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Smart decisions and good first touches – that’s exactly what the Birmingham Hammers’ coaching staff was looking for during open tryouts at Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex earlier this morning. About 50 hopeful players representing eight different nationalities took to the pitch today to display their talents and decision-making while 25-30 supporters and family members cheered them on. And the weather could not have been better.

“Last week we were dodging ice storms. This week we had players sucking wind,” said Hammers’ President Morgan Copes. With temperatures around 65 degrees at 9 AM and pushing 80 degrees by noon, the Hammer hopefuls were given just a hint of what playing for Coach Wulf Koch would be like in the middle of an Alabama summer.

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Just after 9 AM, Coach Wulf Koch gathered the players together to discuss the plan for the day. Soon after, the players were off and running in drills designed to separate the contenders and pretenders. This was no glorified pick-up scrimmage. Much was asked of each player, from the warm-up onward. Coach Wulf allowed his coaching staff of Chris Blight, Jeremy McLane, and AJ Robles to lead the drills while he observed the individual players from afar. His hulking presence was felt by all as he stalked around the perimeters of the pitch, occasionally booting a stray ball back into play. “We are so fortunate to have Coach Wulf on as manager this year. His presence  immediately demands respect from the players,” Copes went onto say.

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Coach Wulf Koch stalks the perimeter of the drill on day 1 of the Birmingham Hammers’ 2017 open tryouts. “You see this green stuff? It’s grass. Keep the ball on it.”

The talent on the field was in full display. There was a good mix of current high school players, college players, and even a former professional or two in the player pool. While the morning session was filled with drills designed to help the coaches evaluate the technical ability, decision-making, and stamina of the men, the afternoon session consisted of a full-sided scrimmage. According to Copes, “the scrimmage went well. We saw a few great goals. The players really opened things up and we were able to see a good many of them blossom.”

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Coach Chris Blight gives instructions to players prior to a drill in the morning session.

Another bright spot from the session this morning was the turnout of the Magic City Brigade. Around 15-20 members of the MCB came out to support the players, provide water and Powerade, and enjoy the unofficial start to the Hammers 2017 season. In speaking of the Magic City Brigade, Copes said that it is a “testament to the growth of soccer support in Birmingham that 15-20 fans chose to spend a beautiful day in January with us out here on the field. It’s nice to see that there are people that care so much about what we are doing as an organization. Likewise, it’s nice for our players to see that there are so many supporters out there that care about them and the club.”

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Three of the 50 or so players running a technical drill in the morning session of the 2017 Hammers open tryouts.

Open tryouts will continue tomorrow (Sunday, January 15th) at Auburn University Montgomery. Further details about the upcoming NPSL season will be released in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to the Birmingham Backline and the Birmingham Hammers for related news.

For more photos from today’s session, see below.

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