Last weekend I participated in the Sounders Open Tryouts, held at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, WA. I spent two days at the tryouts hoping to impress coaches and staff enough to become a professional soccer player.
While that didn't go so well, I did get plenty of pictures (and even a video) of my hopeful exploits and a personal recap of this unique experience. I had a lot of fun, and if I could I would totally do this again.
The tryouts were scheduled to start at 9AM on Saturday morning, with registration and sign-in's beginning at 8. Of course, that meant that I arrived at 9:03, and barely managed to run upstairs to register in time. Which for me, isn't surprising. The last time I woke up before 9AM for soccer was in high school, and even then I was always late to to morning games.
Anyways, I get up to registration room, and BAM, standing in front of me are all of the coaches. Ezra Hendrickson, Adrian Hanauer, Brian Schmetzer, and Sigi were all standing in a group of like 12 coaches. They were all wearing puffy raincaots and Schmetzer was explaining the format of the morning exercises. I don't know why, but it was super intimidating. I scrambled to get signed in and received two pennies, a blue and a yellow one (247 is not my lucky number), which would identify me among all the participants, and was placed in team 11.
I was super excited, and ran out to the stadium ahead of the coaches.
When I got the stadium I was shocked. It was crazy how many people were there. All of them had super serious faces on, and looked like very serious soccer players too. And, it was eerily quiet, as everyone was waiting anxiously for the coaches to come out.
Then all the coaches made it up to the front, where they made announcements for the how the two days would go. Somebody (I think it was Schmetzer) introduced Sigi, and Sigi introduced the rest of the coaches. Then Schmetzer explained the format. It would be two days of tryouts. Each day would start off with light warm-ups and stretching, followed by scrimmaging. This was much to my relief, since I was anticipating rounds of tough physical fitness tests before scrimmages, but it seemed the coaches wanted to get straight to the point by giving us the most possible playing time. Sounds good to me.
At some point in the talk, Schmetzer proceeded to scare the crap out of us. He said that some of us come as the best players of their club or school teams, or would even be the best on their teams for the tryouts. But they were specifically looking for people good enough for MLS play, and players who could make an immediate impact. This got all of us motivated, and so we started with warm-ups.
Later on, I found out that there were 170 people trying out for the team. Insane!
Sigi and Co looking on as we got warmed up by the fitness coaches.
Embarrassingly, that would be my butt trying to stretch. Note the poor form.
And I think that would be Sigi trying to get in some stretches too.
We were then given directions and split up by teams onto three different fields for scrimmages. Each field had three teams, and we played two games per rotation so that all teams got to play each other at least once. Each game was around 15 minutes.
Each field had one or two coaches looking on with clipboards in hand. It was kind of intimidating, since the coaches would rotate as the teams rotated fields. Sometimes you would get really quiet, silent coaches that didn't really say anything or even touch their clipboard. I also had some coaches who were super nice, asked me where I was from and my playing experience, and gave tips on what he wanted to see on the field. One guy was really cool. I think he was English, but he sounded exactly like Jon Oliver.
In between games, we were waiting around. Some people juggled and passed to stay warm, since it was raining and freezing cold.
I think in all, I played 6 games on the first day. By the last game, my muscles were cramping, but mostly because it was so cold and we spent half the time waiting around. In all though, it was a pretty OK day for me. I didn't play amazingly good, but I didn't completely suck (well I hope so).
This is a super awesome video with a bit featuring yours truly. You can see me in the video play the ball in, completely give it away to the other team, somehow get it back, and then peg my own teammate on a shot.
Next most viewed youtube video for soccer tekkers? You betchya.
So Day 2 of tryouts began just as cold and cloudy. This time I came better dressed, with a beanie.
Interactive stretching ftw!
Face stretching ftw!
For Day 2, we only did one rotation. I guess this was mostly because at this point the coaches had already scouted who they liked best, and the one round of games was to give scouts one more look to confirm yea or nay on certain players. Needless to say, I sucked. The second day was not the best I've ever played, but I wasn't alone. I think a lot the players were winded from the intensity of the day before, and it was visible.
So after the two short games, we were told to meet back up in the stadium in half an hour. That's when they would be announcing the numbers for those who would make it onto the next cut, which would be two full sized games of 11v11.
All the coaches assembled once again...
At this point I was doing the math in my head. "Let's see, two games is about 44 people, right? So 44 out of 160, since some people didn't show up for the second day, my chances are not looking too good."
Sadly, I had a feeling that I wouldn't make the cut. Over the course of the two days, I knew I hadn't played my best and likely wouldn't get called. Still, I stuck around until all the numbers were counted.
After my number wasn't called, I decided that my tryout experience was over and headed home. I didn't stick around to see who would survive, because it was way too cold. But hopefully the guys who impressed get invited back to train with the team.
In the end, I still think it was worth it. I got the chance to meet some cool people, get to know the Sounders staff, and share soccer with people who just really love it. I think most importantly though, I have a new found respect for the guys who do this professionally. To be at the level that they need to compete at is unimaginable, and you can really feel it when you're out there in front of coaches and other players.
Of course, it helps knowing that I am supporting my club and the Sounders youth academy, but the coaches and staff really made us feel like we were a part of the organization for coming out and giving it our all.
Also, photo credit for all the pictures and video go to my lovely and supportive girlfriend. :D
So, until next year's tryouts, come on you Sounders!