January 16, 2017
NSCAA convention had something for everyone and then some, especially for the media
By Michael Lewis
I had four, count 'em, four, media credential for events in and surrounding the NSCAA convention.
Photo by Michael Lewis
LOS ANGELES -- And on the seventh day, I rested.
On Monday, I took a break from soccer (well outside of the excitement around the Dax McCarty trade to Chicago).
I needed it and probably a few other writers did as well.
Never in all my years of reporting have I experienced such a long, varied and crazy week as I have in southern California.
It was the first time in 23 years that a convention was on the west coast, the last being in 1994, year of the World Cup USA '94.
Much has changed on the soccer landscape since then.
Because the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention was in Los Angeles, it afforded the media the opportunity to partake and take advantage of many events surrounding the event (even found time to sneak into a seminar or two and meet up with many old soccer friends).
To many of us, it was like being a kid locked in a candy store, not knowing where to begin.
It seemed that every day had another theme, so to speak.
Here's how it went down:
Tuesday, Jan. 10
That was held at the StubHub Center as some 80 college hopefuls tried to impress at least one coach enough to be taken in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
I sat through a doubleheader through some extremely rainy weather in the nightcap before interviewing Hofstra University midfielder Joseph Holland and Monmouth University goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky. Both had interesting stories to tell about their careers and where they were going.
Wednesday, Jan. 11
U.S. national team camp (opening day)
The very first training camp under the Bruce Arena regime kicked off outside of the StubHub Center at the Murphy Family Field. Nothing much happened on the field as the players went through several drills.
Arena was in vintage form as entertained the media with several classic quips. For example:
“I actually call it my third chance. Hopefully, three strikes and you’re out is not the case.”
When asked his opinion about an expanded World Cup (to 48 teams) in 2026: “I’ll be watching that in my rocking chair.”
Thursday, Jan. 12
The National Women's Soccer League draft was held at the JW Marriott as the Boston Breakers made the University of Wisconsin's Rose Lavelle the very first selection of the draft. Sky Blue wound up taking a pair of Southern California defenders -- Kayla Mills (fourth overall pick) and Miranda Freeman (10th overall).
Paul Riley, who directed the Western New York Flash to the league championship in October, was hopeful that he could work out a contract with the North Carolina Courage owners. The Flash was sold to North Carolina interests. Even though he wasn't officially head coach of the team, Riley still came here and helped with the draft.
The last layer of the day came at 5 p.m. when about a dozen reporters held a roundtable interview with Chelsea Ladies FC head coach Emma Hayes, whom I asked about her latest signing, Crystal Dunn.
Friday, Jan. 13
Now, I don't know why its still called the SuperDraft because there really wasn't nothing super to it, but for the 22nd year MLS held its draft of top college players. The first two rounds were Friday and the next two are set for Tuesday.
A few interesting tidbits:
* Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch, who reportedly was to take the Red Bull Salzburg job, showed up at the draft and said he would continue in his capacity with New York.
* Expansion team Minnesota United made UCLA forward Abu Danladi the first pick of the draft.
* For the second consecutive year, New York City FC traded up to get an early Chicago Fire pick to choose University of Akron forward Jonathan Lewis for $250,00 in general allocation money, the first time it was announced how much money was used in a trade.
* Not to be out done, the Red Bulls selected a Lewis of their own in Boston College midfielder Zeiko Lewis as the 17th pick. Lewis certainly wasn't shy about voicing his opinion.
"I'm glad the Red Bulls have faith in me. At least somebody does," he said. "I'm just going to have to prove [the rest of Major League Soccer] wrong for drafting me this late."
* And in case you were wondering, Holland was taken by the Houston Dynamo as the seventh overall selection and Klenofsky was grabbed by D.C. United at No. 35 overall.
I also found time to interview Dunn, the U.S. women's international from Rockville Centre, N.Y. for a Sunday Newsday story that day before attending the annual NSCAA banquet that night.
Saturday, Jan. 14
Walter Chyzowych honors
Long-time coach Jay Hoffmann and Landon Donovan were honored as with the Walter Chyzowych's Lifetime Achievement awards at the JW Marriott. Newly named U.S. national head coach Bruce Arena stole the show in the auction with his quips as he won a Landon Donovan shirt and a soccer ball signed by Pele.
Afterwards, I caught up with Donovan and asked him about the possibility of coming back to play in 2017. He had retired at the end of the 2014 season.
"I would say close, but still up in the air at this point," he said after the ceremony at the JW Marriott.
He has been linked with Real Salt Lake and a team in the Eastern Conference. Preseason for all teams begin within the next two weeks.
"If I was going to play in MLS, the preseason starts in a few weeks," Donovan said. "It would have to happen pretty quickly."
An aside: parking was a bitch downtown with a soccer convention and a comic book convention going on, plus either an afternoon basketball or hockey an d a ton of people out and about on the best day of the week after a dreary and rainy week for an idea that desperately needed more water.
Sunday , Jan. 15
U.S. national team training
Another trip out to StubHub to watch the men train at the Glenn "Mooch" Myernick Field. As it turns out, Myernick was a good friend of Arena's and served on his coaching staff. In fact, Myernick directed the USA in the final of the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup against Panama as Arena was dismissed from the bench during the semifinal victory over Honduras at Giants Stadium.
Spoke with Arena and Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles, who was excited about Dax McCarty coming to town a day after his wedding and that the former Red Bulls captain would be spending his honeymoon with him.
Monday, Jan. 16
A day of rest from official activities, but then again, the Red Bulls and Chicago Fire had some other things in mind.
(And yes, the U.S. national youth teams were training outside of StubHub, but once in a while you're got to charge your batteries).
Tuesday, Jan. 17
MLS media day
One final burst at MLS media day to talk to some of the top players in the league. Then it's finally home on a red-eye special back to New York.
The way things are going, I just hope no news breaks overnight on my return voyage. Knowing my luck, it well.
Ah, and in case you were wondering, next year's convention is set for Philadelphia, so the likelihood of that event having national teams training and the combine is slim and none.
Here's to an unforgettable eight days.