It's go hard or go home

DEAN McNULTY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

When an expected 1,000 hopeful Toronto FC players take to the pitch at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughn this morning for open tryouts the first cut will not only be the deepest it will also be the quickest.

Barry MacLean, the sports agent who is running the show for the team, told the Toronto Sun that FC coaches and advisors will be cutting more than half of those who show up after their first sessions.

The second round of cuts will be just as broad and just as swift.

After all, public relations aside, Toronto FC isn't going through the exercise with any realistic hope of uncovering a player who could play at the level of Major League Soccer right out of the camp.

"What is going to happen is that over the first two-and-a half days there will be 51 games of six aside teams of one hour in length so that all of those who try out will get looked at," MacLean said. "Right after that those that are clearly out of their element are going to be dismissed."

Just how many of the original 1,000 players does MacLean think will be in that category?

"We anticipate their will be about 25% of the original group left," he said.

The math is clear -- 1,000 start and 750 will get the boot after one look.

Things don't get any easier for the 250 lucky wannabes after that.

"We are going to play them in 10 full 11 aside games," MacLean said. "That will take us to Thursday."

The coaches will meet following those matches and pink cards will be issued to a further 200 players.

"The 50 remaining players will play two games 11 aside each on Friday," he said.

So how many of the original 1,000 tryouts do the Toronto FC coaches hope will be good enough for an invite to the team's inaugural training camp?

Well, none actually.

"We expect there will be 10 or 11 players who will show enough potential to be worth keeping an eye on," MacLean said. "They will be invited to a pre-training camp session in Toronto at the beginning of February.

"If they handle themselves well against players we've already signed, then they could be invited down to our main camp in Florida."

MacLean may make the process sound cold, but Toronto FC will have another agenda in place during the tryouts -- to put names and faces to young players who might figure in future plans of the team.

"There are a number of players who are very young who will be trying out," he said. "Those players in all likelihood be viewed as prospects for the future."

For Toronto FC this not only will provide them with a first-hand look at Ontario's finest young stars, but it saves the team from the long, tough and costly scouting process that otherwise would be necessary to seek out home-grown talent.

"Those youngsters probably won't make the grade as players who would get into the training camp," MacLean said. "But they will get valuable exposure to high-level coaching and competition."

MacLean's credentials are impeccable -- he's a former Ontario University Athletics Association Soccer coach of the year for his work at Wilfred Laurier University -- and he attained All-Canadian status as a player at the same school.

And he's certain that there will be diamonds in the rough to be found among the throng that will suit up today.

"The likelihood of finding one or two players of elite ability I think is pretty high," he said. "I think there will be a media bonanza for the team with this kind of tryout, but I also believe it will attract some young players who may well have a future with Toronto FC."


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