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Elation, disappointment as El Camino Real soccer roster is revealed

It looked like a soccer convention was being held this week at El Camino Real High School.

Students were showing off dozens of soccer shoes in every conceivable color (fluorescent green was a favorite). There were professional jerseys from numerous teams (Neymar was represented). There were foreign-exchange students from Italy, Brazil, Germany and Sweden among the more than 150 aspiring soccer athletes coming and going.

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Welcome to soccer tryouts at five-time City Section boys' champion El Camino Real, where just 44 spots were available for the varsity and junior varsity teams.

Coach David Hussey, in his 23rd season, and his assistant coaches spent four days evaluating the talent. He had 20 goalies try out for four spots. If only other schools could take a couple of the El Camino Real rejects.

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"We disappoint probably over 100 kids," Hussey said. "That's not a good feeling. The kids who make the team, they're really happy. The kids who don't make it, some of them are pretty devastated. You don't want to see high school kids devastated at 14, 15 years old."

At 7:12 a.m. on Thursday morning, a nervous but excited Arash Khodavardad was the first student waiting outside the physical education office for the final list to be revealed. The junior played JV last season.

"They just kept coming," he said of the many students trying out. "So many people."

El Camino Real is in Woodland Hills, where there are lots of youth teams -- club and recreational -- so there's no lacking in talent. The girls' team had 103 students try out on Wednesday. With so little time to make an impression, players tried their best to demonstrate their skills in game situations.

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"What we look for is kids with soccer intelligence," Hussey said. "We want to see kids not necessarily score or shoot or pass the ball. We want to see guys that will cover each other, guys who know how to play the game."

As a sign of the immense talent on campus, there were 12 foreign-exchange students who tried out. One was from Brazil, home to the best soccer in the world, and he didn't even play on a team back home. There was an Italian contingent hoping to make a positive impression and they were chatting in Italian.

"We'll choose the guys we think will make the best team, not necessarily the best players," Hussey explained to a group gathered around.

Several students showed up wearing professional jerseys. Hussey didn't mind but warned, "If you don't play like the uniform ... you better come with Barcelona skill."

Hussey's son, David Jr., had to try out with everyone else. The soccer team has become so appealing that two students who played for an Academy League team instead of ECR last season are returning to play for their high school team this winter.

At 7:30 a.m., assistant coach Ian Kogan placed the typed list of players who made the team on the P.E. window. A crowd quickly gathered outside.

"I made it."

"Daniel made it."

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"Victor made it."

There was elation for the players who saw their names. But there was visible disappointment for those missing from the list.

Khodavardad checked and couldn't find his name. He walked away, typing into his cellphone. The news was not what he had hoped for.

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