The Kansas City Wizards major league soccer team might want to consider changing its mascot to a Bulldog after training camp this week. After all, no other MLS team has four former Yale soccer players trying out for a place on the squad.
Last Sunday, Andrew Dealy ’05 and Ryan Raybould ’05 joined Jay Alberts ’04 and Brian Roberts ’04 in Kansas City to participate in the Wizards’ training camp as the four Elis try to secure spots on either the regular or developmental rosters. While Alberts and Roberts got some professional experience by playing with the Minnesota Thunder of the A-League last year, Dealy and Raybould are completely new to the world of professional soccer and are still enrolled in classes at Yale. Despite the challenges of adapting to the level of professional play and handling two tough workouts a day, Dealy and Raybould said training camp is going well overall.
“It was a big adjustment to the speed of play and the pro environment,” Dealy said. “At first it was rough, but we are feeling a little more comfortable now. It’s fun; it’s a new challenge. We were looking forward to it.”
Dealy, a clever forward, finished his Yale career sixth all-time with 56 points and was named to the first-team All-Ivy twice. Raybould, a tough midfielder, was captain last fall and was a first-team All-Ivy selection as well. Dealy and Raybould are hoping to translate the success they had on the Yale fields into professional soccer careers.
“I think it would be kind of a dream come true to be a pro athlete,” Raybould said. “Both Andrew and myself, we’ve wanted to play pro since we were little kids. I have been to all the Wizards’ games at home since they started in ’96, so it’s come full circle by being in training with guys I have watched for years.”
Yale head coach Brian Tompkins said it will be hard to fill the hole that those two players will leave behind.
“Ryan was in many ways the workhorse of the team and a guy with tremendous drive and passion for the game,” Tompkins said. “He played the game simply and intelligently. Andrew has more artistic flair for the game and is more inclined to the unexpected. He is certainly a very crafty player. The combination of the two of them was good for us.”
Tompkins, a friend of Wizards head coach Bob Gansler, said he kept Gansler abreast of what was going on with Dealy and Raybould, and based on Tompkins’ recommendation, Gansler invited them to the camp. After the season ended, Tompkins said, Dealy and Raybould have been doing a lot of work to stay in shape for this tryout, including playing with the Yale team, running, lifting and even playing basketball.
Each MLS team has two different rosters — a developmental roster and a first-team roster. The 18-member first-team roster is for players who will actually travel with the team and compete in MLS games. The 10-member developmental roster consists of players who are developing their skills. Both Alberts and Roberts were on the developmental roster for Kansas City last year and ended up being loaned to the Thunder to play. Tompkins said he thinks both Dealy and Raybould have a shot at making it, especially as developmental players.
“If they play well they can make a pretty good cases for themselves to be selected for one of the developmental spots,” Tompkins said. “The biggest difference isn’t athleticism or size; these guys are good technical players and good athletes. The difference is going to be the speed of thought. You have to make decisions a lot quicker in the pros, and you have to make the right decision more often than not because mistakes get punished more quickly and comprehensively at that level.”
Since Dealy and Raybould had to hit the ground running, they said the first couple of days were difficult.
“Its consistently grinding, competitive and tough,” Raybould said. “You are always going 100 percent; otherwise, you get yelled at. You can’t have any mental lapses either. I’m starting to get used to the level of play. It definitely requires athleticism, but it’s also decision-making skills. Pros always know where to play the ball and know the right place to be.”
A typical day at the pro camp for Dealy and Raybould, who are staying at Raybould’s family home, involves getting up at 8 a.m., practicing, eating lunch, practicing and then eating dinner. The first practice is for conditioning and training and runs from about 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The second involves scrimmages and other play exercises. They are finished by early evening, but the days are long and grueling.
“The [practice] sessions are crisp,” Dealy said. “They are fast days. There is not too much standing around.”
But Dealy and Raybould said it is nice to have some friends on the team in the forms of their old teammates.
“It’s definitely nice to see some familiar faces,” Raybould said. “We played with Brian and Jay two or three years, and they helped us along the way. Brian talked to us beforehand, gave us the 411 on the level of play and what to bring. He was definitely helpful as a liaison, and so we could know what to train for and what to expect. It is a huge advantage for Andrew and myself.”
Although these four are all Elis, Tompkins said he encouraged them to take an every-man-for-himself attitude at the training camp so that they could get the best shot at making the team.
“That’s the pro way,” Tompkins said. “You have to prove yourself. The law of the jungle prevails on field, and they know that. They may be competing for the same spot on roster, so it will take a certain amount of single-mindedness and toughness.”
Despite that, the Elis said they are enjoying being with their former teammates. And even though Dealy, Raybould and Alberts said they did not play as consistently as they wanted to the first couple of days, all of them are figuring out what the Wizards want from them and how to use their skills to their advantage.
At the end of the week, none of the former Bulldogs may know if they made the team or not. It could take as long as a month before they know if they are signed on either of the two rosters. Dealy and Raybould said they realistically have a better shot at making the developmental roster, but just getting to the professional level will be accomplishment enough.
Alberts said he thinks both Dealy and Raybould have a decent shot at making the team. And he said it would be great for the Yale soccer program if all four of them were signed by the Wizards, who made it to the 2004 MLS Cup Finals.
“I think it would be pretty cool, getting four guys from the same college on one team,” Alberts said. “For the University, which is obviously known for strong academics, it shows you can also go to Yale and succeed professionally in your sport as well.”