By FRANCO PANIZO
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — That a Dartmouth player is at the MLS Combine is an accomplishment in itself. That a Dartmouth player shone on the first day of the event, which is notorious for being rough for most participants, is even more impressive.
Both those scenarios are where forward Luckymore "Lucky" Mkosana has found himself after a strong second-half performance in the first game of the 2012 MLS Combine on a chilly Friday evening in South Florida.
Coming off the bench at halftime, Mkosana helped lift adiPower (red) to a 3-2 win over Prime (green) by scoring a goal and then setting up the game-winner near the end of the 80-minute match.
"It felt really well to come out the second half and win it," said the 24-year-old Mkosana, who was named Ivy League Player of the Year in 2011. "I think we started really good. First half, the guys set the pace for the guys coming in the second half, so we just continued to where we left off and I feel like we kept working hard until the end and that's why we won."
The 5-foot-9, 169-pound attacker stood out for more than what he did on the stat sheet, too. Mkosana had another hard shot from outside the 18 go just above the crossbar, played well with his back towards goal and linked up with teammates well.
One of them which he seemed to have a particularly good understanding with was UCSB midfielder Luis Silva, who served as an attacking midfielder for adiPower.
"He kind of new my runs and where I was going. That kind of helped," said Mkosana of Silva, who he met one day prior. "It felt like we played together before. It feels good to link with the guys you haven't played with, so I think that's a good first impression."
A good first impression might be key to getting drafted for a player who spent his four collegiate years playing for an Ivy League team. Mkosana, who was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, joined Dartmouth after playing just one year of high school soccer at Kimball Union in 2007, his first year in the United States.
At Dartmouth, Mkosana was named to the All-Ivy League First Team each of his four years there. He had a breakout freshman season in 2008, scoring 11 goals in 18 games. His sophomore and junior years were not as strong statistically (he scored eight goals in 2009 and five in 2010), but he finished his time with Dartmouth by scoring 10 goals in 17 games in 2011.
Those numbers may have made him Dartmouth's all-time career leader in goals, but he is still a fairly unknown product, especially compared to some of the other players who he is competing with at the combine.
That does not faze him, though.
"My team, my coach, they always tell us that if you work hard we can play (for) any team in the (United States), so for me it's all about working hard until the last minute," said Mkosana. "That's how we do it in the Ivy League. I know it's not known, but we play good soccer. It's a little bit different, but we work hard."
Mkosana is hoping to continue to work hard and build on his successes when he suits up for the second day of the combine on Sunday. If he does that, he will raise his stock just days out from the MLS SuperDraft, and that could lead to him eventually meeting his childhood idol.
"Thierry Henry," said Mkosana when asked who he enjoyed watching as a kid. "He is the first guy I had a poster of, a jersey and he's still my hero. Hopefully I'll get to meet him in the MLS one day if I get drafted."
As much as he wants to meet Henry, Mkosana states he has no preference of city or club to play for. He just wants a chance.
If he continues to play like he did on day one, Mkosana should get that opportunity soon enough.