MLS/Caribbean Combine opens in Antigua

Players at the MLS/Caribbean Combine go through a training session on January 2, 2014, in St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda. (Photo courtesy of the Caribbean Football Union)

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua & Barbuda -- The 2014 MLS/Caribbean Football Union Combine kicked off at the Antigua Recreation Ground on Thursday with 24 players from across the region anxious to show the coaches gathered that they have what it takes to make it Major League Soccer (MLS).

Alfonso Mondelo, MLS’s Technical Director, told that after witnessing the first evening of trials he is happy with the effort shown by the young participants.

“I think there were some nerves out there and the players were playing with new teammates they weren’t familiar with,” said Mondelo.  “However, as the game went on, it became a lot better and we saw good things, a lot of talent is out there. 

“This is a great opportunity to give young players a chance to pursue their dreams and the experience whether they make to the next stage or not, will be beneficial to them.”

Those chosen to continue on will be invited to the adidas MLS Player Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from January 10-14.

Puerto Rico’s Joseph Marrero is one of those eager to demonstrate his abilities.

“I am happy to be here and want to give of my best,” said the 20-year-old forward, who scored in a World Cup qualifier against St. Lucia in 2011.  “I was able to settle and score a goal, but I mostly wanted to show the coaches that I am a quick player and willing to learn.”

The response to the Combine has also been well received by top MLS coaches as well.

“I think it’s good because you can’t be everywhere at once,” Dominic Kinnear, a former United States international and current head coach of the Houston Dynamo, told  “Sometimes you only see one game on a scouting trip; I think to gather a group of players to give you a chance to see the best players that makes everything so much easier.”

Additionally, Kinnear spoke on how the Caribbean Combine will make it much easier for interested MLS clubs to scout talent around the CFU.

“You’ll be down there for a couple of days so you’re not just going in and watching a Saturday [game] or Sunday and then flying out,” he noted.  “And then sometimes the guy you’re going to watch doesn’t even play.” 

The event, which hopes to appear yearly on the Caribbean football calendar, is being facilitated by the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) organizing committee.