draft boards.

“It’s hard,” Southern New Hampshire forward Pierre Omanga said. “Soccer is a question of habit. You’re used to playing with players and they know you. When you come here, you don’t know anybody. You have to build something. It’s hard.”

Success requires a calm demeanor and a keen understanding of the circumstances over the five-day period. A little flash of brilliance never hurts if it comes off successfully, but a tidy display offers more proof of a player’s ability to transition into a more modest role in the professional game. Simple efficiency works well in this chaotic environment.

“I think you have to try and play your game,” Cal defender Steve Birnbaum said. “You can’t try and show off or do too much on the field. I’m just trying to go out there, do the best I can, play my game and show the coaches what I can do.”

Standouts ally those principles with their physical qualities to state their claims. There is no secret formula. It is just a matter of finding some way to accentuate the positives and downplay the negatives with a cast of teammates attempt to accomplish the same goals and work their way to the top of the SuperDraft.

“It’s definitely a balance of trying to showcase yourself and also fitting into what the team is trying to do,” Georgetown forward Steve Neumann said. “We talked before the (first) game a little bit about the tactics and what we were trying to put into action. It’s definitely tough playing with guys you’ve never played with before, but it’s all about learning their tendencies. That’s something I’ll have to do at the next level. It’s good practice anyways.”

Image courtesy USA Today Sports Images

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