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Busy Week for USL PRO

2011 January 28
by Gerry Wittmann

This has been a busy week for USL PRO as they prepare for the upcoming D3 season. The fifteen-team league will kick off its 2011 season on Saturday, April 2 with two matches featuring International Division rivals River Plate Puerto Rico taking on Sevilla FC Puerto Rico while the new SC Orlando City club debuts against the two -time USL-2 regular season champions, the Richmond Kickers.

This week’s USL PRO accomplishments occurred both on and off the field. Player combines were held in Florida and  California earlier this week, while on Thursday USL PRO club owners and executives met at USL headquarters in Tampa for a workshop designed to help teams find success off the field. Also on Thursday USL PRO expansion club FC New York announced that executive Mike Farnan has joined the team’s advisory board.

USL Men’s Player Combine

The fifth annual USL Men’s Player Combine was held at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina from January 20 -23. Over 125 players from previous USL combines have gone on to secure professional contracts, among them Tom Heinemann, who played PDL soccer for the St. Louis Lions. He turned a positive 2008 combine performance into a professional contract with the Charleston Battery. The lanky forward earned MVP honors in the the 2010 USL-2 championship matchup between the Battery and Richmond Kickers, and afterward helped propel the Carolina RailHawks into the 2010 USSF D2 playoff championship final. Heinemann recently signed with the Columbus Crew of MLS.

This year’s combine participants performed under the watchful eyes of USL Technical Director Peter Mellor and FC New York’s newly appointed head coach, Matt Weston. Mellor, a former goalkeeper, had a lengthy career with English sides Burnley, FC Portsmouth and Fulham FC which included starting the 1975 FA Cup final in goal for the Cottagers. Weston has been involved in coaching for more than a decade, both with his Weston Pro Soccer company and in both men’s and women’s collegiate soccer. Weston played professionally for Ipswich Town in the early 1990s.

Most of the players selected to participate in the combine were aged 23 or younger, and have had experience limited to college and PDL competition. But not all. Goalkeeper Jay Herford has had stints with the Harrisburg City Islanders and Crystal Palace Baltimore, where he backed up starter Evan Bush, and was looking for a new employer with the Baltimore franchise not playing in 2011. One of the older participants at the four-day combine was Brandon Owens, 25. The former 2003 U.S. U-17 teammate of such players as Jonathan Spector and Freddy Adu tore an ACL at UCLA and was not able to make the DC United squad after being picked in the 2008 MLS supplemental draft. He’s been out of soccer since while healing, training and trying to earn a living but has never given up on his dream to play professionally, and the combine gave him the chance to show his stuff.

Mellor was pleased with what he observed at the combine. “I felt it went very well in regards to the overall level of the quality of players that were there,” Mellor said. “I thought the components we brought in this year with the testing and the value of the analysis where the players got the opportunity to look at their own personal performances as players were outstanding.” Weston was also upbeat. “The organization of the event was excellent both on and off the field,” he stated. “The structure of the weekend dictated that every player had a great chance to showcase their ability. The players on show were of a good level and several in my opinion will sign with USL clubs this season.”

Another notable presence at the camp was 73-year-old Tony Waiters, who coached the Vancouver Whitecaps to a NASL championship in 1979 and led the Canadian national men’s team to their only World Cup appearance in 1986. Waiters’ goalkeeping career in England spanned three decades for teams such as Blackpool and Burnley, and he received five caps for the English national team in 1964.

Los Angeles Blues Hold Combine

Last weekend new USL PRO club the L.A. Blues held their own combine at the Norco campus of Riverside Community College. Over 90 players did their best to impress the Blues staff, including Vice President and Head Coach Charlie Naimo, along with Associate Head Coach Shayon Jalayer, and Assistant Director of Player Personnel Salvador Moran. The combine’s schedule allowed each athlete to play in two full games.

Formerly the head coach of the W-League’s Pali Blues, Naimo felt that the expansion men’s team found some legitimate prospects at the combine. “After a three hour meeting with staff Saturday night, we were able to watch all of the match ups we wanted to see on Day 2,” Naimo said. “The day ended with a quality match with quite a few players we are considering offering contracts to.” Naimo then added, “In all, the event was a great success.”

