My Soccer Icarus

My now hometown Albuquerque Sol are currently in the Premier Development League, the 4th tier of American soccer but are destined for MLS someday.

Over the weekend I was among a select few (50+) Albuquerque-area soccer players given a special invitation to tryout for the local soccer club the Albuquerque Sol.  The special invitation was akin to earning a golden ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory except it wasn’t a golden ticket and there was no chocolate.  Instead, I paid $35 and showed up to St. Pius High School (The Fightin’ Sartans! yes Sartans)  in NW Albuquerque on a sun-splashed afternoon.  I did get a nice Sol Tshirt for my troubles as part of the registration fee.  It also took me a stupid amount of time to pin my jersey # to my shirt.

We were actually supposed to play on Saturday but maybe they remembered it was Shabbat. I actually got a call from the Owner about 90′ before the start saying that because of the weather (Albuquerque got a dusting of snow and ice on Friday) the field was unsafe.  Too bad because I had eaten a big breakfast already.

Let me be clear: I was never going to make it beyond this tryout because (1) I’m 31 and this is a developmental league (2) I’m not that good at soccer (3) I had not touched a soccer ball since May (4) I hadn’t done any purely anaerobic exercising in awhile beyond handling toddler tantrums  (5) 30′ of running a day does not for full soccer fitness make

I was greeted by the amiable members of the Sol Leadership including the GM and Owner. There were about 20+ players in the morning session and 30+ players in the afternoon session.  They checked me in and I looked around to see if anyone was within 5 years of my age.   After confirming that, no of course not, I’m Roger Murtaugh here, I began my necessary-yet-preposterously-long-warm-up.  Two slow jogs of the field and the same tepid stretches I’ve been doing for 20 years and I was as lean and hungry as young Cassius of Julius Caesar fame.  I was ready to explode out of the blocks like a doped up Russian sprinter.

Precisely at the stroke of 1 pm MT, the Manager, GM, and Owner gathered my fellow hopefuls to thanks us profusely for attending and talk a little about the Sol’s rise.  The Sol are in preliminary negotiations for building their own stadium and growing support locally.  The team has about 16 guys already signed up for the 2017 season.  The GM said they have players coming from all over the country and possibly a few international locations (possibly).  Left unsaid but obvious, the last 7 weren’t going to exclusively arise from this tryout.  I expect/hope the GM is working to recruit players.  The Manager said that as many as 15-20 guys would be invited to a preseason camp in March-April but even for those 15-20 it would be a long road to make the final roster.

Tryouts formally commenced with a slow jog around the field and the whole mess of us strewn about the touchline as the Manager led us in some dynamic stretching warmup exercises.  I have to be honest. I crushed them.  I was so dynamic in the stretching and bending and quick movements. I was a little surprised they didn’t just pull me aside then and there and ask my preferred jersey number (#18 btw).  But I guess they wanted more.

We huddled up and then split off to do a basic passing drill.  Two lines facing each other about 20-30 yards apart.  One person sprints to a flag, then makes a sharp lateral cut to get separation from a defender as the person on the far line passes to him.  The new ballcarrier then quickly turns and passes back from whence he came.  The guy who made the original pass then takes his place at the flag. And rinse and repeat.  As the Manager noted, it’s simple but detailed.  Sort of like route running in football.    A handful of the guys had trouble following this drill.  But then the Manager added a 1-2 combination pass to it and they were completely adrift.  I worked hard showing my grizzled veteran leadership based on my literally minutes of high school varsity soccer 15 years ago to talk and encourage folks through this drill.  I did fine with this one because it really was not that hard to collect a pass turn and complete a 1-2 combination.  But I do have a law degree so that probably helped. IRAC.

#1xx in my little group was definitely certain he was going to be on the Sol.  He played a million miles an hour spraying passes as hard as possible so as to make everyone else look bad when we didn’t cleanly handle the blast from close range.  Barking orders and demanding some frenetic pace only he could keep.  It was annoying.  Again, law school and rooting for Tottenham prepped me for Gunners like that.

We then moved right into a 60′ scrimmage.  We just kind of randomly picked positions and lineups.  I am normally a #9 or winger was started out for a few minutes as a right outside midfielder.  The guy playing fullback behind me was really good and had a great motor. I hope he made it.  I extinguished whatever faint flicker of a half-chance I had of making a positive impression when carrying the ball fwd I failed to send a ball down the touchline to a striker and instead it was intercepted by a defender.  Not a terribly difficult pass and I fluffed my lines.  Really didn’t see much of the ball after that and was just trying to run as much as I could.  After being subbed out I suddenly found myself making my debut as a fullback for the other side after some guy had a hamstring twinge or something.  I later wound up making my debut at centerback.

