Open Tryouts for Westchester Flames 2014 USL PDL team being held November 30
Westchester Flames F.C. are looking for players who are interested in playing for their United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (USL PDL) 2014 team. The USL PDL is the top men’s developmental soccer league in North America, with many players going on to play professionally, both in North America and throughout the world.
Open tryouts for the Flames 2014 USL PDL team will be held on November 30 at City Park Stadium in New Rochelle, NY where the team plays and trains.
Registration is at 12:30 PM. The session will be held from 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM. Players will be evaluated by Flames Coach Gus Skoufis and other members of the Flames coaching staff. There is no fee to attend the open tryout.
All players interested in trying out for the team are encouraged to e-mail their soccer resume and contact information to:
About Westchester Flames F.C.
The Westchester Flames won the PDL North American Championship in 2001. In the 2000 season, the Flames finished third in the PDL and in 2003 the team were PDL Finalists. The Westchester Flames have featured players such as former U.S. National Team members Charlie Davies and Chris Wingert, current Trinidadian National Team member Julius James, and many players who have advanced to MLS and other professional clubs.
Former Flames Forward Jake Keegan finds success in Germany
Former Westchester Flames standout Jake Keegan has found success with an opportunity to play professional soccer in Germany with FCA Darmstadt. Keegan recently scored 10 goals in 10 games for the German side, which is causing clubs throughout Germany to take notice of the man from Stormville, NY.
During his time with the Flames, Keegan played a total of 28 games in 2011 and 2012, scoring 27 goals. In 2011, Keegan scored 16 goals in 16 games for the Flames, winning the USL PDL’s Golden Boot that season and was named as an All-League selection and rookie of the year. Flames coach Gus Skoufis hailed Keegan as "a top class player with unlimited potential. Getting the opportunity to coach players like Jake are why I continue to do this. I wish him nothing but success with his career as a professional player."
Following his success with the Flames and Binghampton University, Keegan was drafted by the Philadelphia Union in the 3rd round of the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft. Keegan turned down that opportunity for a chance to go on trial with Israelian club Maccabi Haifa F.C. Keegan ultimately wasn't signed by Maccabi Haifa and went on to train with Austrian club F.C. Lustenau.
Keegan returned to the USL PDL to play for the Jersey Express during the first part of the 2013 season before going back to Austria with Lustenau and then ultimately Germany where he was signed by Darmstadt.
Recently, we were able to catch up with Jake Keegan to get his thoughts on his experiences with the Flames and Express in the USL PDL and how that helped him to develop into the professional player that he is today.
What are your thoughts about your experience in the USL PDL with the Flames and Express?
Playing in the PDL was an incredible experience for me. I had an opportunity to play both against and with many different kinds of players and people. Some were former or future professional players. Some played for big time college programs. Some were younger players who were trying to develop as players. Others were older players with families who just loved the game too much to stop playing.
How do you think that playing in the USL PDL helped you to develop as a player?
The PDL allowed me the opportunity to continue training and playing at a high level during the college off-season. Instead of being forced to take 3 months off from playing I was able to stay in top shape and continue my development as a player. Additionally, the PDL is a different style of play from college soccer. Whereas college soccer is faster and more physical, the PDL has more players with better technique and ability. This allows the PDL game to be more possession based rather than the direct style of most teams in college soccer. Each experience was vital to my development because the professional game features players who have a combination of both styles of play.
Why did you decide not to report to the Philadelphia Union after being drafted by them in the MLS Supplemental Draft?
Prior to being drafted by the Union, I was invited for a trial with Maccabi Haifa, the biggest club in Israel. They regularly qualify for the UEFA Champions League and compete for top spot in the Israel Premier League. Although it was always a dream to play in MLS, I decided that the opportunity in Israel was too good to pass up. Playing one day in MLS remains a dream and hopefully I will get another opportunity in the future.
When you decided to play in the USL PDL again this season, why did you decide to play with the Express instead of returning to the Flames or playing for another club?
I finished the previous season playing for the Jersey Express and they were a well run and professional organization. Although I respect Coach Gus and the rest of the Flames organization, I decided it was best for my development to join the Jersey Express for the first part of the PDL season.
What were your thoughts as you returned to City Park Stadium to play against the Flames this season as a member of the Express?
I had a lot of great memories at City Park Stadium and it was definitely strange being back on the other side. It was great to see the staff and a couple players who I had played with the last couple of years.
What are some of your fondest memories from the time you spent with the Flames?
My fondest memory with the Flames is simply the belief that Coach Gus had in me as a player. Prior to the 2011 season I was having trouble signing with a PDL team. I emailed a bunch of teams and went to a tryout for one, but none seem interested enough to sign me. It was Coach Gus and the Flames organization that gave me the opportunity to prove that I belonged in the league. Without that opportunity I would not have had the season that I had in 2011 and probably would have been in a different situation that I am today.
What does the future hold for you in soccer?
Long term my goal for the game is to play at the highest level that I possibly can. I love the game and can not think of a better way to spend my time. There will be plenty of time to get a job later on in life, but for now I am focused on reaching my potential as a player.
