It was a tale of two talented center midfielders at the Austin Aztex U-23 tryouts
It's a tale of two center midfielders.
Both are smart and versatile. Either would be a cornerstone of the Austin Aztex's Premier Development League team, a squad starting up from scratch a few weeks before the 2008 season opener on May 3 (home opener May 10 vs. Houston Leones, 7:30pm, at Dragon Stadium in Round Rock).
Midfielder No. 1 is Marcelino Uriarte, an All-American from St. Edward's University, who played a preseason with the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer before getting sidelined with a knee injury. Ask the guys on the sidelines at the Aztex's recent tryouts if there's one guy on the pitch better than anyone else, and they point to Uriarte.
"A big-time player, a serious talent with professional experience," says assistant coach Bobby Murphy.
Midfielder No. 2 is Wes Allen, a baby-faced junior at the University of Texas. A two-sport star at Anderson High, Allen had a soccer scholarship at Oakland University in Michigan. As a freshman, he started every game. But he was homesick, and in transferring to UT – which doesn't have a men's team – it seemed he was giving up his soccer dreams. "It was a huge part of my life," he says, "but I guess there are other things that matter, too."
The development team will be directly affiliated with the Aztex professional squad, which is why more than 300 players turned out for the tryouts. One guy took a bus down from Toronto; four Venezuelans crammed into a Honda Civic for the 20-hour drive from Miami. But league rules stipulate that the team can only offer six spots to foreign players and six spots to players older than 23, and that creates some problems.
Uriarte, for instance, is a United States citizen, but he's 28.
"Our mission is to take guys who are young and make them better, to prepare guys for the pro team," says Murphy. "Given that we're limited in our overage spots, we're going to err on the side of younger, local players."
Murphy tells everyone this at the end of the tryouts. And then he asks to speak with Allen.
Nobody needs to be told what that means, least of all Uriarte. It means that Allen had made the team, and Uriarte hadn't. Not yet, anyway. The roster hasn't been finalized. But unlacing his cleats, Uriarte knows not to get his hopes up.
"When I heard about the Aztex starting up, it kind of tickled my soccer ego," he says. "So to not get picked, yeah, it's a serious bummer."
Allen is singing a different tune, of course. A self-effacing kid who has spent the tryouts tamping down his expectations, he is suddenly ecstatic. "When I moved back to Texas, I didn't know if soccer was going to be part of my future," he says. "Now it's looking like it is. This is my chance, and I'm going to run with it."
Uriarte will be waiting for the phone to ring, hoping that 28 isn't too old to make his soccer dreams come true.