Michelle Kaufman

Michelle Kaufman: Lauderhill park is where MLS dreams could turn into reality

Jurgen Klinsmann
Jurgen Klinsmann AP

The potential future stars of Major League Soccer descended on Fort Lauderdale this weekend for the league’s combine, which runs through Tuesday at Central Broward Regional Park. The 72 young players — most from college, some foreigners — are auditioning for scouts and general managers in hopes they will be picked in Thursday’s draft in Philadelphia.

Among the players participating is Syracuse goalkeeper Alex Bono, who left college early and declared for the draft as part of the Generation Adidas program. Bono also was named Friday by U.S. national coach Jurgen Klinsmann to the U.S. roster for an upcoming camp and friendly in Chile.

Other Generation Adidas players at the combine are Conan Donovan (N.C. State), Cristian Roldan (Washington), Cyle Karin (UConn) and Romario Williams, a Jamaican native who played at Central Florida.

A familiar name among the invitees is Nick Besler, a Notre Dame midfielder and younger brother of U.S. World Cup player Matt Besler.

Fans can watch combine matches Sunday and Tuesday at the park, which is located at 3700 N.W. 11th Place in Lauderhill.

Matches are at noon and 1:45 p.m. Saturday, and 10a.m. and 11:45 a.m. Tuesday. Admission is $10, cash only.

▪ Klinsmann invites new wave: Klinsmann invited 28 players to a training camp in Carson, California, from Monday through Feb.8 as he begins to evaluate the new cycle of players for the 2015 Gold Cup, the 2016 Olympics and the 2018 World Cup.

The team will spend Jan.25-29 in Chile and play a friendly against the Chileans on Jan.28.

There are seven World Cup veterans on the roster — Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Matt Besler, Mix Diskerud, Nick Rimando and Chris Wondolowski. Europe-based players are not participating, as they are in midseason.

“The prize in 2015 for the senior national team is the Gold Cup, and this camp will give a lot of our players a chance to kick-start their preparations for an important year,” Klinsmann said.

“We also get an opportunity to introduce the next wave of young players into the program, and in particular work with many of our Olympic-age guys as they build toward qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.”

The four youngest players are 20-year-olds Bono, Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Oscar Sorto (Los Angeles Galaxy) and Marc Pelosi (Liverpool). Pelosi, a midfielder, was the captain of the U.S. under-17 team and joined Liverpool’s youth system, but he broke a leg in 2013, missed 14 months, and is getting back into form.

The full roster:

Goalkeepers (4): Bono (unattached), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Jon Kempin (Sporting Kansas City) and Rimando (Real Salt Lake).

Defenders (8): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Christian Dean (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Jones (New England Revolution), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids) and Sorto (Galaxy).

Midfielders (10): Bradley (Toronto FC), Diskerud (out of contract), Dennis Flores (Club Leon), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Pelosi, Serna, Brek Shea (Orlando City SC) and Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC).

Forwards (6): Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas), Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Julio Morales (Tepic), Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich), Gyasi Zardes (Galaxy).

▪ Fafa to Sparta: Fort Lauderdale Strikers player Fafa, a Palmetto Bay resident and one of the key members of last season’s NASL runner-up team, signed with AC Sparta in the Czech Republic. The Strikers are under new Brazilian ownership (including part-owner Ronaldo), cleaned house in the front office and are getting their 2015 roster together. They just traded for Jonathan Borrajo, a defender/midfielder with the San Antonio Scorpions.

“I’m very excited for this new chapter of my life,” Borrajo said. “The mentality of the club is very positive, and the goals for the future are really bright with the new owners and Ronaldo’s involvement.

“I want to win trophies and I’m looking forward to contributing on and off the field in the local community. I’m a huge fan of South Florida, I have a lot of family down here, and I’m excited to get going.”

▪ Copa campeones: Two of South America’s most popular teams are coming to FIU Stadium on Saturday. Atletico Nacional of Colombia is playing San Lorenzo of Argentina in the Copa Campeones, a new event.

Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster.

Who’s leading

English Premier League: Chelsea and Manchester City (46), Manchester United (37), Southampton (36), Tottenham (34).

La Liga: Real Madrid (39), Barcelona and Atletico Madrid (38), Valencia (34), Sevilla (33).

Serie A: Juventus (40), Roma (39), Lazio and Napoli (30), Genoa (27).

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (45), Wolfsburg (34), Bayer (28), Monchengladbach and Schalke (27).

Ligue 1: Marseille (41), Lyon (39), PSG (38), ASSE (36), Monaco (32).

On the tube

Sunday: Arsenal vs. Stoke City (8:30 a.m., NBCSN), Roma vs. Lazio (9 a.m., BeIn Sport USA), Manchester United vs. Southampton (11 a.m., NBCSN), Pumas vs. Queretaro (Univision), Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid (3 p.m., BeIN Sport USA).

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