Talent comes around in the most unlikely of places, and perhaps Chattanooga’s next great soccer star was unearthed on Sunday’s Chattanooga Football Club open tryouts. Last year’s February tryout unearthed starting striker Brian Bement, top goalkeeper Alec Reddington, and rocket-footed midfielder Clayton Adams.
The first half took place at Finley Stadium in the morning, while the second happened at the Highland Park Commons later that afternoon.
Coach Fuller and technical director Bill Elliott both observed the gaggle of players, some former pros and others fresh out of college, run through a series of eight a side scrimmages.
“You’ve got everything from guys who play at Highland Park, to guys who have been fringe professionals in their career. You’ve got everything,” coach Fuller said. “They’ll really just be playing today, so it’s a matter of seeing their ability under pressure situations.”
Alongside player-coaches Juan Hernandez and Richard Dixon, coach Fuller assessed dozens of trialists as they zipped around Highland Park’s smaller pitches, with many of them having met their teammates for the first time just a few minutes before. The games themselves went by at lightning speed, and several players were overheard marveling at how little time they had to make decision against other hopeful pros.
“I always look for three qualities: the quality of your first touch with and without pressure, your passing long and short with and without pressure, and the quality of your movement on and off the ball in attack and defense,” coach Fuller said.
Both coach Fuller and Hernandez stressed the importance of the trialists being prepared and fit for the tryout. Coach Fuller said that the constant scrimmages over the next two hours would separate those who came in-shape and those who did not.
"You've got to train and come ready, and give yourself an honest try,” Hernandez said. “If you don't come prepared, you will suck."
Although some of the trialists were regulars at the Highland Park fields, other drove in from all areas of the country for this opportunity. Because of the devastating effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on smaller clubs in the last year, many talented players are without a team.
“If we were doing this as a moneymaker, we would have charged $300 a guy and we would’ve had the same amount of guys,” coach Fuller said. “In this environment with COVID, nobody is holding trials now. You’ve got an inordinate amount of pros right now who are out of a job because of how few teams there are no because of COVID.”
“We did this purposely because we want to encourage guys to be here,” coach Fuller continued. “I give the guys full credit, because you have guys who have driven in from Florida and Texas and all parts of the country to come in for this. Because of that, we want to give them a full day and an honest look.”
Chattanooga FC’s preseason starts in early March, and the Finley Stadium is hosting the NISA Spring Tournament from April 13 to 15.
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