Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Rich Bradley slouched on the bench with his head resting on his hand, his eyes fixed on the field and just a few steps from the heart of professional soccer. The butterflies fluttered inside, but the former St. Johns midfielder never felt closer to a dream.
Of course Im nervous, said Bradley, one of 50 college standouts invited to last weekends MLS Player Combine at the Sunrise Hilton Sports Complex in Fort Lauderdale.
But Im having fun, he said. Thats what this is all about. Just like playing at St. Johns, you cant get caught up in the crowd or whos watching you. Its about keeping focused, not making mistakes and just playing your game.
After a brief yet strong showing, its still unclear whether Bradley, the lone Red Storm player at the camp, will be taken in the MLS SuperDraft Friday in Kansas City, Mo.
The need for a centerback, Bradleys position, isnt great and the chances of clinging on in the MLS will be hard. Many coaches suggest Bradleys best shot is in the A-League, which is a step below the MLS.
Hes shown that he has the good physical attributes to play in this league, MetroStars coach Bob Bradley said. Ive seen him play during the season and hes picked up good habits. He brings to the table a great number of things and thats just a product of playing at St. Johns.
Hes a good, solid player, Colorado Rapids coach Tim Hankinson said. Though were not looking for a centerback, I think he has plenty of potential at this level. Personally, hes the type of player I like. Hes able to do so many small things. He does the quiet things that make a difference in games.
Rich Bradley believes he could be late draft choice.
I dont see why not, Bradley said. I wouldnt be here if I thought I wouldnt be drafted. These coaches are looking for players that dont make mistakes. Id like to believe I havent made mistakes and done well.
The weekend showcase was Bradleys first time on a soccer field since the Red Storm fell to Creighton in the NCAA third round last month. The senior, who was upstate for Christmas when he found out about his invitation, was surprised to a part of the elite group.
With the exception of some nerves, the rough individual play didnt affect Bradley, who played the second half in each of the three exhibitions. He was most impressive in the second game, taking charge in the back and making several key stops.
It was a tough turnaround since I havent played for so long, Bradley said. I just wanted to play my game.
Bradley moved from defender to midfielder following an injury-plagued 2001 and didnt miss a beat, tying for second on the Red Storm with four goals including game-winners against Connecticut and Virginia Tech and seven assists.
Its hard not to think about whats at stake here, Bradley said. To be at this point, especially after Ive played a position center midfield that I wasnt familiar with, makes me feel proud. I never thought I be here. Now I like to think about whats next for me.
Reach contributing writer Arthur V. Claps at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2003 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.