Soccer Banter: What was your overall impression of the players that attended the first two tryout sessions?
Dave Kelly: The level was decent, better at the second tryout. We had a lot of numbers - over 150 players for the two tryouts. It's difficult to assess a player with only one or two looks, so we'll be inviting a number of them back for a third or even a fourth look. But it's the same at every level: great players rarely find you - you have to find them.
SB: Where are you currently with putting together a roster? What attributes are you looking for in players?
DK: We are about halfway there - with fourteen commitments. We have another invite-only session coming up, and I expect to get commitments from two or three more. We are also remotely evaluating several other players who are back at college across the country. With regards to the qualities that we're looking for, there are three main components that I value: technique, athleticism, and a keen match sense. It's rare that you find the complete package, although we hope to have a few. Those that possess a 10 out of 10 in all three categories are most likely already in Europe or the MLS. We're looking for those that have the potential to be complete players.
DK: We will have an athletic and skillful team that can also compete and battle. We will be committed to playing attacking and entertaining football.
SB: In recent years, PDL alums have made up the majority of players drafted into MLS, will CFC Azul be able to attract those type of players in the first season?
DK: We will...we are! I am confident that in a few years we will have many of our alum either in Europe or in MLS.
SB: You have a distinguished playing & coaching career, who are some of the people that have influenced you to become the coach that you are and how have they helped shape your own philosophy about the game?
DK: You're kind - I was an average minor league professional, but thanks. I have been extremely lucky with some of the situations that I've found myself in, and I have had outstanding mentors. From my high school coach, Bill McCarthy to Ray Reid and Bob Dikranian at the ODP level, I learned about setting standards and demanding the best from myself and others around me. In college, I played for Jim Dyer, who I think was one of the best college coaches in the country. He was very hard on me, and he taught me about professionalism. He also taught me the value of being able to make difficult decisions by always taking the long view of things. As a young pro I played for Leszek Wrona - the hardest of hard men... no excuses, no shortcuts. I also spent several years as Dan Gaspar's assistant. He takes professionalism to another level. He taught me the value of having a vision, and having the single mindedness and work ethic to realize it. He's very demanding and willing to sacrifice to meet his objectives. He won't ask anything of you that he isn't prepared to do himself. And now, I am fortunate to be Tom Lang's assistant at Southern Connecticut. The man is a winner, with two NCAA championships... and more to come!
SB: Looking back at your own playing career in USL, what is your most memorable moment and who was the best player you ever played against and why?
DK: There are so many memories, it's difficult to pick just one, although CT Wolves beating Tampa Bay from MLS in the Open Cup was special. Dan Gaspar and I put together a team that could have done very well in MLS, with a budget that was one tenth of an MLS team's budget. What is most important are the people I met, the teammates I had, and all of the friendships that I forged. I look around the world, and there are so many who I am still close to, and I can trace our friendship back to my playing days. That's priceless...
The two best players that I ever played against in the USL were Onandi Lowe and Dwayne De Rosario. Onandi was a monster - fast, powerful, strong, and skillful. I remember during one match he picked up an injury and went off after twenty or thirty minutes. I remember thinking, 'Thank God he's off.' Not that I was happy that the man picked up an injury; only that the rest of the match would be significantly easier. He should have been capped more times for Jamaica than he was. And DeRo was outstanding in every sense - pace, skill, vision. He had it all... still does!