Four players selected at D.C. Sueño tryout
GERMANTOWN, Md. -- Twenty-five nervous players gathered in the center of Field 21 in a makeshift television studio created by Univision to celebrate the conclusion of Sueno MLS 2009 at the Maryland SoccerPlex. They waited patiently near the goal post amongst the wind-blown assorted signs that decorated the field, as the director rehearsed and rehearsed and barked out direction to the players and crew.When the producer finally sent it live to Alba Galindo, the beautiful model and reporter for Republica Deportiva, she said a quick introduction and handed the microphone over to El Salvador national team and D.C. United legend Raul Diaz Arce to announce the four finalists who would be moving on to Los Angeles for the final trial.The finality of an intense yet hope-filled weekend was drawing near for the 25 players, ranging in age from 17 to 26 -- all dreaming of being the next Jorge Flores of Chivas USA, the sparkling young talent found at this same event two years ago.As Diaz Arce announced Max Ferdinand as the fourth finalist, a unique mix of disappointment and joy spread across the faces of the other 21 participants. Goalkeeper Oussana Maukran, the oldest player at the camp, Manfredis Hernandez and Cesar Bazan were announced prior to Ferdinand, all four receiving D.C. United windbreakers, a bonus hug from the Galindo and a fantastic life experience."I am excited, happy -- I am enjoying this day. I don't know -- I'm nervous, excited," said Hernandez with a never ending grin on his face. "This is a dream come true that I have really tried to work for."Hernandez, 19, was by far the most nervous of the four speaking into the camera and gazing at Galindo as she offered congratulations.All four of these players matriculated to the USA from different countries and all have different stories to tell about how they got to this moment."My brother-in-law has helped me a lot by taking to me places like this. I never would have made it here if it wasn't for him. He takes me everywhere. He is someone I can look up to -- he is like a friend, a brother; I am always around him," said Hernandez of Pasqual Umana, where they live in Mount Rainier, Md. in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Umana has ushered him around the entire area, playing in the local Salvadoran league, a very popular and competitive league around the national capital area.The young Salvadoran defender was equally as nervous, he said, of playing in front of Diaz Arce, a legend in his homeland as well with D.C. United. Diaz Arce was brought in as a special scout to assist D.C. United director of youth development John Maessner with the player selections.Hernandez is still age-eligible to play for D.C. United's under-20 team, which he might consider. They also took the information of Mexican defender Victor Rivas from Lorton, Va., who is currently playing for Division II Salem College in West Virginia.As the players lounged around quietly on the field after the final scrimmage waiting for the final verdict with a quick snack to replenish, the topic of collegiate eligibility arose. Rivas and one other player playing collegiately would not have been eligible to return to college if they had accepted the final bid to Los Angeles due to NCAA rules.That was not an issue, however, for the 6-foot-5 Maukran, who originally comes from Morocco. He had already played two years at Lewisburg College in North Carolina before moving to Alexandria, Va. and his Washington Athletic Club team, made up primarily of Moroccans, won their division's championship in the Washington International Soccer League (WISL), one of the largest in the area.Oussana, who had a chance to get a green card by lottery, is by far the most previously accomplished of the four finalists. But like many in all professions and walks of life from foreign countries, his skills and talents went unnoticed. He played at the second division level in Morocco before moving to Wydad Casablanca, one of the biggest clubs in Morocco's capital city."I have been stressed and thinking about it all the time but like I tell everybody that when you come to the U.S. and you believe in yourself, you can make it," the long, lanky goalkeeper said. "I know I am halfway there but this is going to make me work harder, practice more to try to make it in L.A."Bazan, 23, also plays in multiple leagues in the Washington area including the WISL and the Arlington and Bolivian leagues, though he is Peruvian.The flank midfielder moved from Springfield, Va. to Deerwood, Md. -- quite a distance -- to accommodate his job as technician for Comcast. However, he was given an opportunity to play on the back line and he liked it."Today I got to try in the back and I liked it because I can go and get the ball," Bazan said, adding he usually plays as a flank midfielder.Maessner and his staff were challenged to whittle down the 600-plus players to 24 in one day. It was a daunting task, but as Diaz Arce said, "you know who can play right away sometimes." With the abundance of equally talented players, they apparently pondered a bit on the last player and extended an extra invitation for Sunday's final tryout as well.Many of the players came with a legitimate chance, most with just a dream and some came just for the experience."The level picked up today that we narrowed it to 25 and that was good to see," said Maessner. "These are some of the better players in the area and there is a lot of players that came in from outside the area. It's fun and exciting to have an event like this where you try and find talent where you otherwise find it."Ferdinand, 23, had recently been released from the Chicago Fire's training camp after suffering a groin injury, he said. That injury didn't seem to bother him today as the flashy Haitian, clearly the most dynamic and creative attacking player on the field, scored a sensational goal in the second half of the full scrimmage."There is a lot of talent out here but I think the coaches made the best decision picking the top four and I am glad to be in it," said Ferdinand.Not all dreams came true for some very good players. Mexican-born Raul Ezpinoza, 21, who drove straight through from Burlington, Wisc. to be at the trial and slept in his car Saturday night but not without a snag. He originally stayed in the parking lot of the SoccerPlex but was forced to leave by security before they locked the gate. He subsequently went to the parking lot of a close-by hotel but still slept in his car.Ronnie Castellanos, a darting little forward from Winston Salem, N.C., was also considered but fell just shy of his dream."It was a little bit tougher than yesterday. My teammates were really good -- good with the ball. I felt great," said Castellanos, who also scored in the scrimmage, banging home a sitter from six yards out. "I am going to keep playing. This is my business, that's what I call it, so I know I am going to have more chances."