After signing nine players following the team's first tryout, FC Buffalo was less aggressive in building its roster after the club's second gathering on Friday in Sahlen's Sports Park.
Over 40 players -- a mixture of those invited back after the first tryout and an impressive slew of newcomers -- went through passing drills, 8-vs.-8 scrimmages and an hour of full-field 11-vs.-11 in front of coaches Brendan Murphy and Bob Roach.
No signings were made immediately following the session, although it's likely that several players will remain in contact with the coaching staff through the winter and spring as the roster takes shape.
Here are five observations:
1) Unlike the first tryout, which comprised mostly smaller players, the second session boasted more athletes with size and physicality, producing a more entertaining session. The overall technical ability was better, too, as fewer unforced turnovers and tidier touches aided in pushing the tempo, especially in the 11 vs. 11 segment.
The median age swayed a little older, too, as a deluge of college players joined the fray.
2) Three players from Robert Morris University (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and two from Lake Erie College (Painesville, Ohio) made the trip to tryout. Bennett Jull, an National Premier Soccer League veteran with both the Fort Pitt Regiment (2014) and Detroit City FC (2015), auditioned with college and Vaughn SC prep teammates Jake Cooper and Bayley Winkel, an incoming RMU transfer from Drexel.
All three players separated themselves from the competition, although Winkel picked up a knock, ending his session early. Both Lake Erie College attendees -- Anthony Novak and Joe Munaretto -- flashed positive moments, but were not as consistently impressive as the trio of Colonials.
3) There's certainly no guarantee that Jull, a lanky 6'3 center back, plays for FC Buffalo this summer -- he admitted to receiving interest from Premier Development League (PDL) clubs -- but he enjoyed playing in Buffalo as a visitor and seemed more inclined to join the Wolves if Cooper and Winkel also made the squad.
The Wolves have a strong history of center backs (dating back to Mbwana Johnson, Bobby Ross, Kendell McFayden, and so on), and Jull's pedigree (Toronto FC Academy), NPSL experience, size and positioning would make him an ideal fit as a Wolves starter.
4) Murphy maintains close ties to his alma mater, St. Lawrence University, an NCAA Division III school with whom he won a national title in 1999. FC Buffalo history buffs will associate players like Andrew Bednarsky, Sam DeMello and Rob Brandell with the powerhouse Saints, and freshman Austin Dilts could be the next in line.
A rugged midfielder-forward who started three games and made 18 appearances in fall 2015, Dilts provided the highlight of the tryout, a deft Ronaldinho "Sombrero" flick over a defender's head.
In the 11-vs.-11, he wasn't flawless, but played like soccer's version of Natrone Means or Ron Dayne, eager to absorb contact and bull over defenders (note the rather hysterical shoulder challenge at 1:24 of the highlight video). Dilts is probably more of a project than a favorite for the XI, but an interesting prospect nonetheless.
5) Former FC Buffalo star and Syracuse Orange winger Liam Callahan was in attendance, still using crutches after fracturing a metatarsal in the College Cup semifinals. He was there to support his younger brother, Aidan, who just completed his high school career for Sweet Home and currently suits up for Empire United Buffalo.
Liam has confirmed that he'll play with Kitchener-Waterloo United (K-W United), the defending PDL champions, again in summer 2016.
Frank Cotroneo, an Empire Revolution Development Academy player who signed with the Wolves after the first tryout, watched from the side with a groin injury, while Andrew Crawford, another signing from Rider University, was a spectator due to injury.
Ezana Kahsay, the University of Akron reserve, attended the tryout, playing both center back and striker at various junctures.
BONUS: Other notable first-time attendees from Buffalo soccer -- Hunter Walsh (St. Joe's, UB), Jordan England (Yemen Elite, BDSL), Junior Geegba (various BDSL teams) and Vinny DiVirgilio (former UB)
Email Ben Tsujimoto at firstname.lastname@example.org
Story topics: Anthony Novak/ Austin Dilts/ Bayley Winkel/ Bennett Jull/ Brendan Murphy/ FC Buffalo/ FC Buffalo tryouts/ Jake Cooper/ Lake Erie College men's soccer/ Liam Callahan/ NPSL/ St. Lawrence men's soccer