Central’s Palma narrowly misses cut at MLS tryout

STEVIE PALMA REACHED THE FINAL ROUND OF CUTS during a series of MLS tryouts, which began April 4 in Chicago. The Central High School junior loved the experience of stepping onto a professional field.

We’d seen Freddy Adu accomplish the feat, playing Major League Soccer while still in high school.

Stevie Palma had that same dream.

The 16-year-old Central High School junior came within two steps of accomplishing that feat a couple of weeks ago, reaching the final round of cuts in an MLS tryout.

“I just wanted to take my game to the next level,” said Palma, a three-year varsity player. “I wanted to play against better competition, try to up my game.”

It’s been a dream of Palma’s for some time to play professionally.

“I thought this would be a faster way,” he said of reaching U.S. professional soccer’s pinnacle level.

Although only a high school junior, “The younger the better,” he said.

His first tryout was April 4 in Chicago, one of three sites around the country conducting tryouts.

Granted, he wanted to see what the talent was like at that level.

“I was also going in to win,” he said of earning the one spot designated to the winner of the tryout competition from among 2,000 entrants, kind of a soccer equivalent of American Idol.

Players were split up and put onto teams at the first Chicago tryout.

“We got 30 minutes to show what we’ve got,” he said.

He survived the first cut from 600 initial aspirants in Chicago to 24. From there, the field was cut to four during the second tryout the next day.

“They had us do some drills; then they had us scrimmage,” he said.

He must have impressed the graders. He was one of four from Chicago selected to join the eight others who survived the other tryouts in Washington state and Los Angeles to meet in Los Angeles for the final cut the next week.

The process in LA was even more intense — four days of tryouts.

The highlight for Palma was getting to play on the home field of the LA Galaxy and David Beckham, the Home Depot Center in Carson.

“It was a big thing for me,” he said. “There I was, stepping onto a professional field.”

The list of 12 was cut to six; Palma made that cut. He didn’t make the cut from six players to three the next day.

“They told me I played great,” Palma said.

A center-forward at Central, he was switched to right midfielder during the tryouts.

“They said I’d be a better right-mid,” he said, something to ponder for the future.

Palma was encouraged by his showing.

“I played great,” he said.

Being only 16, there’s still a lot of soccer ahead of him, including a chance to fulfill that dream of playing professionally.

“It’s a little bump in the road,” he said of not being selected. “It’s up to us to get over that bump.

If we do, then we can succeed.

“I believe I can. For me, it’s not over.”


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