The Philadelphia Fury held a tryout on Saturday July 19, to look for the final pieces to complete their roster. The trial was part of an eventful day that featured players that are already signed to the team and players who came from all over the northeast looking for a chance to impress team officials before the start of the team's inaugural season in the American Soccer League.
The tryouts were held at the Total Turf Complex in Pitman, New Jersey that was split into two sessions - individual skill drills and friendly split squad match. The Fury team officials were looking to complete their roster with four more defenders, but they were looking for players in all positions.
The day began with the announcement of new signing Michel Okai to the team. Okai, a striker who formally played with New York Red Bulls of MLS, signed with the team earlier in the week and will be playing with the Fury before returning to play in South America the upcoming winter.
Next, the tryouts began with Fury coaches leading the players in drills and instructions. Led by team owner and league CEO Matt Driver, the officials were looking at players who fit the mold they're looking for. "When you are starting a team from scratch it is not an easy thing, you have to have a vision in your mind of how you want the team to play then crate a picture of what type of players you are looking for," said Driver. "It's like doing a jigsaw without seeing the picture of what are building and piece it together in your head."
Defenders practiced different man marking tactics, and were later joined by midfielders to work together on keep-aways and teamwork exercises. The forwards worked on striking techniques and were led by assistant coach Kyle Hall of the AC Crusaders, who was looking for players for that team as well. For Hall, it's about finding players that he could develop for his team. "We're looking for players to develop. It's about looking for that diamond in the rough and molding that player." Fury coach Victor Malagisi agreed in that assessment. For him watching the players in practice is different than watching in a game. "It's a different environment. What you see a player do in practice can change in a game. The player could be under performing in practice then surprise you in a game situation."
After the skills part of the trial and a lunch break, a friendly occurred between the Fury triaists and the New York team NYC Ghana FC. The teams would play three 40 minute periods to show off their skills to the coaches at game speed. In the first game, goalkeeper Chase Clement impressed. Clement, son of Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Famer Bill Clement, had many acrobatic saves in the box and kept the Fury team in the match. Also impressive was Fury-signed player Kwame Appiah, who continually broke through the Ghanaian line of defense and scored the equalizer to end the first match at 1-1. The second game saw a new Fury squad come on. Fury trialist Daniel was the man of the match in this one. After repeatedly knocking on the door, he finally got a goal on a breakaway to give the Fury a 1-0 win. Also making an appearance for Ghana was their coach Travis, who previously used to play for West Ham United. In the third match, it was another new Fury squad that was led by goalkeeper Ryan Gill, who impressed the most in the match. He commanded the box well and was the leader of the defenders in front of him. I said while live tweeting the match that I believed he should be the starting goalkeepr come opening day for the team. Philadelphia won the match 2-0 and went undefeated on the day.
"I felt the day was a success," said Fury General Manager Graham King Charters. "Our objective was to identify new talent for our teams, and we have done that. I think all players deserve praise for their overall professional attitude and their commitment towards the day."
It was productive day for the team, as they used the day not only to find new talent to add to the roster but to also start to make final preparations leading into their inaugural pro season. The Fury will open against the AC Crusaders in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey on August 23. They will then have their home opener the next weekend on August 30 vs Icon FC as Washington Township High School.
I want to thank Matt Driver, Graham King Charters, Atlantic Soccer Factory, Philadelphia Fury and the American Soccer League for inviting me to cover the event. They were very open in letting me talk to players and staff in reporting the event and very cordial in the process. I also want to thank JC Escobar and the staff at Brotherly Game for letting me become the beat report for the Fury. This is my first reporting job and I'm very grateful at the chance they've given me.