Former U.S. Men’s National Team Assistant Coach Ralph Perez will work alongside North American Soccer League coaches to coordinate the annual NASL Player Combine that will take place at the University of California, Irvine from January 24-26, 2014.
Perez and the coaches of all teams will cast a watchful eye over up to 80 elite domestic and international players who are being invited, with their goal to earn a place at a NASL team preseason training camp and ultimately a professional contract. The three days of evaluation will include fitness testing, position drills, small-sided games and full 11v11 matches to conclude the Combine.
“What we are trying to do with this Combine is create a vehicle for a lot of young men who aspire to become professional players to live out their dreams and also benefit NASL clubs,” said Perez. “I have been doing this since the late 1980s, so I know what coaches want and they all want talent. They want talented players who might have fallen through the cracks for various reasons and would be good players for them sign to their clubs.”
Perez, who has been the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at the University of Redlands since 2006, was an assistant coach for the U.S. team that qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 40 years in 1990. He also led the U.S. squad to fourth place at the 1989 FIFA U-20 World Championship. From 1996 to 2003, he worked as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York-New Jersey MetroStars, prior to serving as the Director of Coaching and Youth Development from 2003 to 2005.
“I think the NASL is smart in putting this together,” added Perez. “It is a selective invitation Combine instead of it being completely open so there will be a good quality of players and we expect the nucleus of 60 to 80 players will be some of the best ever seen at a NASL Combine.”
Perez already has a familiarity with NASL coaches having himself coached both Manny Lagos of Minnesota United FC and New York Cosmos’ Giovanni Savarese while at the NY/NJ MetroStars.
“NASL provides a great level of soccer in the United States and you have outstanding coaches with strong experience, so these guys know what talent is as well,” said Perez. “NASL now plays a bigger role in American soccer as players inspire to compete in the league. The growth and development of players in this country increases year-to-year and we think we can put together a combine with these guys who are definitely NASL material.”
This will be the fourth time the NASL has held a combine, which has previously led to several players earning professional contacts, including Mark Anderson of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who was the third top goal scorer in 2012, and Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Jordan Gafa.
Minnesota United coach Manny Logos said: “I think it is great that the league is going to have the combine in California and on the west coast for the first time. Certainly it is a goal of our team to sign good players and I think California presents a good opportunity to look at new players and hopefully get some good players in our league. I am looking forward to the presence of the NASL out in California.”
NCAA Division I, II and NAIA college coaches have received NASL Combine information and an invitation to nominate suitable players and also become involved with coaching games at the Combine so that NASL coaches are free to evaluate talent.
Players may apply to attend the 2014 NASL Combine by completing an online form found at the following link and must include a recommendation from an established coach. Applicants will be notified if they are to be invited to attend. Players who do not receive an invitation should not attend the Combine.