The two new faces in the Houston Dynamo's training session Thursday may come from the same country and play the same position, but they were plenty easy to tell apart.
Khadim Diouf looked more like a basketball player, towering above his teammates at a lanky 6-foot-4 and sporting a headband in the steady rain. Léandre Griffit, standing a more average 5-foot-8, sported neon green boots in the slick conditions. Both impressed in their first day with their new squad.
"It is hard to say anything after one day, but I thought they came in and worked hard," Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. "You never know what their travel schedules have been like, but you can't look at those guys and say they were disappointing."
A third trialist, Nigerian Blessing Kaku, is expected to join the Dynamo on Friday, and Kinnear hinted there may be more new faces to come as preseason continues.
For now, the 25-year-old Griffit - a veteran of Southampton and Crystal Palace in the English Premier League - showed slightly better on the first day. Despite his smaller stature (5-foot-8), he showed outstanding technique as a central midfielder in 11 v. 11 scrimmages, rarely taking more than three touches and moving the ball quickly. He also handled some of the physical challenges that can be expected in the American game.
"I can play on the left or the right, but most of the time I like to play in the middle of the pitch," Griffit said. "My best thing is my technique and my speed, so I hope I can bring something different to the team, because it's always good for the coach to have many options in the midfield."
A former French youth international, Griffit also had an easier time fitting in and communicating with the Dynamo players thanks to English picked up during his stints in England.
"I know this is a really good team in America, so I'm really glad to be with them," Griffit said after the training session before being asked about differences in style of play. "Football in Europe sometimes goes more slowly; we keep the ball a little bit more. Here, it's my first day, so I didn't know what to expect."
Diouf showed good touch in small-sided drills but seemed to take a little longer to settle in during a roughly 45-minute scrimmage. He played centrally alongside draft pick Samuel Appiah, with Griffit and guest player Peter Maciel on the opposing squad.
Diouf, Griffit, and possibly Kaku will feature in Saturday's scrimmage against SMU, open only to season ticket holders and kicking off at 11 a.m. at the Carl Lewis Track & Field Complex. As in last week's scrimmage against Houston Baptist, Kinnear said he expects to play two completely different squads in the two halves.
"These guys know expectations are always to go out there and work hard, work on your game, and work on our strengths," Kinnear said. "It's important that we try to get a result, because we should be winning these games that we play early on, and then obviously you get to see in a competitive environment the players you've brought in, whether it be by draft or to look at, to see if these guys are good enough."