MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. - Rijon Harrison, 18, moved to Brooklyn from Kingston, Jamaica, three years ago. On Friday, he tried out for the United Soccer League's new Queensboro FC academy team inside a bubble in Mount Vernon.
"Where I come from," he said, "[soccer's] like the only way out, so that's what I've been doing all my life."
Queensboro FC invited Harrison to this combine upon the recommendation of coaches and scouts, but many of the 200 other 15- to 18-year-olds auditioning Wednesday and Thursday answered ads for open tryouts.
"You never know what you're going to get with an open tryout," Queensboro FC chief business officer Adam Behnke said.
Behnke admitted to seeing a large discrepancy in talent the last few days, but technical director Luis Gutierrez identified three or four players in the open tryout he felt had the talent to play in the club's academy team's inaugural season in March.
"It's a good opportunity to find the talent that is playing everywhere," Gutierrez said.
"Talent is the real currency," Behnke said.
Co-owned by David Villa — perhaps the greatest Spanish striker of all time — Queensboro FC founded this academy team before the pro team played its first USL game in 2022 to establish a talent base and instill in it a culture.
"The system we are implementing in the club is very special," Gutierrez said.
The club believes this kind of academy system we find more prevalent elsewhere in the world should also help to ease the transition from American middle and high schools to the professional level.
"Otherwise there's a big disconnect between the time that they're 14 to 18 either going to college or committing to that professional level," Behnke said.
The pandemic forced Queensboro FC to delay this tryout by months. Its head coach remained in Spain waiting for a visa.
"To finally see soccer put on the field," Behnke said, "it's an amazing feeling for all of these kids who have been cooped up for so long."
Coaches plan to spend the next week reviewing video of these scrimmages to decide which players to call back.
"It would mean a lot," Harrison said. "This is what I've been practicing for."
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