LOS ANGELES â€” A look at the Canadian talent available in Friday’s MLS SuperDraft:
Midfielder Kwame Awuah (Connecticut)
The versatile 21-year-old from Toronto started 82 of a possible 83 games with the Huskies â€” he came on in the 10th minute of the only game he didn’t start as a freshman. Awuah played at left fullback before making the move to winger and attacking midfielder.
“I honestly don’t mind where I play,” he said. “I can play a lot of positions and I’m open to where coaches want to best utilize me.”
The five-foot-seven 160 pounder is a good playmaker with an accurate cross. He has attended a Canadian under-20 camp. Awuah and former UConn star Cyle Larin, now a poacher with Orlando City, had greater chemistry thanks to their days at the renowned Sigma FC club in Toronto â€” not to mention a childhood friendship.
Awuah took part in a regional combine in Las Vegas hosted by Seattle with officials also present from Columbus, Orlando City and Toronto.
Forward Chris Nanco (Syracuse)
Like Awuah, Nanco is a Sigma product. Just 5-6 and 145 pounds, he is fast and elusive.
“The most important thing with him is his ability on the ball,” said Sigma FC technical director Bobby Smyrniotis. “He’s dangerous with the ball at his feet.”
The 21-year-old from Brampton, Ont., can play on the wing or behind the striker. While primarily right-footed, he has worked on his left foot and says his favourite position is playing on the left flank where he can come inside and take players on.
Nanco is a Canadian under-20 international who worked his way up the youth ranks.
“Definitely doing those things at a young age really boosted my confidence,” he said of his international experience. “It helped me stay focused on soccer as well. When you can get certain experiences like that, playing around the world against different opponents, you learn a lot of things … I think that really helped me become the player I am today.”
Five of his seven goals as a senior at Syracuse were game-winners.
Forward Adonijah Reid (ANB Futbol Academy)
Just 17, Reid has honed his talents at the ANB Futbol Academy in suburban Toronto since he was 11. While a bit of a mystery to many, he is seen as someone with a big upside if given the time to flourish in a pro environment.
The five-foot-five youngster from Brampton, Ont., does not turn 18 until mid-September but already has turned heads.
Canadian under-20 coach Rob Gale says Reid has a talent for getting in goal-scoring positions.
Added ANB Academy director Bassam Naim: “He is a very lethal finisher. He will bury the ball most of the time.”
Reid can play up front, behind the striker and on the wing. He is a Generation Adidas Canada player, meaning his contract will not count against a team salary cap.
Midfielder Shamit Shome (FC Edmonton)
Shome’s poise and success with FC Edmonton of the NASL have made him an attractive property. The 19-year-old Edmonton native earned the confidence of respected coach Colin Miller, logging 1,729 minutes in 29 appearances across all competitions in 2016.
“That’s the key with Shamit, as opposed to outer players in our system right now,” said Gale. “He has managed to break through and get minutes in that real competitive NASL … To get as many minutes as he did just shows he’s got a great future ahead of him.
“I think a lot of clubs will be looking at that and saying ‘He has been tested.’ Whereas a lot of the youngsters coming out of college etc, it’s a big jump up into senior professional ranks.”
Having a Generation Adidas Canada contract adds to his appeal, with MLS having purchased Shome from Edmonton.
Gale sees the energetic Shome as a box-to-box midfielder down the line.
The five-foot-nine 155-pounder, who came up through FC Edmonton’s academy, captained Canada’s under-20 team and was a nominee for Canadian under-20 player of the year.
“He’s a bright, intelligent young man, very humble and we wish him the best of luck,” said Miller, torn between wanting to keep his player and seeing him succeed in MLS.
Shome knows he owes Miller.
“I can’t thank Colin and rest of the coach staff at FC Edmonton enough for giving me the opportunity to play in the first place,” he said. “Also allowing me to leave to pursue an even bigger dream of mine, I guess, and push myself to the next level. He’s been really key in helping my development”
Forward Brian Wright (Vermont)
A solid six-foot, 180-pound striker, Wright’s pro appeal is evidenced by the contract he signed with MLS prior to the draft.
The 21-year-old native of Ajax, Ont., finished his college career as the Catamounts’ second all-time leading scorer with 103 points (39 goals, 25 assists). Wright was also one of 15 semifinalists for the Missouri Athletic Conference Hermann Trophy.
Wright, who also attended the Las Vegas regional combine, developed a fine partnership with close friend and fellow striker Bernard Yeboah at Vermont. The two accounted for 25 of the Catamounts’ 42 goals.
Wright can also set up goals, registering 12 assists as a senior.
“I just did what I thought was necessary to help the team win,” he said modestly.
Wright’s passion for the game is clear. He missed just one practice in four years and that was due to injury.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press