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 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.
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.”
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 Sueño MLS 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 participate. 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.
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 at last year's FIFA U-20 World Cup. Funes, the 2008 winner, currently plays for the Argentine first-division club River Plate.
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 [Sueño MLS] 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.”
Sueño MLS – Houston Finalists
Nelson Castro (Houston): 14-year-old central defender
Carlos Castillo (Brownsville, Texas): 15-year-old left midfielder
Juan Contreras (Dickinson, Texas): 16-year-old left midfielder
Jesus Cruz (Dallas): 15-year-old left defender
Ronald Garcia (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.): 17-year-old forward
Anthony Hall (Dallas): 15-year-old goalkeeper
Eric Martinez (Houston): 15-year-old forward
Marco Ortiz (Crowley, Texas): 15-year-old center midfielder
Everardo Reyes (Houston): 15-year-old central defender
Lorenzo Salazar (Houston): 15-year-old center midfielder