Real looks at potential players Saturday

On Saturday in Provo, more than 40 players will get the chance, if only for a few hours, to wow the coaching staff of the new Major League Soccer franchise, Real Salt Lake. They will come to an invitation-only tryout camp that may earn them a spot on Real’s reserves or first team.

Included on the list are kids overlooked at the MLS Adidas Player Combine, or last Friday’s MLS SuperDraft, as well as local high school, collegiate and professional players.

All will converge at Brigham Young University at an undisclosed location in a frantic, but measured rush of cleats pounding on artificial turf in a cacophony of thuds and squeaks.

Some will come from towns that are as opposite on a topographical map as one can possibly get, towns like Derry, N.H. and Diamond Bar, Calif. Others are proven professionals like goalkeeper Chad Sackett of the Utah Blitzz, who helped lead the Blitzz to national championships in 2001 and 2004. “He [Sackett] has earned an opportunity to show our staff what he can do,” Real General Manager Steve Pastorino said.

Basically, the staff is looking for a diamond in the rough, a kid out of nowhere to come in and steal the show.

“[All of] these players come highly recommended,” Pastorino said, pointing out that the agent of recent Real acquisition Clint Mathis’ agent suggested four players.

The players’ aim is simple: Play well enough to earn a spot on the reserves squad, or, even better, the first-team.

While either option would definitely appeal to anybody trying out, there is virtually little or no chance of making either the reserves squad or the first-team. Most of the roster spots have already been filled, but “you never know,” Pastorino said.

The list for the tryout ranges from players who were in last Friday’s draft pool but weren’t chosen, from central midfielder Eric Vasquez of Central Florida University (also a 2003 PDL Rookie of the Year in the United Soccer Leagues), to amateur hopefuls like 26-year-old goalkeeper Robert Silvester of Logan, who is only 5-feet-9-inches tall, unique for a goalkeeper in MLS.

Silvester played for three years for Westminster College of Salt Lake City, and has since been on Utah State’s club team, even hiring a personal trainer to increase his vertical jumps to 40 times.

“I’m so excited, but nervous…I’ve been dreaming of this day since I was five,” Silvester said. But he is realistic about his chances, even though he is optimistic. “Just the fact that I got invited, even if I don’t make it…is enough for me,” he said.

Westminster, the only men’s collegiate soccer program in Utah, will also be represented by forward Xadier Gonzalez (East H.S./Salt Lake City), midfielders Ricky Frendt (Judge Memorial H.S.) and Jose Huerta (Taylorsville H.S./West Jordan). High school stars Nathan Braun of Skyline and Box Elder’s Adam Bywater, as well as eight players from local Hispanic leagues, round out the local amateurs on the try-out list.

Real would like “to see what level the best kids in Utah are playing at,” Pastorino said.

Local semi-professional and professional players will be well represented in Provo, as Sackett, defender Byron Carmichael and midfielder Jorge Estrada of the Utah Blitzz have been invited.

Real’s staff is acutely aware of Estrada, a Highland High product who is “one of the top players to come out of this state,” according to Pastorino. BYU Cougars (PDL) midfielders Gilbert Gaertner and Hugh Van Wagenen have been invited to the camp, as have Utah Salt Ratz (MPSL) players Adam Acosta, Jacob Cavanaugh, Kyle Christensen, George Grygar, K.C. Nordfors and Kenan Powell.

A local product is coming home as well. Defender Dustin Bybee was a 2002 Deseret News All-State selection from Clearfield High, and now plays at Winthrop University in North Carolina. Several collegiate All-Americans will also try to work their magic Saturday, including forward Luc Harrington of Cal-Riverside and defender Brandon Curran of Massachusetts-Lowell.

“[Harrington] is big enough and strong enough to withstand the rigors of MLS,” according to Pastorino. Both Harrington and Curran were the schools’ first All-Americans. Also invited were 2004 Patriot Conference Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, Shawn Kuykendall (American U.), Michael Lookingland (Bucknell) and 2004 NAIA All-American Roberto Linck of Graceland University.

Other college stars invited to tryout include midfielders Sean Gallinger of Cal-St. Fullerton, Kevin Novak of Loyola Marymount, Pedro Power of Slippery Rock (Pa.), goalkeeper Geoff Raives of Redlands (Calif.) and midfielders Michael Vogel of Christian Brothers, and Kevin Wilson of San Diego.

The tryout camp is closed to the general public.

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