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Center Backs Take Center Stage
Defensive stalwarts make strong impressions at combine

USL Combine Scrimmage Notebook

Saturday, January 22, 2011

CHARLESTON, S.C. – While the goalscorers have gotten their share of attention, a number of central defenders caught the eye after the opening two sets of scrimmages at the USL Men’s Player Combine, Presented by Umbro, with the duo of Terrance Cosby and Kyle Miller helping Team 1 to a pair of shutouts on Saturday.

Impressively for a group that had only been together for just over a day, the level of communication between Cosby and Miller, and the rest of the team’s defensive unit, was strong which Cosby believed contributed to their comfort level.

“I think we did pretty good,” Cosby said. “We passed the ball off, we passed the man off, we all communicated really good at the back.”

Cosby said his experience with the Premier Development League’s St. Louis Lions last summer was a big factor in the growth of his game, and he showed a good level of composure when faced with high pressure.

“They had some top players there,” Cosby said of the Lions, “so I was always under pressure. Being under pressure a lot (there) helped me out a lot.”

Others who appeared to have strong days included the trio of Sean Flatley, Guilherme Reis and Kyle Manscuk, who rotated in the center of defense for Team 4. The side conceded only one goal, Miguel Bonilla giving Team 2 a 1-0 victory with a good back-post header from Michael Bouraee’s cross in the afternoon session.

“It was good, very solid defending, releasing the ball well and finding our midfield and our outside backs,” Flatley said. “I’m very happy to be playing with Kyle and (Guilherme).”

Ross Kelly also put in a pair of good performances for Team 2. As with Cosby and Flatley, Kelly said trying to play a simple game was the key to putting in good performances this week.

“I think so, that’s what I’m trying to do,” Kelly said, “not trying to be a prima donna, just stick to what you know.”

LEARNING CURVE: When you’re surrounded by talented individuals, it’s important to take advantage of the opportunity to learn.

That was what former Michigan Bucks defender Stewart Givens was able to do last summer when his teammates included recent Major League Soccer SuperDraft first round picks Zarek Valentin and Kofi Sarkodie.

“Just little facets from all of them and the guys who are going to the next level, it definitely helps out,” Givens said. “It was a really good summer.”

Givens’ older brother Colin was also on that team, and was selected by reigning MLS champion the Colorado Rapids in the SuperDraft. Stewart might not make the jump to MLS immediately, but his play alongside Alex Russell could have him making the jump to the professional ranks soon.

“This is what every player dreams about, getting this opportunity here,” Givens said. “I’m ready to make the jump and start getting a chance to earn my keep here.”

AFTERSHOCK: After getting invited to the MLS Combine, it was somewhat of a surprise when center back Indy Smith not only didn’t get selected in the SuperDraft, but was also passed over in the Supplemental Draft earlier this week.

“I think I underperformed,” Smith said of his MLS Combine performance. “I had no expectations of going in the SuperDraft, I thought I might go in the Supplemental Draft, so obviously that was disappointing.”

Smith is now trying to take advantage of his late invitation to the USL combine. Added to the event after other players pursued other opportunities, Smith fared well on Saturday, making a last-gasp clearance off the line in his opening game of the day. The 22-year-old was glad to be able to jump straight back onto the field.

“To be able to turn around and come right back down here and get back at it was nice for me,” Smith said.

Nicholas Murray 

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