Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Roomful of George Plimptons

It was much like the movie Invincible minus the bellbottoms, the broken down car and the blonde vixen bartender. Other than that, it was exactly the same: a roomful of youthful Vince Papales all striving for a Revolution roster spot, as the club conducted their invitation-only tryouts at the Dana Farber Fieldhouse Friday night. Twenty-nine players laced up their boots to give Steve Nicol & Co. their very best efforts, all attempting to fulfill their professional soccer playing dreams.

The tryout commenced with a handful of dribbling and passing drills. The banter between the unfamiliar players was expectedly short and limited, with much of the background noise provided by the coaches’ instructions and the patter of balls hitting the boots.

However, the true test would take place in the form of a healthy scrimmage. After the players and coaches clustered at mid-field to discuss strategy, the meat and potatoes of the action commenced. Although there were missed headers and misdirected passes, surely due to nerves, there were also flashes of fine maneuvers, good touches, and spirited counterattacks. With communication between the players still scarce, onlookers were treated to some interesting set pieces during the Orange vs. Yellow indoor classic.

Yet, one could only step back and truly marvel at these young gents, with their sweat-encompassed faces, making forceful runs and gallant saves, all in the hopes of eliciting a raised eyebrow or two from the gaffer and his staff. Among the whistles and drills, slide tackles and shanks, were the dreams and aspirations tethered to the lads like the bright orange and yellow pinnies they sported. Surely, this would be the first and last time many of them would ever play before such an esteemed audience, and the intensity on the indoor pitch was clear for the eyes to see. The spirited scrimmage was performed with the energy and passion of desperate young men with nothing to lose. While some of the upstarts were not at peak fitness, their individual efforts were amplified that much more in order to compensate.

Many of the fresh faces battled to separate themselves from the crowd, and there were certainly spotlights to be had: A beautiful scissor kick by forward Dale Weiler (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) that rocketed inches above the crossbar and the impressive saves of keeper Brad Knighton (UNC-Wilmington) drew the applause of the handful of spectators on hand. Another player who did well to distinguish himself was Dana Leary, a tall 6’ 4”, 220lbs defender/forward from Williams College. The 2006 D-III National Player of the Year often displayed his great touch, especially for a guy built from the same mold as Oguchi Onyewu.

After the session ended, Coach Nicol met with the media, and hinted that this would not be the last time some of these neophytes would be playing under his watchful eyes. With preseason training scheduled for Monday, it may not be very long indeed before some return for an encore performance.

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