I think my youth coaches were on to something by not having me in a defensive role.  I had a heavy touch wasting an opportunity to get fwd in attack but otherwise was trying to channel my inner Diego Chara/Victor Wanyama/Eric Dier to step fwd and disrupt attacks.  Again, precious few touches on the ball and mostly conservative high % passes.  There was a fair amount to do as the tiring midfielders abandoned all pretense of considering their defensive responsibilities.   There was lots of acreage between the attackers and defenders and I tried to step fwd to close some things down.  Definitely more false steps then sure footed defending on my part.  Another Gunner type tried to pull me down by my pinney to get the ball once but he found out that Wisconsin boys don’t acquiesce to that noise.  I flattened a quiet but pacy forward on a challenge of my own.  He said his name was Jet which can’t possibly be true.  He wasn’t THAT fast.  He didn’t seem too troubled but my inartful challenge which was kind.

Probable Man Of The Match, Luke something, had a late challenge on me and I felt all 31 of my years as he slid in after I had unloaded the pass.  He apologized.    Seemed like he read the game well too which was not true of most of the players.  Lot of guys playing for individual glory desperate for a moment of inspiration to punch their ticket to spring camp.  Luke and this tall dude Ian were the 2 most impressive players and I would imagine the Sol would take a second look at them. I know there was a morning a session too, but I had a hard time seeing how the Sol could reasonably find 15-20 players for spring camp based on what I saw.

The Manager gave an odd pep talk at the end recapping the scrimmage that probably was a little more dour then he was intending.  But in general, the Manager, GM, Owner were all quite friendly and appreciative of us taking the time to tryout.  Very gracious and hospitable all around.  To me signals good things about the culture the club is breeding. They outlined the next steps which would be emails in the coming days to notify those invited back and to people like me to be rejected.  My professional career came to sudden halt this afternoon in an email directly from The Manager’s personal Gmail address which I will not post here:

Thank you for joining Sol FC for our 2017 PDL season tryouts. 

Unfortunately we have made the decision not to select you for our pre season roster at this time. 

On behalf of everybody at Sol FC, we’d like to thank you for your flexibility and application this weekend, as well as your continued support of our franchise. 


All the best,

I’m assuming congressional republicans are ready with 8-9 select committees and hundred of millions in wasteful spending to review his email protocol and hurt his public image for partisan reasons.

I can tryout next season.  We’ll see if I touch a soccer ball before then.  If I were the Sol, I would find it hard to unearth diamonds in the rough in the current format.  11 v 11 for 60′ with guys playing with unfamiliar faces in unfamiliar places on the pitch seems impossible to evaluate.  Nobody knows how to play together and you get just a jumble of energy that doesn’t match skill or flow.  Pretty soccer this was not and I don’t think you get a true assessment of player’s talents.

I understand the 2 hour format is probably a reasonable limit so I would do this in future tryouts instead of just an 11v11 scrimmage

(1) Tryout starts at X time, so be warmed up and ready to go

(2) 2-3 technical dribbling/passing drills to see basic skills and how we follow directions

(3) why not do a couple sprints, or vertical jumps, broad jumps, or timed cone drills like the NFL combine just to see if one of us (not me) has some impressive athleticism?  Some guy who gets 6 touches all game might be a good athlete and have the raw physical makeup you’d want for a developmental league.  We should submit our height/weight when we register too.  You could probably have half do the combine drills while the other half does technical drills

(4) This is the key one.  Divide the field into fourths and play small sided pop-up goal  (no goalie) 5v5 or 6v6 or whatever you need for even numbers.  Play for 20′ periods or whatever.  This is how most pick up soccer goes and to me easier for evaluation.  Playing in those formats is really how soccer is played.  Fast paced, lots of passing in close quarters, quick changes of possession, tight ball control, etc.  Its a much more fluid game and you really don’t play true positions.  In this kind of format everyone plays every position eventually so you can measure your complete toolkit.  In these games everyone gets a chance to develop some rhythm by getting more touches on the ball and you can evaluate the work rate, individual skill, and vision more clearly.

(5) individual GK drills if you want to tryout some GK

My first weekend in Albuquerque my dad and I saw the Sol finish their home schedule by defeating the 10, and eventually 9-man Las Vegas Mobsters. I look forward to checking out the Sol as much as I can this summer and I wish them well.  I’ll even vote to raise my taxes for a stadium if need be.  The Sol leadership seem like really committed and I want them to succeed.

#SolFC  #AreYouSol  #YesIAmSol  #PTFC  #RCTID  #ThornsFC  #COYS  #Madison56ers

 

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