Recently, Major League Soccer announced that 24 elite-level players have been invited to participate in their first ever Caribbean Combine. The three-day event will take place January 2-4, 2014 and will be held at the Antigua Recreation Grounds in St. John’s, Antigua.
The idea behind the Caribbean specific combine aims to help young talent from smaller islands get the necessary exposure to propel them to the next level. According to sources, "Players will compete in games and participate in a training session in front of League scouts for an opportunity to earn an invitation to the annual Adidas MLS Player Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. from January 10-14."
Not a bad idea! Obviously this combine offers opportunities where none exist and that's something special. The event will also be a great chance for Major League Soccer to extend itself to another market and growth is vital.
In fact, if history is any indication, some great MLS players have certainly made a name for themselves hailing from the Caribbean. According to Major League Soccer, below are the top 5 Caribbean players of all time:
1. Shalrie Joseph (Grenada) – Joseph entered MLS in 2003 and started making a name for himself "as the midfield centrifuge for the New England Revolution in their mid-2000s heyday.” During his time with the Revs, Joseph helped “them to the 2007 US Open Cup, the 2008 SuperLiga title, and three consecutive MLS Cup finals appearances from 2005-07.” Currently Joseph suits up the Seattle Sounders and over the course of his career he’s accrued four MLS Best XI selections and is widely considered today to be one of the top players in league history.
2. Ezra Hendrickson (St. Vincent & Grenadines) – It’s no secret that Hendrickson doesn’t look like your average footballer. He is tall and gangly but far from average. Earning the nickname, "EZ", Hendrickson has lifted the MLS Cup thrice. Even more impressive – he won with three different teams. In 2002 he lifted the cup with the LA Galaxy. In 2004, he lifted it with D.C. United and in 2008 with the Columbus Crew. As a result, this accomplishment also makes him “the only three-time MLS Cup champion from the Caribbean.” Over a very successful 11-year career, EZ made 266 regular-season appearances. He found the back of the net 23 times and added 30 helpers to his name. Currently EZ gets his soccer fix from the managerial side, making big moves as assistant coach for the Seattle Sounders.
3. Atiba Harris (St. Kitts & Nevis) – Unfortunately for Harris, his career was bogged down by injuries. His story though, is much more “than a box of heard it all befores.” As a talented attacker, Harris has fought through injuries to make 167 regular-season appearances for five clubs since 2006. Harris first signed with Real Salt Lake and since then, he’s also suited up with Chivas USA, FC Dallas, and the Vancouver Whitecaps. According to sources at MLS, “His best season so far came in 2010 when he had four goals and two assist in 29 games for FCD.” During that run of success for FCD, Harris was also able to contribute a goal and three assists in the playoffs as the club reached its first-ever MLS Cup final. Currently Harris plays ball for the Colorado Rapids.
4. Peguero Jean Philippe (Haiti) – From 2004-2008, the 6-foot-2 Haitian forward made just 61 regular-season appearances with the Colorado Rapids, New York Red Bulls, and San Jose Earthquakes. Although his time in Major League Soccer didn’t span decades, Philippe will always be remembered for his innate finishing ability. The man could sniff out goals and scored 20 goals during his time with MLS. He is most notably remembered for scoring six goals in twelve matches for the Red Bulls in 2006. Despite his knack for goals, knee injuries severely compromised the talented striker's durability. After he tried his luck with Danish club Brondby in 2006, he finally succumbed to knee injuries forcing his career to decline rather quickly.
5. Khano Smith (Bermuda) – Smith has always been considered “One of the most maddening and thrilling players in MLS history…” Being tall and fast helped Smith in many ways. He amplified his dangerous skill set with a killer left peg “capable of putting a cross right in the mixer or into the 20th row.” Although his stint with the New York Red Bulls was short lived, Smith went on to deliver quite an impact with the New England Revolution. He made more than 100 appearances for the Revs and will always be remembered for his 2007 season where “he had two goals and six assists in 29 games.” Smith’s contributions during the ’07 campaign helped New England secure the US Open Cup title that year as well as make an MLS Cup final appearance.