On Thursday the Blues announced four player signings. Former Portland Timber defender Cameron Dunn was inked by the club, along with 2010 FC Dallas draft pick Dane Saintus, a midfielder who played collegiately at Southern Methodist University. The signing of Iranian professional Seyed Hosseini, a forward, was also announced along with that of the PDL’s Jaime Chavez, who led Hollywood United in scoring last season.

Those players join previous Blues’ signings Oscar Dautt, Gareth Evans, Cesar Rivera and Josh Tudela.  Dautt, a 34-year-old goalkeeper, has had a lengthy career in Mexico playing for such clubs as Monterrey, Tigres UANL and Puebla, while Evans, 24, is a defender who played for Wrexham in the UK and the Austin Aztex in 2009. Tudela, who made 23 appearances for the LA Galaxy between 2007-2009, and Rivera are both midfielders.

USL PRO Executive Workshop

Thursday’s workshop and seminar for USL PRO team owners and executives was led by USL PRO Senior Director Chris Economides and Jason Arnold, USL PRO’s Operations Manager.  Information regarding industry standards in marketing, ticket sales, promotion, sponsorships, new media and communications was presented along with manuals for each team.

Thursday’s seminar was not a one-time deal. “We are dedicated to providing our teams with all the necessary tools to operate at a high level for the long term,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “Our team services staff has been expanded greatly during the past year, and its sole purpose is to assist all USL teams in raising the level for all areas of their operations, both on and off the field. Today was just an early step in a process that will continue year-round in the form of site visits, conference calls and additional seminars.”

Farnan Joins FC New York

FC New York announced that Sheffield United Group Executive Director Mike Farnan has joined their advisory board. Farnan’s role with Sheffield United FC has been in developing the English Championship team’s brand by developing partnerships with professional clubs in China, Hungary and Australia. Farnan’s resume also includes work with the iconic Manchester United team, growing the team’s brand in the Middle East, Asia and Oceania and increasing merchandise sales in those regions. Farnan has also worked for Atletico Madrid and AC Parma in Italy, along with developing the brands for Formula One racing teams Jordan F1 and Williams F1.

“I have known Mike for years. He has a first-class background in international sports marketing and his appointment demonstrates our commitment to the sport in New York, but also Mike’s belief in F.C. New York,” added the New York team’s Executive Vice President, Jo-Ellen Treiber. Farnan has also worked for Sky Sports.

18 Responses
  1. thesuperrookie permalink
    January 28, 2011

    @bart- please tell me how this website is just a mouthpiece for the NASL?

    #footinmouth

  2. mikey permalink
    January 28, 2011

    good review Gerry.

    I am impressed with Farnan’s CV Hopefully he can make it work for FCNY.

    I had a chat with Mellor at the combine here in Charleston last weekend. He is a great guy and always seemed to have a smile and kind words.

    The Charleston Battery are also holding a set of open trials starting today and finishing tomorrow.

  3. silly permalink
    January 28, 2011

    Rookie

    This site reports everything. Proven many times. Enough of the back and forth NASL/USl. You seem to be Pro NASL and Bart seems to be their biggest skeptic. Can’t you guys simply agree to disagree and move on.

  4. thesuperrookie permalink
    January 28, 2011

    @donny- you are out of your element. the world does not stop and start at your convenience.

  5. January 28, 2011

    Of course Bart won’t respond. He will pretend he never saw this article.

  6. Bart permalink
    January 28, 2011

    Blodgett

    Give it a rest. Your sophomoric attempt to engage in a personal bit of blather is unbecoming.

    I thought those that are part of the Queen’s empire had more class than that.

  7. January 28, 2011

    Of course I do. I just will call you out at every move you make on here, because every word you type is whining like a little girl about the NASL. You will contradict yourself without second thought in some lowbrow hypocritical fashion. You are a bitter, and pathetic fool who trolls every soccer site he can find to slander and verbally abuse a league. It is amazing how much time is on your hands in your state of retirement. I wish you weren’t on this site, and I wish you would never come back. You contribute nothing, and you as a person are worthless.

