Jabulani (green) defeated AdiZero 2-1 on Saturday.
Major League Soccer

For Combine players, first-day jitters out of the way

LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Day one of the combine has come and gone, and for the aspiring professional players, that can only be a good thing.

Performances on Saturday won’t make or break the future MLS talent, but the nerves and excitement of finally competing on this stage certainly adds a tough wrinkle for the players involved.

The amount of experience and skill on display at this year’s Combine is certainly impressive. However, by nature, it can also be a difficult environment to succeed in, as evidenced by the day’s opening play.

“It was a little bit hectic,” said midfielder Michael Farfan, who was part of the AdiZero team that lost 2-1 to the Jabulani squad on Saturday. “Everyone’s running 100 miles per hour, as everyone’s kind of excited to be out here playing finally.”

Not only did the frenetic pace make the game hard to keep up with, the fact that most of the players hadn’t spent time any significant time on the field together added an extra ounce of difficulty.

[inline_node:326151]“This was the first time we’ve ever played together,” Farfan said. “It would have been nice to have a practice before to just kind of learn people’s tendencies a little bit, but today we got to know each other a little bit and I think it’ll help us to the next game.”

Despite the uncertainly existing between the new teams, that didn’t detract from the excitement. One of Farfan’s opponents on Saturday, C.J. Sapong, was just happy to be playing with his new teammates.

“It was great to get out there,” he said. “Everyone’s been kind of jittery with the start up to the weekend. Everybody got to know each other. It’s really exciting being out there with all this talent.”

One of those new teammates was Justin Meram, a forward from Michigan. The two paired up nicely on Saturday, forming an impressive attacking duo considering they just met this week.

Before the game, the two discussed playing styles and tactics to try and figure out how to best play together. It almost led to a goal for Jabulani. In one particular play, Meram led a counterattack and set up Sapong, who had his shot saved by AdiZero ‘keeper Josh Ford.

Missing the chance was a disappointment for Sapong, though he wasn’t dwelling on it.

“I could have finished the chance, but you don’t want to focus on the negatives,” Sapong said. “It’s only one game. There are two more to go and I have to keep trying to play to the best of my ability.”

Meram was happy to get that first day out of the way.

“I thought I did pretty good, was a bit of a threat, got some shots off,” he said. “First day, you get the nerves out.”

With one combine game in the books for every player – and a day off on Sunday – the next round of action should produce a more cohesive and crisp product as the former college stars gear up for Monday’s action.

AdiPure will play Jabulani at 11:15 a.m. ET. The match will be immediately followed by AdiPower vs. AdiZero at 1 p.m. ET. Both games will be streamed live on MLSsoccer.com.

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