After the first of the evening’s scrimmages had been completed with half of the 44 invitees play two 30 minute halves, the second group managed to play around 15 minutes when a torrential downpour and lightning sent everyone off the fields. With the radar showing the thunderstorms would be staying in the area, the decision was made to end the session early.
While that was disappointing, Van Der Beck was pleased with the way the opening day had gone.
“The way I look at it is you’ve got to start somewhere, and this, I think, is a good start,” Van Der Beck said. “A lot of players are coming in to see if they can play at the next level, and as I told them there are a lot of opportunities, but again there are a lot of players in (USL-1) who are free, and again, it’s a start.”
Van Der Beck didn’t point out anyone specific from the opening game that impressed him, but would say that there were some who gave a good account of themselves.
“There were some players that did stick out, you know, but again (the question is) are they going to be consistent?” Van Der Beck said. “What we’re also looking at is how they match up, so again, they did well for themselves, but it’s still early.”
Four players with local ties appeared to fare well, with former Bradley University standout Joe Donoho, who attended Jesuit, and Brandon High graduate Kirk LaBusch having strong games defensively for the yellow squad.
Ryan Maxwell, who was drafted in the first round of the MLS Draft earlier this year by New England after a strong career at the University of Tampa, also had some excellent moments down the right side for the yellow squad, creating opportunities for his forwards as he attacked with pace when he got the opportunity. Maxwell’s fellow former Spartan Chad Burt had a solid game in midfield for the blue squad.
Aaron King scored both of the goals in the opening scrimmage for the yellow squad, first sliding home a shot into the left corner of the net from 12 yards out, and then combining with strike partner Sean Buckner on a quick give-and-go in the penalty area that gave King a simple finish from close in.
The players will reconvene on Wednesday morning for a technical session before another round of scrimmages in the evening, with a final set of scrimmages on Thursday morning to complete the combine. The task in front of them to go from the opening day of the first combine to the opening roster that will begin play in 155 days is going to be an arduous one, something Van Der Beck has made clear to all those in attendance.
“How many players at this camp right now (will be on the opening roster)? I don’t know,” Van Der Beck said. “What I was telling the players this morning was there’s players in the league that become free agents, and are we interested? Yes. We’re allowed seven internationals, and we’re going to do a combine next month in the U.K. to look for players there. MLS has done away with the reserve system, so now MLS can ... loan players to the USL. Do we have an interest? Yes, so there’s only 22 spots, it’s not going to be hard to do it. I’ve just got to get the right players.”