Top Stories

Trialists look to impress as MLS training camps get underway


MLS teams began training camp Monday and several notable non-roster invitees began trying to impress their new teams and earn a contract.  Among the more notable names were former New England Revolution midfielder Blair Gavin, RSL forward Paulo Jr., Colorado Rapids midfielder Jamie Smith and FC Dallas forward Ruben Luna.

Blair Gavin is trying to break into the Seattle Sounders crowded midfield.  Gavin played two and a half seasons with Chivas USA scoring three goals before being traded to New England for Shalrie Joseph.  The Revs declined his option and the former US U-20 player became a free agent after not being selected in either Re-Entry Draft stage.

The Seattle midfield is pretty deep, so it may prove to be a difficult task for Gavin to make this team, but if he does impress, at only 24 years of age he can still develop into at least a solid rotational player.

Paulo Jr. scored four goals for Real Salt Lake before being released at the end of last year.  Vancouver selected Paulo Jr. in stage two of the Re-Entry Draft looking for an offensive spark.

The Whitecaps have also brought in Corey Hertzog, formerly of the New York Red Bulls, for a trial.  The 22 year old forward never scored a goal for New York in five appearances but scored nine goals in 17 appearances for the Wilmington Hammerheads last year on loan.

Both forwards looked like they had a very good shot at making the Whitecaps’ roster before Vancouver selected forwards with their first two selections of the SuperDraft.  Still though, with Kekuta Menneh most likely being a bit more of a project than an immediate impact player, the draftees may not have too much of an impact on Paulo Jr. and Hertzog.

In the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Rapids had declined the option of Jamie Smith following the season but have decided to invite the midfielder back as a non-roster invitee for training camp.  Smith will have the opportunity to earn back his spot on the roster alongside former FC Dallas forward Ruben Luna who has turned up following his release at the end of last season.  Luna scored two goals over 26 appearances for The Hoops but is also only 20 years old.

Here is a rundown of some of the trialists taking part in MLS training camps around the league:

Non-Roster Invitees By Team


Jamie Smith – Midfielder

Ruben Luna – Forward

Luke Vercollone – Defender/Midfielder

Joel Helmich – Goalkeeper

Jim Mauer – Goalkeeper

Clint Irwin – Goalkeeper


Kyle Altman – Defender

Neven Markovic – Defender

Joseph Nane – Midfielder

Demitrius Omphroy – Defender/Midfielder

Diego Restrepo – Goalkeeper

Ryan Richter – Midfielder/Forward

Matt VanOekel – Goalkeeper


Ilcu Mircea – Forward

Nick Zimmerman – Forward

Zakaria Messoudi – Midfielder

Wadrille Lefevre – Midfielder

Maxim Tissot – Defender

Maxime Crepeau – Goalkeeper


Travis Bowen – Forward

Jose Cuevas – Forward

David Opoku – Forward

Manuel Asprilla – Midfielder

Philip Lund – Midfielder

Guy Essame – Midfielder

Jonas Rasmussen – Midfielder

Ross LaBauex – Midfielder

Marvin Angulo – Midfielder

Blair Gavin – Midfielder

Justin Davis – Defender

Cody Ellison – Defender

Isaish Schafer – Defender

Doug Herrick – Goalkeeper


Paulo Jr. – Forward

Corey Hertzog – Forward

Tom Heinemann – Forward

Ben Fisk – Midfielder/Forward

Crispin Olando – Midfielder

Dever Orgill – Forward

Jacob Lensky – Midfielder

Sean Melvin – Goalkeeper


  1. Hoping for Luke Vercollone to get a shot, he’s a solid pro all around and a good role model. Following him with the Richmond Kickers, he also has a lot of talent. I’m also rooting for Restrepo, a really solid keeper with UVA, I was very surprised he didn’t get drafted, definitely has enough talent to play somewhere in the MLS at the very least as a back up.

  2. I hope Tom Heinemann gets a chance. From his time with the Crew, I thought he was a great guy & I thought he had a good overall skillset. Big guy, yet good with the ball at his feet. He blew a couple of chances, which can quickly kill your playing time when you’re the 3rd or 4th forward option.

  3. I would have liked to see the Rapids bring in Gavin, Hertzog, and Paulo Jr… I could see any of those guys making the team if they were willing to do so for the right salary. Disappointed Luna is already out, he seemed to have some promise.

      • It depends. The roster rules basically work that players in slots 1-20 are cap hits and then 21-30 are not. In theory the GA players and homegrowns start out in the 21-30 range and are off budget. However, there are only so many of those slots.

        There are rules among the 21-30 players in terms of minimum salary. For 2012 the first 5 offbudgets were no less than $44K and the second 5 were no less than $33K. These salaries are an increase from what used to be like $10K minimum, in the era when USL teams were stealing players a la PR Islanders.

