The simple truth about building a roster at the USL level is that many players who will eventually round out the 29 squads this season are currently on trial with an MLS club. This makes February the definitive month of the year in determining what players will be available for the USL.
One of the hubs of preseason MLS activity is Tucson, Arizona, where the local PDL club, FC Tucson, hosts daily training, well-organized friendlies, and a preseason tournament, The Desert Diamond Cup. For those of us who live five or more hours from MLS action during the season, this is a terrific opportunity to see current and future stars up close.
The big question for me is, who are those future stars? Who are the guys out here who have the potential to stick, but aren't quite top flight yet?
One of the clubs on hand in Tucson during my midweek visit was Vancouver Whitecaps and their USL coach, Alan Koch. Last year at this time, Koch had just been appointed to the job of building an "MLS2" team from scratch and was surveying the array of young talent in front of him.
When I caught up with him at that time, he let me know that recent draft pick Tim Parker looked right at home among the professionals on the field, and this past Tuesday night, the boss humbly reflected on Parker's dream season. "Timmy Parker's the great American story," he said. "You get drafted, and in a year you go from college to playing for the US National Team, so that's an amazing achievement for him. He worked his backside off this last year to get there, and I'm sure he'll continue to keep going the right direction."
Koch also spoke about youngsters from Whitecaps 2's 2015 season such as team co-scoring leader Marco Bustos, winger Brett Levis, and Barcelona youth product Victor Blasco. These guys had productive seasons for WFC2, and their coach says they still have plenty of time to develop.
He also pointed out that fifteen-year-old academy player Alphoso Davies saw action in the evening's friendly against Houston. Koch said, "It's great when you can give a fifteen-year-old minutes in any type of professional environment, so it's good to see how he does."
Another young player who could see lots of minutes for Whitecaps 2 is Kadin Chung. The seventeen-year-old academy product logged his first two professional appearances towards the end of the 2015 season, and Koch says, "he's one definitely to watch out for."
What players are you keeping an eye on? Leave a comment below!