Feb. 23—FARMINGTON — For brothers Kenny and Emmanuel Ofori and their cousin, Joseph Boakye, Saturday wasn't an ordinary family outing.
Rather, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
The trio, all of East Hartford, made the trip to Farmington Sports Arena for Hartford Athletic's third annual open tryouts knowing that at least two invitations to the team's preseason training camp hung in the balance.
"We were actually talking about it this whole week," Kenny Ofori said. "We were like this could really change our lives being here, coming to the Athletic tryouts."
The tryouts were held over two days because of the pandemic. Connecticut residents participated Saturday while Sunday was open to players from Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. Each day had two sessions: one for 16-19-year-olds, one for players 20 or older.
A total of 104 players participated, including 66 on Saturday.
At least one player from each age group will be invited to training camp, which is expected to begin in mid-March.
With such a golden opportunity in front of them, naturally there has been some friendly competition between the family members.
"It's always a competition between us," Kenny Ofori said. "At home, we've been talking like, 'Hey when I get signed, I'm going to give you my autograph or something.'"
Ofori, a 2017 graduate of East Hartford High, was in the 20-plus group. Emmanuel Ofori, a senior at East Hartford High, and Boakye, a 2019 graduate, were in the 16-19 group.
Other area participants included Ellington High junior John Takach (16-19) and RHAM High alum Anthony Costa (20-plus).
"It's great because it just gives more opportunities," Costa, who graduated from RHAM in 2017, said. "There's so many players around this area, and it's good that they give this opportunity to people."
Multiple players have made the most of their opportunity in previous years' tryouts. Current players Alfonso Vazquez and Conor McGlynn both participated last season before signing with the team, as did former player Klisman Sousa in 2019.
"Seeing them going from playing clubs like us, going pro, it inspires all of us to come here so we can do the same thing," Boakye said.
Following Saturday's 16-19 session, Vazquez spoke to the participants.
"I just told them to keep your head up and always keep working hard," he said. "Like no matter what happens here, always keep working. The sky's the limit. Don't ever give up on your dreams."
Emmanuel Ofori had a little extra motivation to give it his all Saturday following a conversation with his mom, Cecilia Nyamekye.
"I told her the price (of registration, $175), and she was like 'It doesn't matter. Just go over there and do what you can do'," Ofori said. "I was like alright. I came here, I showcased my talent, proved myself and I just hope to make it to the next level."
Like Emmanuel Ofori, Takach thought he performed well Saturday, describing trying out for a pro team as a junior in high school as "surreal." He intends to use the lessons he learned in his final high school season and beyond.
"It really gave me a good benchmark on what coaches are looking for I guess," Takach said. "A lot of the different drills, watching, looking what they were looking for and trying to figure out key areas that they were trying to find. So, I think it was a pretty good stepping-stone almost."
For all 104 players, all that's left to do is wait for that call.
"It's very cool because one of us could make it," Boakye said of he and his cousins. "Or maybe two of us or maybe all of us. You never know. So, it's cool. We never know what could happen."
Cardona signed for 2021
Defender Nicolas Cardona has been signed for the upcoming season, the team announced Monday.
A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Cardona previously played for UB Conquense of Segunda División B, the third tier of soccer in Spain. From 2018-2019, the 22-year-old appeared in 33 games for Assumption College, recording two goals and two assists.
Cardona has made two appearances for the Puerto Rico national team, the first coming Jan. 19. He previously played for the U-20 team, including five appearances in the 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championship.
For coverage of the Connecticut Sun and professional women's basketball, Hartford Athletic pro soccer team, as well as area high school and local youth sports, follow Adam Betz on Twitter: @AdBetz1, Facebook: Adam Betz — Sports Writer, and Instagram: @AdBetzJI.