Photo by Steven Limentani/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Historically, players typically improve with each passing day at the MLS Combine, and that was certainly the case for Charlotte forward Evan James this year.
Fresh off a senior season in which he helped the 49ers reach the College Cup final, James helped his stock for the MLS SuperDraft with three performances in which each was better than the previous one. His final outing on Tuesday morning, a 3-1 win for his adiZero (blue) team over Prime (green), was his finest.
James set the tone for adiZero early, scoring his second goal of the combine in the fifth minute. He followed that up with an assist on the game-winning goal scored by Central Florida's Warren Creavalle later in the first half.
"To be honest, the third game I'd say is the easiest," said James, who also saw time at midfield during the combine. "The second was the hardest because going through the winter not being able to find games – you can stay fit but soccer fitness is a whole different animal – so I'd say the second game was the hardest.
"Third game, I felt good. I think I could've played the majority of the minutes."
Coming from a school that is not known for being a soccer factory, James likely caught the eyes of some coaches who may still be fairly unfamiliar with him. His goal on the final day, which came on a curled effort from the top of the 18, was just the exclamation point to three days of solid work.
"I feel like I've proven myself against these guys," said James. "Most of these guys are big-team players who have been showing themselves to coaches all four years, and I feel like I've impressed some people and hopefully I've impressed them enough."
Whether coaches have come away with enough to make James a first or second round pick remains to be seen. There are several other quality options to choose from this year, as the forward and attacking midfielder classes are loaded with talent.
The 5-foot-11, 161-pound forward has admitted, however, that he has received positive feedback while in Florida.
"Some coaches talked to me and said they are interested," said James. "But you don't want to get too excited, because I don't want to be disappointed later. But you always keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best."
James' play has done the talking for him since the combine began last Friday, and now only two days separate him from possibly embarking on the next phase of his career.
That has James both eager and nervous.
"I'm excited. Yeah, I'm buzzing right now," said James. "Hopefully you see your name on the list or whatever and that team takes you, but if not I'll wait until Tuesday and hopefully they'll take me then."
Like the other players that took part in the combine, James is simply hoping he is one of the 38 players selected in the two rounds of the SuperDraft in Kansas City, Mo.
If he had it his way though, James might stay away from some of the teams located in cold-weather cities.
"Being from Canada, that would be cool going back to Canada, but I don't know," said James, who was born in Mississauga, Ontario. "I'm trying to stay away from the cold, to be honest with you. Coming from the winter is just awful. Honestly, it doesn't matter. Maybe just a bit lower than the coldness."
James may not prefer cold cities, but he very well could land in one of them. Any of Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact could draft James due to them being required to have a minimum of three domestic players on their rosters.
That is, if they are not beaten to the punch first.