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The Voice of the Black Community
Independence combine brings together players and coaches
Opportunities abound from pros to youth
Published Wednesday, December 13, 2017 8:34 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

MATTHEWS—Opportunities in Charlotte soccer have evolved.

The USL Charlotte Independence and MLS affiliate Colorado Rapids’ annual player combine Dec. 10-12 included coaching personnel from multiple levels of the game, including the club level.

“The cool thing that is kind of evolving in Charlotte is the relationships between the different levels of the game,” said Charlotte Eagles (PDL) coach Dave Dixon, who is also Charlotte Soccer Academy’s director of coaching for Matthews U14-U19. “The high school, club, youth-aged kids, all the way through PDL, have an opportunity to come back after the college seasons to play, and then obviously to graduate from PDL to the USL level.”
The clubs have shared facilities—the Eagles won the PDL final at the Jacks’ home in Matthews last season—and have seen players graduate from different levels of the sport. Players like Charlotte native Austin Yearwood have progressed through the system with CSA, Eagles, and the Independence, playing for both Dixon and Independence coach Mike Jeffries.

“There’s just so many more opportunities, and the opportunities are growing,” Dixon said. “That’s going to ultimately, hopefully, help grow the game in the city and the region. So when the wee little kids start, they have a vision of what they can do in the game. That’s a really exciting thing.”

Others like fellow former Eagles player striker Jaime Siaj went from a Division II national championship with Pfieffer to the Rapids in last year’s MLS draft. He eventually made his way to the Independence. Siaj, like other Jacks, caught the eye of the Independence in last year’s combine.

The 2017 combine included 65 players, allowing the Rapids to gauge potential talent for the upcoming draft, as well as players for the Independence to consider adding to the 2018 roster.

“The level was consistent and solid, maybe not as many guys that really stood out quite as much,” Jeffries said. “Last year we felt like there were a couple guys who were really above the curve and really stood out, and maybe this year felt like the depth was good, but maybe not as many guys who lit it up or stood out quite as much.”

Said Rapids assistant coach/goalkeeper coach Chris Sharpe: “The caliber is a lot closer over the spread of the 65 guys. Over the last few years, Jaime Siaj, Dennis Castillo [a defender who spent last season on loan with the Independence from Colorado] we also brought in from the combine down here. Over the last few years you’ve seen that there have been five or six guys who have really stood out. Now the quality is a bit more condensed, and you get 15-20 guys that are all within a shout now.”


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