From Westchester to Portugal, Mike da Fonte is another former Flame playing pro soccer
Former Flames player Mike da Fonte playing with SC Espinho
Mike da Fonte played in the USL PDL with the Westchester Flames and has gone on to great success playing professional soccer in Portugal. Mike played very well in defense for the Flames during the 2012 season scoring 2 goals in 9 games while playing right back. Flames coach Gus Skoufis recalled Mike’s time with the Flames, "I just knew Mike was destined to play at a higher level. His talent, dedication, and all of the hard work that he put in during his time with the team reminded me of many of our former players who’ve gone onto great success, particularly Chris Wingert when he played for us in 2001."
Recently, we caught up with Mike to get his thoughts on his time with the Flames, playing in the USL PDL, and what he’s doing now in Portugal.
What are your thoughts about your experience in the USL PDL with the Westchester Flames?
I really enjoyed it because you get to play with some ex-pros, but also you play with lots of college kids so theres always a lot of competition. I think the best part is the bond you get with your teammates, even though the PDL season isn’t very long you go through a lot with your teammates and they become friends and from my time at the Flames I made lots of friends.
How do you think that playing in the USL PDL helped you to develop as a player?
PDL helped me in many ways develop as a player, but for starters this is where I started playing right back so the experience I gained from playing was huge. The speed and strength of the PDL helped me grow as a player and taught me how to play quicker and not only play quicker, but to think quicker as well because the game is very mental to try and out think your opponent and I think thats one of the major things I took away.
What are some of your fondest memories from the time you spent with the Flames?
Definitely the long away trips and coming back at all hours of the night, but I think the best memory me or any of my teammates would have is of Bermuda because it was one of the most amazing places I had ever been. The people there were very friendly and you couldn’t ask to be in a better climate.
Mike in training with SC Espinho
What led you to play in Portugal with SC Espinho and now Pedras Salgadas (on loan from GD Chaves)?
Well I had been playing for the Flames and luckily enough my agent had come and watched me a few times. We we were able to come to an agreement and then he brought me over to Portugal where I first went on trial with Olhansense in the 1st Division. I wasn’t able to stay there because they had very bad money issues, but then my agent brought me to SC Espinho where I was able to work hard enough to receive my first contract. During my time at Espinho, the coach took me under his wing and showed me how to play my position. I was able to play and start the entire season. My first season was a huge success because I was able to learn so much.
How has your whole experience playing in Portugal been so far?
Its been incredible. You get to understand a whole new culture and language, which I really have come to love. And the main thing I can say is the lifestyle in Portugal is very different than in the US. It’s more of a laid back relaxed family oriented view. It takes some getting used to, but especially coming from America where everything is so fast paced.
What have you found to be different about the game in Portugal as compared to the U.S?
The main difference between Portugal and the US in terms of soccer is most definitely how you think when you have the ball and when you don’t and the runs you make. The game in Portugal is more technical than the US and is very possession oriented.
How did you start playing soccer?
I started when I was young maybe 5 or 6. My dad is really passionate about soccer and he got me into it right away. I actually owe everything to him because he would come to every single one of my practices and games and critique me, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. He was there in my ear day in and day out trying to help me improve my game, even if at the time while I was growing up I didn’t realize it and I would just get angry with him.
He also got into my head that hard work is everything. He had me running and staying in shape at a very early age and that is something I am huge on today and rely on heavily. I think the biggest thing I learned from my dad is actually something very recent. I was homesick a couple weeks ago and I was talking to him and he said to me "You’re there to train and get better every single day. That’s your job; the sacrifice of being away from us is something you have to deal with." That really hit home for me because my family is the reason I do this, to try and provide a better life for them. No matter how much I miss them, the opportunity to give them a better life motivates me every single day to out work the guy next to me.
What are you hoping to achieve in soccer going forward?
What I want to achieve is to play for one of the best professional soccer teams in Europe and to represent the national team. This has been a huge dream of mine and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to one day put on that jersey and make my country proud.
What advice would you give to a young player with the Flames or another USL PDL team who is hoping to get an opportunity to play professionally?
You have to be willing to sacrifice everything for the game, whether it be hanging out with friends, going to parties, seeing your family, etc. Luckily for me my dad drilled in my head that nothing comes easy and if you want something you have to work for it so I didn’t go out or hangout with friends, I just trained. And also I think the biggest thing to remember is if this is something you really want just because you get one "no" is not a reason for you to quit. I’ve gotten plenty of "no’s" in my life, but I get pushing myself until the "no’s" became meaningless because I knew what I wanted, what I was going to achieve, and what I will achieve in the future.
USL PDL and Super-20 Leagues to Align
Tampa, Fla. - United Soccer Leagues has moved to integrate the top two men’s amateur leagues in North America by aligning the PDL and Super-20 League operationally beginning with the 2014 season. As part of the new working relationship, USL unveiled a new web home with shared elements for both leagues today at www.USLPDL.com and www.USLSuper20.com.
