Photo by MLS/Andy Mead
By VINCE MADURI
Playing next to familiar faces is nothing new at the MLS Combine. Former college and club teammates cross paths all the time, but for Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshman, the chance to play together one more time has provided an even more special experience.
The tandem grew up playing together with youth soccer academy Sigma FC in Toronto, and the familiarity paid off on Sunday as the two were among the best performances at the Combine.
“[Playing with Emery] is great,” Bekker told SBI. “We always go back every summer, Christmas, anytime we’re back we always try to link up and play with our former teammates and stuff like that. Coming here and being able to play with him on the same team, it’s easier. You feel comfortable. When he gets the ball, I know what he’s going to do, things he looks for, so it makes my job easier as well.”
The chemistry between the two Canadians was evident in the first goal of day two on Sunday. Welshman received the ball on the right wing, controlled it and cut towards the box before sending in a terrific through ball with his left foot into a storming Bekker from the top of the box, who slotted the ball into the far corner very calmly with his right foot.
“Emery set me up,” Bekker said afterwards with an enormous smile on his face. “So, once he got the ball [and] cut in, I just knew I had to make the run and if I did it, he was going to find me. I think he was one of the best players today. He found me and I just put it away.”
MLS rules state that Canadians will take up an international roster spot for every team other than the three clubs based in Canada. Therefore, Bekker and Welshman are more likely to be passed on American teams that don’t want to occupy the extra international spot in favor of an American with similar or slightly lesser talent, and allowing the Canadians to slide on draft day.
“I have a feeling I may end up in a Canadian system somewhere, either Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto,” Welshman said after his stellar performance. “But I’m not too bothered by it if an American team sees that I have more quality than an American they could take. I’m more than happy to play there. I’m more than happy to play in Canada. I just want to play.”
As for the Canadian connection, Welshman delivered a request to the team who selects him and a warning to the rest of the league:
“I don’t know where I fall in the draft but it would be nice if me and Kyle [Bekker] end up at the same place. An attacking midfielder and a wide midfielder/striker together, it just sounds like trouble for other teams.”