        So, they cost actual money — and no longer chicken feed after the last CBA — but if they are slotted into 21-30 on the roster they are off cap like you said.

      • But part of it to me is they don’t even necessarily have the eggs and the right oven to cook up the cookies. The youth teams are not necessarily dominant vis a vis the traditional club teams, a lot of the marquee names are cherry picked in the HS years and thus not really developed so much as “dibbed” by the academy; and many of the players hitting college age then proceed to school and become primarily the development of that school. We don’t have anything approaching the Ajax model of gathering the best kids from U10 up and then having gradations of age groups and reserve teams that give players all the rungs to reach the first team. Cause if these guys get homegrowned, they’re basically jumping from either U18 type level, or a college team, to competing for the first team with experienced adults. In the usual case that they don’t make the big jump well, there isn’t much of a reserve league to fall back on, and a lot of people are loaned out to the minors or abroad.

        I think what’s missing is a German-style U23 team, or an English reserve U21 team, a full blown competitive step outside of the MLS team where would-be first teamers can transition. We’re lucky we net anyone from what, 10 games or so?

        I also find it interesting that some of the more effective former academicians are people like Agudelo, Hamid, and Najar, who basically went pro from HS. As a college grad I’m not knocking college per se, but I’m not sure I see the point in “dibs” on college players who are really being honed by Akron or UNC or UCLA or whatever (and then probably PDL in the summer). It makes more sense for the U18/19 types but then you have to provide a few years of transition to senior level growth. That gap in there is where I see the problem.

      • I must be misunderstanding what you are saying:

        “…but I’m not sure I see the point in “dibs” on college players who are really being honed by Akron or UNC or UCLA or whatever..”

        You don’t see the point in getting the rights (“dibs”) to Steve Zakuani ? Even if you are talking more about a David Estrada ( UCLA ) type, he plays therefore calling Dibs is a good idea…if you want to improve your team that is.

        How about Bunbury, Gavin, Nagbe, Kitchen, Valentine, Maddox ?
        I am not even listing the other 4 that “just” play.

      • I could see why teams would want to get “dibs” on some players and secure the player without having to waste a draft pick. But in terms of the justification for “homegrown,” what was their contribution? Hamid is a rare player to go straight from Academy to first team. A lot of them go off to college.

        For example, it’s like a running joke to me that Ibeagha turns down Houston’s offer every year to go back to Duke. But I think for a while we still have MLS dibs on him. And if you sign some guy who you cherry picked at age 17, who goes to college, how much did you make that kid?

        GA is a separate deal from homegrown, GA is MLS pre-signing likely high draft picks. You don’t have to develop the player but you also have to burn the draft pick to get them, in a race with everyone else. Zakuani was really developed by Arsenal, Akron, and the PDL. No one deserves dibs.

    • It’s reaching joke proportions. Not only did they not line up the coach for the January window (notice the Kaka talk has disappeared, even though his brother’s there…and with days left in the window Kaka will likely stay in Europe out of self-defense if nothing else), or the combine, or the draft, but if I’m reading their calendar right the players have reported for camp that starts today with a first preseason game in a week and a half.

      I mean, Petke is the acting head coach right now, season starts in 6 weeks…..

  4. I agree with the comments about Restrepo. He’s got first team action in South America. The big criticism I understand of him is that he’s short (think: Rimando-short). Additionally, I’d heard that Dykstra is seeking to leave DCU (he has an EU passport) and with possible NT camps for Hamid, Restrepo has to look at DCU as a chance to live locally and compete for some possible MLS starts.

  5. The trialist that popped out to me is Diego Restrepo, a relatively young GK who was in the Bradenton pipeline and had youth NT appearances up to U20. Former defensive MVP of the NCAA tournament. When he turned pro he went to Colombia and then Venezuela, he had been born down there. He went to UVa so DC makes a sort of sense although I’m not sure going to a team with a younger incumbent than even he is, is a route to first team play. But in theory all he has to do is be better than Willis.

    I understand Houston is trialing Mike Chabala, whom they drafted, played some, but then traded to Portland.

  6. Seems like there is some solid talent listed here . . . a good reminder of the upward trajectory of the league across the board.

    I rate Toni Stahl . . . does his passport have an effect on his roster position of a team signs him? I think he has the technical skillset to be on a roster

  7. Ives – Please keep this list up to date and accurate possible as this pre-season continues. I spend endless hours each year searching for tid-bits trying to find out who is in camp / non-roster invitees.

  8. The Sounders and Whitecaps have some quality players in there. Also, I’d like to mention that the Red Bulls have Toni Stahl, Nicki Patterson, and Tyler Ruthven in on trial.


Leave a Comment