LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Forget about the sun and the sand. Those who left the heavy coat and the umbrella at home for the first day of the MLS Player Combine were in some serious trouble.
South Florida is in the middle of a patch of cold, rainy weather that left residents of the Sunshine State wondering why they traveled south in the first place. Temperatures plunged into the 40s during the day with the wind making the unseasonably chilly temperatures feel even colder. Reports of snow flurries in Boynton Beach on Saturday night marked the first snowfall in the area since 1977, according to a local television report.
Suffice it to say these weren't the conditions MLS had in mind when it decided to park its Combine here. While the dreary weather bailed out a few players who didn't possess the fitness to cope with a warmer day, it also turned the main stadium at Central Broward Regional Park – normally a cricket stadium complete with two cricket pitches right in the middle of the circular field – into a mucky mire that made good football nearly impossible during the second game of the day.
"I'd like to have a little bit less mud, maybe," suggested Wake Forest midfielder Corben Bone after trudging off the field after playing in the second match.
The poor field conditions led MLS to flip the proposed schedule for the next three days in the hopes that the weather would improve. The players will now have Sunday off before returning to the field on Monday (2:00p.m. and 3:45p.m.) and Tuesday (9:30a.m. and 11:15a.m.)
Mwanga skips Combine: Oregon State forward Danny Mwanga pulled out of the Combine amid speculation that Philadelphia will select him with the first overall pick in Thursday's SuperDraft.
The move would make sense for a Union side that is expected to go with an attacking player at the top of the draft. Philadelphia manager Peter Nowak traveled to Oregon in order to help sway Mwanga to choose MLS and reject possible trial offers in France, according to a report in The Oregonian earlier this week.
Condivo opens Combine with a romp: Three first-half goals paced Condivo to a 4-1 victory over F50i in the first of two matches on the day.
Andrew Hoxie (William & Mary) scored the opener after six minutes with an all-too-easy curling shot to the far post. Steven Kinney (Elon) doubled the lead with a diving header from a free kick after 21 minutes before Eric Alexander (Indiana) finished off a sweeping move with a low drive on 29 minutes.
Othaniel Yanez (Louisville) continued the Condivo rout in the second half with a stunning 30-yard blast to extend the lead to four before Drew Yates (Maryland) snatched a consolation goal from the spot after Ryan Peterman (San Diego) bundled over Ross LaBauex (Virginia).
Scoreless draw caps doubleheader: Jabulani and Predator X played to a drab scoreless stalemate to conclude the proceedings.
Predator X had a goal ruled out for offside after Jack McInerney (U.S. U-17s) volleyed home Mike Seamon's (Villanova) feed over the top early in the second half. McInerney later failed to convert a low cross from Samuel Appiah (Boston University) from inside of six yards, while Two-Boys Gumede (UAB) went close with a low drive to the far post in the late stages as Jabulani tried to notch the winner.
Run for cover: The roof over the stands may have kept the rain away, but the swirling wind forced just about everyone inside the two-story structure overlooking the field. MLS coaches and executives took the upper floor, while the players and the media shared the bottom floor with dividers providing the required separation.
Three points to note
1. Ofori Sarkodie (Indiana) wanted to display his ability as an attacking fullback on the right side for F50i, but couldn't find any room on the outside with Pascal Milien (Tampa) hugging the sideline. Sarkodie switched to the left to start the second half...and soon found Millien right back in front of him to clog his path. Milien, incidentally, saw a ton of the ball, but didn't do much with it.
2. Is it a coincidence that F50i got steamrolled with Mwanga – who was slated to pair with the invisible Andrew Wiedeman (California) up top – elsewhere? Probably. F50i's midfield couldn't cope with the Condivo quartet led by Zach Loyd (North Carolina) and Tony Tchani (Virginia).
3. The muddy field conditions - particularly on the far side of the field near the two cricket pitches - may make it considerably more difficult to evaluate wide players because the teams simply didn't want to play the ball on that side of the field when they could avoid it. If the conditions don't improve, the four Combine coaches will have to find a way to adjust to the conditions and dole out playing time accordingly.
Three stars of the day
1. Tchani – Central midfielder bossed the center of the park in Condivo's impressive win.
2. Hoxie – Can't complain about production, but coaches will wonder if he has MLS-level ability.
3. Ike Opara (Wake Forest) – Head and shoulders above every other defender on the field.
Three players who earned a second look
1. Justin Morrow (Notre Dame) – The left fullback certainly took his fitness training seriously because his motor just didn't stop.
2. Kwame Watson-Siriboe (UConn) – The central defender moves well and possesses pro-caliber size.
3. Samuel Appiah (Boston University) – The speedy right winger braved the mire on the far side of the field and contributed consistently when he came on as a second-half substitute.
Three players who can't wait for Monday
Between the first-day jitters and the dour conditions, the poor performers get a pass...but only for today.
They said it...
"Everyone here is an unfinished product. If they were (a finished product), they'd be making big bucks in Europe. Everyone has something they need to work on to get better."
--Wake Forest defender Ike Opara, in response to a question about whether he agreed with the perception that he needed to work on his passing.
"He's prepared us to the point where if we work hard, the other stuff will just come naturally. He told us to do what we've been doing."
-- Bone, on Wake Forest coach Jay Vidovich's advice to the four Wake players attending the combine.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for
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