USL PRO Feature
Friday, January 25, 2013
BRADENTON, Fla. – As with all of the players arriving at the IMG Academy this weekend for the USL PRO Combine, Chip Sanders has a simple goal in mind.
“Hopefully [I can earn] a contract, or at least a trial,” Sanders said after Thursday’s opening session. “I’ve been working coaching for the last six months trying to find a club, so it’s a good opportunity to come out and get in front of a bunch of coaches and hopefully impress somebody.”
Like many of the players selected to train and compete in front of coaches and scouts from USL PRO, MLS and overseas, Sanders arrives in Bradenton with a strong pedigree from the PDL. A standout at Davidson in his college career, the 6-foot-4 goalkeeper had a standout season in 2012 for Orlando City U23, recording a 0.548 goals against-average in the regular season as the side won the Southern Conference Championship.
“It was unbelievable,” Sanders said. “I mean, the way Orlando is doing things, top to bottom, is first class, and we had a great season, and a great summer, and it ended up getting cut short more than we wanted it to, but it was a great season and a great experience.”
A captain at Davidson in his senior season in 2011, Sanders set a single-season record for the Wildcats with nine shutouts. Having previously played for the Baton Rouge Capitals in the PDL, Sanders arrived in Orlando aiming to gain more experience as he pursued his goal of breaking into the professional ranks. With the Lions’ run in the playoffs, being eliminated in the National Semifinals by the Carolina Dynamo, Sanders greatly enjoyed his time with the club.
“You know, it was a great team, and a great experience to be on a team again after I graduated to continue my career and keep the level high,” Sanders said. “It’s a higher level than college, it makes you sharper, the speed of play is bumped up and it gets you closer to the pro level of play.”
In addition to playing for the club’s U23 side, Sanders also got the opportunity to train with the club’s first team when injuries or illness required PDL players to step in. Getting the chance to work alongside, and observe the work habits, of former USL PRO Goalkeeper of the Year Miguel Gallardo gave Sanders an idea of what it will take to reach the next level.
“His work-rate is incredible,” Sanders said of Gallardo. “He’s always moving, always doing extra reps. He doesn’t make mistakes. He’s eliminated mistakes from his game, and as a young goalkeeper it’s a good thing to aspire to do.”
Participating in practice scrimmages also gave Sanders a taste of what he could expect should be picked up by a USL PRO club for the new season.
“It’s a lot quicker,” he said. “First touches are a lot cleaner. The biggest thing for me was everybody knew where they were going with their first touch, so it was set up exactly where they wanted it.”
As much as he enjoyed his time in Orlando, however, Sanders won’t be fazed should he be at the opposite end from Gallardo this upcoming summer.
“I loved my time in Orlando, and I’m grateful for everything they did for me, but at the end of the day I need to find a place to play,” Sanders said. “I don’t want to be sitting around watching USL in six months. I’ll shake the hands of the guys I know, and thank them for everything they did.”