2013 MLS Player Combine: Day Three – Settling accounts and waiting for the fallout

The players offered up their last displays and scampered off to points across the country as the Combine concluded. One of them even soaked in the glow of knowing his new home.
LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Chivas USA coach José Luis Sánchez Solá caught a few people in league circles off guard when he revealed Carlos Alvarez as the number two pick-in-waiting on Monday night. Alvarez wasn't one of them.

“I spoke with him way before that,” Alvarez said on his first day as a quasi-official member of the Red-and-White. “He told me and I was really happy. I didn't say anything to anybody. I just planned to wait until Thursday. I didn't even say anything to my family. I didn't want to get them excited. At the same time, I wanted it to be a surprise.”

Solá admittedly reduced some of the suspense by previous admitting that his side needed more Mexican-American players. At the top of this draft class, that reduced his options to exactly two players: Alvarez and North Carolina midfielder Mikey Lopez.

Most coaches in this particular situation would have leaned toward Lopez because he doesn't count toward the salary budget. One suspects Solá doesn't quite think in those terms. In the battle between an energetic box-to-box midfielder and a creative presence in the final third, there is only one winner in Solá's world.

“I knew it was going to be either me or Mikey,” Alvarez said. “Money-wise, there was an issue [because Lopez does not count against the salary budget as a Generation adidas player]. Other than that, I wasn't surprised at all. The work that I am putting in is paying off.”

Now the hard toil really starts. Alvarez will come into training camp in the next week or so and try to win a spot in the starting XI. Most college kids find that a difficult road to travel, particularly when they attempt to travel it as a central midfielder. It might smooth out a bit given the wasteland on the Red-and-White side of the Home Depot Center, but there are no foregone conclusions with a host of players one phone call and a short flight from Mexico away from joining the team. And Alvarez knows that bit, too.

“I'm thankful he has eyes for me,” Alvarez said. “Whatever he says, I'm there. I told him thanks for everything and that I'll keep working hard. That's my only thing. I have a winning mentality. Whenever he needs me to report, I'll be there.”

adiZero claims top spot after final day draw

Game one: adiZero (blue) 2, Prime (green) 2: The green side jumped out to a two-goal lead by the interval in a bid to sustain its unblemished mark. Ryan Finley (Notre Dame/senior signing) converted from the spot after Will Bates (Virginia) prompted James Belshaw (Duke) to haul him down inside the penalty area. Bates turned provider seven minutes later to set up Blake Smith (New Mexico) for the second. Blue responded after the break to grab a share of the points as Kyle Bekker (Boston College/senior signing) lashed home a free kick and Ashton Bennett (Coastal Carolina) slotted home to claim a share of the spoils.

Game two: adiPure (light blue) 2, adiPower (red) 1: All of the scoring in this match arrived in the second half after both teams hit the frame in the opening stanza. Fernando Monge (UCLA) and Deshorn Brown (Central Florida/Generation adidas) broke the deadlock for the light blues. Mikey Lopez (North Carolina/Generation adidas) responded for the red side, but the goal could not keep adiPure from claiming second place in the table.

Table: 1. adiZero (blue), 2-0-1, 7 pts.; 2. adiPure (light blue), 1-1-1, 4 pts.; 3. Prime (green), 0-0-3, 3 pts.; 4. adiPower (red), 0-2-1, 1 pt.

Quotes of the day

“It happens. They were just one of my preferred teams. It wasn't the team I wanted to go to specifically. It wasn't my favorite team. I have no connection them. They were just one of the teams I wanted to go to. I mean, that's life. You go to something. Maybe the coach likes you, maybe he doesn't. It happens. I have to get past it and focus on what comes next with whatever team picks me. I'll go there and show them, I guess.”
– North Carolina and Generation adidas midfielder Mikey Lopez on Chivas USA's decision to take Carlos Alvarez with the second overall pick

“It's really good. It felt amazing. Thank you, especially to my Combine team. They did great. They made me look good. Thanks to everyone who has supported me. It feels really good.”
– Santa Clara forward Erik Hurtado on his reaction to signing a deal with MLS on Monday night

News and notes

– The final day provided one last chance to atone for the mistakes of the previous outings. Some players rose to the occasion. Others simply didn't need to do so or didn't possesses the capability to improve their stock.

– Tuesday marked the first chance for coaches to catch a glimpse of the real Blake Smith during this Combine. The left winger from New Mexico influenced the opening match consistently and took his chance well. Although he didn't enjoy the best of weekends, his athleticism, his body of work with the Lobos, and his position should ensure he comes off the board during the first round.

– One downside to Smith's weekend: he wasn't able to convince MLS to hand him a contract prior to the draft. The only pact – at least for the moment – went to Santa Clara forward Erik Hurtado on Monday night.

– Hurtado said he heard rumors that MLS planned to offer him a deal during the Combine, but he said he wanted to focus on taking care of business on the field first before contemplating his contractual status. The plan worked. His performances may have persuaded a few coaches and tipped the scales in his favor as the league assessed its potential options.

– Virginia forward Bates helped himself a quite bit with a fine first half display in the opening game. He finally displayed some of the physical qualities required to establish himself as a viable target man at the next level, but he must still dispel concerns about his fitness after a suffering a torn ACL in October 2011.

– Bekker tallied the goal of the day with a rasping free kick. It proved a fitting ending to his weekend. Few, if any, players performed better than he did over the three games.

– Most, if not all, of the players departed at some point on Tuesday. Some – particularly those lucky folks already contracted to MLS – headed straight to Indianapolis. Others returned home to wait for the proceedings to unfold on Thursday afternoon.

– Many of the coaches and assistant coaches on hand gathered at the far end of the stands between matches. ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas snapped a picture of the not-so-clandestine meeting and Tweeted that the coaches were discussion the possibility of forming an association to strengthen their collective rights.

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