December 18, 2006 Toronto FC open tryouts underway (from

12/18/2006 5:00PM
Toronto FC open tryouts underway
By Mike Ulmer /

The Toronto FC tryouts got started early in the morning on Monday. (Toronto FC)

In the end, it's about saying you have no regrets. Bill DeBenedetto will tell you so.

DeBenedetto is a sheetmetal worker from Paramus, N.J. He told his boss that maybe he'd be back at work early this week. Then again, if things went right, maybe he wouldn't.

DeBenedetto was coach, cheerleader, trainer and chauffeur for his 17-year-old son Tom and the kid's best friend, Joe Peptone. They were a day's drive from home at Toronto FC's open tryouts and you needn't have told Bill that the odds against his kid catching on were about as far away as they could be.

So why come?

"I always said I would never hold him back," the elder DeBenedetto said. "This is kind of like his dream. Sure, there are expenses and all, but this way I'll know I did my part. There's no way I can look back and say I should have done this or that. He had every chance that I could give him. The next part is up to him."

The week-long event at an indoor soccer centre in North Toronto will accommodate 1,000 players. Players will be broken into six man groups for the first two and a half days. The second round of tryouts begins Wednesday afternoon. Four 12-man teams will play 90-minute games and coach Mo Johnston will then announce which players, if any, will advance to the team's February training camp.

Bill DeBenedetto's rationale played out in everyone's story. At the end of the day, no matter how remote the chances, you want to say you did everything you could.

"A chance to play professional soccer is a dream," said 20-year-old Torontonian Joseph Sacchetti. "I've been training since they announced the team about a year ago. I worked on and off and made some money but I have no career. Hopefully this is my career."

Eric Nzinga, 23, was one of five players who journeyed to Toronto from Paris, France.

"I play on amateur club at home," he said, "and I would love to play on a pro club."

Johnston saw ample value in the exercise.

"Obviously, the level isn't quite up to the standard," he said. "There are one or two guys that are capable of coming back on Wednesday and playing on a bigger field."

Johnston played on some of the greatest pitches in the world during a career that included stints with Glasgow Celtic and Rangers. He understands the hope that sustains the underdog.

"There's a DVD called Invincible about a guy [Vince Papale] who had his dream about playing American football and ended up making it," Johnston said. "I've seen it happen before in David Weir, who came over to Falkirk (in Scotland). He showed up with his cleats and he ended up getting sold for $1.5 million. Something is always possible."

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