  8. thesuperrookie permalink
    January 28, 2011

    @danielblodgett- man, is that out of the scene from Billy Madison?

    Mr. Madison, what you have just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  9. Ultra permalink
    January 28, 2011

    ^^ Ha rookie that brightened my day! Gotta love a good Billy Madison reference.

  10. Chris permalink
    January 28, 2011

    I wonder if Peter Mellor is any relation to Gary Mellor? He of (formerly) the Austin Aztex board of directors, and “founder of the Beswicks sports law team” (http://www.beswicks.com/the-team/service6/team7.htm). Not sure if he’s involved with Orlando SC, but iirc he’s helped pursue some of USL’s “international” relationships. It would be interesting if they were related.

  11. January 28, 2011

    Bart and Daniel,
    You are both close to receiving yellow cards. This is your verbal warning. Bart, you of all people know the rules. No verbal attacks.

    Ultra, if you noticed SR used a Big Lebowski reference earlier. He’s into his movie quotes today.

  12. Grant Stephens permalink
    January 28, 2011

    Good updates, Gerry!

    Reading about LA Blues got me thinking. What other Southwestern markets havent been tapped into in the D2 to D3 range. We hear some about Phoenix from time to time, but what about Tucson? I know that The El Paso Patriots have been good over the years, could they step up? Albuquerque? Since its been agreed upon that regional is the way to go, we need to get LA Blue’s some local rivals.

  13. Bart permalink
    January 28, 2011

    @Blodgett

    I most humbly apologize for any post that may appear to have been a personal verbal attack. I do appreciate your passion for D2 soccer. BQ is absolutely correct, my behavior was unacceptable.

    I have had too many snow days recently. Cabin fever has struck again.

  14. yankiboy permalink
    January 28, 2011

    “I wish you weren’t on this site, and I wish you would never come back. You contribute nothing, and you as a person are worthless.”

    Flashback!

    When I first read the above comments, I just assumed that they were about me (coz y’all know that my world is pretty much Yankicentric).

    Wow. That is pretty much what someone told me on Soccer By Ives a couple weeks ago when I was jokingly “calling out” Ives on hating on Beckham (all tounge obviously planted firmly in cheek–at least I thought so).

    😀

  15. yankiboy permalink
    January 28, 2011

    @Bart: From one oldtimer without a life who beats his wife to another:

    Very Classy move, Bro. Very classy.

    Maximum Repsect, Playah.

  16. yankiboy permalink
    January 28, 2011

    @ Mike Farnan (just in case you or a relative or a friend of yours is reading this by any chance):

    Your very first move in marketing FCNY–

    Tell them to get to work and get a REAL LOGO. With that Logo, a million dollar expense budget you are going to have an uphill battle trying to get the club taken seriously with that HACK, third grade logo.

    You could offer to dress up every even vaguely known rapper who ever hailed from Queens qith free gear to rock and they would probably turn it down because that logo is a JOKE.

    I’m not even sure that G-Unit, Jamaica’s own hip hop clothing corporation couldn’t sell that joint in Jamaica Queens. May if 50 Cent himself wore an FCNY jersey. I’m not convinced.

    Seriously. The LOGO is straight us triflin.

    Mike Farnan has to know that FCNY needs to head back to lab and come back with something tighter.

    It’s hard to market a brand when the product is so obviously weak.

    CHANGE THE LOGO! Step #1.

  17. thesuperrookie permalink
    January 28, 2011

    @mikefarnan please do not listen to @yankiboy. the logo is fantastic.

    FC CLIP ART!

  18. January 28, 2011

    It really is an unfortunate logo. It doesn’t have the excuse of being almost a century old to be terrible. I know it sounds flippant and shallow, but we are pretty brand conscience in North America, and if we think something is ugly we spout off about it. It almost seems like a small thing, but maybe they should try to appeal themselves to fans that they don’t have yet.

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