By aligning operationally with the PDL, the top men’s developmental league in North America, the Super-20 League will benefit from the established infrastructure of the 66-team PDL, the destination league for college-aged players to continue their development toward the professional ranks. The Super-20 League, which is the longest standing U20 men’s North American amateur league, provides the platform for top 17- to 20-year-olds in the United States and Canada to compete at the elite level.
USL PRO Combine set for January 23-26, 2014
The 2014 USL PRO Combine is set for January 23-26, 2014 and once again will be held at the world-class facilities of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The USL PRO Combine provides an opportunity for elite men’s soccer players to showcase their talents for both domestic and international scouts and professional coaches.
The annual event, now in its eighth year, will feature 102 of the top players from North America and overseas hoping to land a professional contract. To date, more than 150 participants have gone on to sign professional contracts with USL, MLS and international squads since the debut of the combine in 2006. The event attracts top talent from throughout North America, with a majority of the participants coming from the PDL, North America’s leading developmental league for men’s professional soccer.
The USL PRO Combine will be led by USL National Technical Director Peter Mellor, who will oversee a comprehensive curriculum that challenges participants while providing coaches with the proper environment for evaluation. Coaches expected to participate in the event will include those from USL PRO, MLS and several current PDL coaches and executives.
“The past two years have proven that IMG Academy is the best possible location for the USL PRO Combine, so we’re excited to be back to Bradenton in 2014,” Mellor said. “The professional environment at IMG Academy raises the level of the event, both on and off the field, and the players have every opportunity to showcase their talent for the coaches in attendance.”
Past beneficiaries of the event include 2013 USL All-League selection Gibson Bardsley, who scored nine goals and added seven assists for the Dayton Dutch Lions this past season. A pair of players, Matthew Bahner and Jamiel Hardware, went from the 2013 combine to productive minutes for the Harrisburg City Islanders this summer, while a pair of former USL PRO Rookie of the Year selections, Luke Mulholland (Wilmington, 2011) and Jose Cuevas (Charleston, 2012), were also identified at the USL PRO Combine.
Other former combine participants have gone on to Major League Soccer, with current Sporting Kansas City midfielder Lawrence Olum (Orlando City) and Vancouver Whitecaps forward Tom Heinemann (Charleston Battery) starring at the professional level in USL before making the jump to North America’s top flight.
Members of the 2013 PDL All-League Team will receive special invitations to participate. Other players hoping to participate in the USL PRO Combine will be selected based, in particular, the past three years of their playing background and their soccer achievements. The application will be available through the “Events” tab on uslsoccer.com starting on September 23 with a deadline of November 29. Participants will receive local transportation, breakfast, lunch, dinner, lodging, and uniforms.
“I’m pleased we’re once again able to invite the PDL All-League Team members who demonstrated during the 2013 season that they deserve the opportunity," Mellor said.
Goalkeepers will report and begin training for the 2014 USL PRO Combine on Thursday, January 23, followed by field players on Friday, January 24. The event concludes on Sunday, January 26.
IMG Academy, a division of IMG Worldwide, the global sports, fashion and media company, is the world’s largest and most advanced multi-sport training and education complex. For more than 30 years, IMG Academy has helped countless youth, adult, collegiate and professional athletes reach their full potential in and out of sport, by providing world-class coaching, tailored programs and professional facilities within an energetic environment across a 450-acre campus.
2014 USL PRO COMBINE APPLICATION
(Closes Friday, November 29) No other considerations can be made without the consent of USL PRO’s Technical Director Peter Mellor (email@example.com).
The 2014 USL PRO Combine provides an opportunity for elite men’s soccer players to showcase their talent for both domestic and international scouts and professional coaches.
Where and when will the Combine take place?
The 2014 USL PRO Combine will take place in Bradenton, Fla. from Thursday, January 23 for goalkeepers (field players not to arrive before Friday, January 24) through Sunday, January 26 at the world class IMG Academy – home of the US U-17 Men’s National Team residency program.
What are the costs involved for the Combine?
Player Fees: $450
How can you participate in the Combine?
Any player is welcome to apply for the USL PRO Combine. Your playing background will be requested during the application process. Upon acceptance into the USL PRO Combine, you will be prompted to submit the required participation fee and a headshot once your flights are booked. Although there is a rolling admissions process, the deadline to apply is Friday, November 29, 2013. The link to apply is below.
How are you selected for the Combine?
USL PRO will utilize the recommendations of USL National Technical Director Peter Mellor, PDL franchises, and international/domestic coaches who will assist in the recommendation and selection of PDL and other elite players who have the ability and aspiration to play professional soccer. A total of 102 elite players will be selected for the Combine. USL PRO will invite 12 goalkeepers as a part of the 102-player pool for which a special technical session will be conducted by Peter Mellor and his goalkeeping staff. All other players will arrive on Friday and matches begin on Saturday, January 25. All selected players will receive a more detailed schedule in January just prior to the camp.
There will be an open application process coinciding with the selection of recommended PDL players, which will be reviewed by USL PRO.
Tuesday, September 17: USL PRO Combine Applications Accepted
If you have any other questions about participating in the Combine, please email Ryan Brooks or call 813.269.1354.