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Saturday scrimmages see standout performances at USL PRO Combine

BRADENTON, Fla. – The 2014 USL PRO Combine continued on Saturday with six scrimmages that saw the 102 players in attendance get the chance to compete in front of the assembled USL PRO, MLS and international scouts gathered at the facilities of IMG Academy.

As teams sought to find chemistry, goals were few and far between in the morning session as some excellent goalkeeping and defending produced three 1-0 results. Former Chicago Inferno forward Gordon Gurson got the distinction of scoring the first goal of this year’s Combine, as his first-half finished gave Team 2 victory against Team 1, while former Des Moines Menace man Chris Harmon won a penalty, and then converted from the spot, to lift Team 3 past Team 4.

The best goal of the morning session came in the third contest, when the SC United Bantams’ Jack Metcalf took control of a free kick just outside the penalty area for Team 5. Metcalf curled a fine shot into the top-right corner of the net that gave the goalkeeper little chance to give his side victory against Team 6.

The afternoon brought better action as the teams began to develop more chemistry, and both former Ocean City Nor’easters GK Brian Billings (Team 1) and Bryce Boyd (Team 4) were called upon to make saves that kept their sides scoreless at the break in the first scrimmage of the second session. Team 4 would open the scoring just before the midway point of the second half, however, as a good pass by Ali van Gurp found Matthew Hamilton in space for a low finish into the left corner of the net, and that would prove enough for another 1-0 win.

The second game of the afternoon ended all square, as Team 3 and Team 6 played to a 1-1 draw. Harmon almost added to his goal earlier in the day, only to hit the post for Team 3, and Nathan Douglas forced a good save for Team 6, but it would be Team 3 that took the lead just before halftime as former Phoenix FC forward Tommy Ramos clipped home a finish from former Austin Aztex standout Max Gunderson’s cross. Team 6 would get back on level terms in the second half, though, as Brad Vanino’s free kick from the left eluded everyone, and snuck in at the far post.

Team 2 and Team 5 played an entertaining contest to close out the day, but the defenses again remained on top in a 0-0 draw. Stanford goalkeeper Jason Dodson (Team 2) saved a penalty kick in the first half from Xavier’s Tanner Petrick (Team 5) as the teams went to the break scoreless, and was in fine form throughout. In the second half, he made a number of good saves as the game opened up, including a stop on a long-range blast by Metcalf, but neither side was able to finish off its chances as the game ended scoreless.

The USL PRO Combine continues on Sunday as each team closes out the event with one final scrimmage. Two of Saturday’s three scrimmages can be seen live as Tourbeau Sports broadcasts on the USL PRO YouTube channel.