With the MLS SuperDraft fast approaching, here is a look at which Canadians are participating in the 2016 MLS Draft Combine
Just like other sports leagues in North America, Major League Soccer hosts a player combine. Allowing all 20 teams to have a look at which players stand out the most and fill their needs.
In this years combine, there are only three Canadians taking part in the festivities. Vancouver, B.C’s Callum Irving, Victoria, B.C’s Josh Heard and Mississauga, ON native Ryan James. All three will take part in the combine that lasts from January 7 to the 12. Then all 60 players participating will be split up into four teams and compete in a mini tournament. Irving and Heard will be on Team Ace, while James will be on Team Control.
It may look unsatisfactory to only have three Canadians in the combine, but that doesn’t mean these are the only Canadian’s available in the draft. Players invited to the combine aren’t the only players that can be drafted by clubs in MLS. For example, Clement Simonin, one of Toronto FC’s three first round pick last year was drafted, even though he never participated in the combine, let alone made other teams shortlists.
Irving, a goalie for the University of Kentucky had a pretty impressive 2015 campaign. He managed to appear in all 19 games, accumulating a 12-5-1 record and a goals against average of 0.66, while also managing nine clean sheets. His time at Kentucky is something spectacular, appearing in 58 career games and dominating the Conference USA.
Irving managed to win Conference USA Player of the Year and Defensive MVP in 2014 and 2015. On top of many other accolades he has won. He was also the first Kentucky player ever to win back-to-back Scholar All-American honours, which goes to show how smart he is. With the way he’s playing, he should definitely be monitored by Canada Soccer. Surprisingly he has never represented Canada at any level, only being invited to youth camps and the senior camp in 2013.
Even though Irving played in the NCAA, just like Jordan Morris with the Seattle Sounders, Irving can to skip the draft and sign with the Vancouver Whitecaps, who then would sign him to a Homegrown contract. He was apart of their well-known residency program and played for their PDL squad from 2010-2011 before making the move to Kentucky.
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Another B.C native, Josh Heard joins Irving as a Team Ace player in this years combine. Heard, who was actually born in Wales and then moved to Victoria, B.C was a highly touted prospect in Canada before he decided to join the Washington Huskies in 2012.
Heard, a player who can play in an attacking midfield role, on the wing and even up top, started his Huskies career slowly. He wasn’t right away seen as a first team player, but did make appearances off the bench in 13 games for Washington. In his Sophomore year, that’s when Heard really stepped up his game, appearing in 22 games, scoring five goals along with five assists. Heard than topped that season with a seven goal campaign in 2014.
Heard has appeared in 74 career games for the Huskies, scoring 13 goals and recording eight assists. Unlike Irving, Heard was not apart of the Whitecaps residency program, meaning he is free to be drafted by any team. Heard can be a valuable player to any team, and with the right training, can develop into a top player. He won’t right away make a lot of teams rosters out of the draft, but he is strong and fast, and can find his teammates in open spaces anytime.
Here’s a look at what Heard can bring to a teams roster and playing style.
The name Ryan James might sound familiar because we mentioned him in a post once about how some Toronto FC players were doing in the NCAA. James has spent the last four years with the Bowling Green Falcons, appearing in all 79 games and making 69 starts. He has managed to tally nine goals and 15 assists during his time with the Falcons.
James was a captain for Bowling Green in his senior year, was named to the All-MAC conference second team and was the co-leader in assists for his team in 2015 with five. James was also awarded for his hard work off the field, being named to the All-MAC scholar team in 2014.
James did have ties with TFC during his collegiate career, but was not discovered by them or part of their Academy. Meaning the club can not offer him a homegrown contract.
Seeing that James was a captain for his side, shows that he can bring leadership and character to many teams. It’s not always about stats. If a player can show he can lead and help the rest of his team succeed, then that player is as valuable to the team than a player with a lot of goals.
Don’t expect James to be a first round pick, or a second rounder, but he could find himself in the third round. If he works hard enough, we could have another Canadian player on an MLS team. That goes for the other two mentioned. This years draft class features many talented Canadian players, and it goes to show that the Canadian soccer system might have a very talented group of players waiting to be capped by the national side.