Sueño MLS: The Dream Continues

10 finalists selected to train with Dynamo Academy

HOU_Sueno_Day2photo

Photo Credit: 
Jonathan Kaplan / Houston Dynamo

The Spanish word for dream is sueño. This past weekend, 400 kids showed up
at Houston’s USA Park with one dream in mind: to earn the opportunity to pursue
a career as a professional soccer player.

Sueño MLS 2010, built by The Home Depot, kicked off this
weekend with tryouts in Houston, the first of three cities. Beginning on April 18, portions of the
tryouts will air on the popular Univision Spanish-language sports show
República Deportiva, with the winner - earning a spot in an MLS developmental academy - to be crowned in Los Angeles on May 9.

Ranging in age from 14 to 18, participants came from as far as
Florida and Maryland for a chance to impress coaches from the Dynamo
Academy.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” said John DeWitt, an assistant
coach with the Dynamo Academy. 
“When you have an open tryout like this, you get kids who range from
very good to not-so-good.”

DeWitt said the goal of a program such as Sueño MLS is to
find players that, for whatever reason, have not had the chance to showcase their
skills.

“This reminds us that there are different ways to find
players, and it definitely motivates us to work harder to find that diamond in
the rough,” DeWitt said.  He added
that the coaches were pleasantly surprised with the standard of play, and he
felt confident they identified some strong players.

One player that DeWitt spoke highly of was Eric Martinez, a
freshman at Spring Dekaney High School, just north of Houston. By the
end of the first two days of tryouts, Martinez was one of the 10
finalists who earned the
opportunity to train this coming week with the Dynamo Academy. At the
end of the week, five players
will be chosen to compete in the finals in Los Angeles.

“Eric is a dynamic, confident player,” DeWitt said.  “He has the type of personality we are
looking for on the field. He is not
afraid to take players on, and he makes something happen every time he has the
ball.”

Last year, Martinez was selected for the Olympic
Developmental Program, but did not have the financial resources to go
compete. He was selected again
this year and will travel to Alabama this summer to participate in the ODP
Region III camp. Martinez believed his ODP tryouts gave him more
confidence heading into this weekend.

“ODP has taught me better training,” he said.  “I was not nervous, and I just knew I had
to fight for every ball to impress the coaches.”

Martinez hopes to follow in the footsteps of Jorge Flores
and Gabriel Funes, previous winners of Sueño MLS. Flores, the 2007
winner, is now a member of Chivas USA’s
senior roster and competed for the United States U-20 national team -
with the Dynamo's Danny Cruz - at last year's FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Funes, the 2008 winner, currently plays for the Argentine
first division club River Plate.

The success of past winners has helped the program grow, and Andres Johnson, a producer for República Deportiva, is still amazed
at how much Sueño MLS has grown in the past four years.

“It started with just one city, and now we have three cities
and more and more kids turning out,” Johnson said.

Because Sueño MLS is only a small portion of the República
Deportiva show, Johnson said it is tough to tell if ratings are higher
now than
they were four years ago, but Univision's coverage has grown from a
small clip covering the tryouts to roughly 6-7 minutes of a show for
each tryout.

“We have always had a good relationship with MLS,” Johnson said.  “As long as they continue
giving us a product to cover, we are happy to provide the coverage.”

One man with particular interest in the tryouts was
Francisco Navas Cobo, a recently signed midfielder for the Houston
Dynamo. Although Navas Cobo played much of his
youth soccer in Colombia, he returned to Houston seven months ago to
join the Dynamo Academy, which helped him catch the eye of Dynamo head
coach Dominic Kinnear and eventually earn a first-team contract last
month.

“I had the opportunity to speak with the players yesterday
and again today,” Navas Cobo said. 
“I told them if they want to achieve their goals, they have to work hard
and train every day.”

Navas Cobo saw much of himself in the players at the
tryout.  It was not long ago he was
a wide-eyed boy, trying to impress coaches to earn his shot. Martinez and the nine others selected hope that their dream will
not end this week. They hope that one month
from now, they will be crowned the next winner of Sueño MLS and one day they,
like Navas Cobo, will have the opportunity to share their success story and
impart words of wisdom to future soccer players.

Name

Position

Age

Hometown

Nelson Castro

Center Def.

14

Houston, TX

Carlos Castillo

Left Mid.

15

Brownsville, TX

Juan Contreras

Left Mid.

16

Dickinson, TX

Jesus Cruz

Left Def.

15

Dallas, TX

Ronald Garcia

Forward

17

Royal Palm Beach, FL

Anthony Hall

Goalkeeper

15

Dallas, TX

Eric Martinez

Forward

15

Houston, TX

Marco Ortiz

Center Mid.

15

Crowley, TX

Everardo Reyes

Center Def.

15

Houston, TX

Lorenzo Salazar

Center Mid.

15

Houston, TX