There’s no 40-yard dash at this combine, but there is a timed sprint, and, of course, it’s measured in meters.
The 30-meter run at next month’s Major League Soccer Combine doesn’t hold near the importance of the sprint held at its American football counterpart.
For Cal Poly men’s soccer standout Mackenzie Pridham, he isn’t worried about how he performs in tests, agility drills or leaps.
When the MLS combine is held Jan. 10-14 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., all the Mustangs’ all-time leading scorer needs to do is what he’s always done — score goals.
Having walked at graduation this past quarter, the Toronto native has turned his attention fully toward earning a spot with a professional team, but it’s not like he can focus on individual drills when the true test of the combine is to show his function in game situations.
“The biggest thing is to continue my finishing and skills,” Pridham said. “When I’m training mostly on my own, it’s difficult to keep that going when you don’t have a team setting.”
The reigning back-to-back Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Year was one of 50 Division I seniors selected to participate in the combine, which is used by the 19 MLS franchises to evaluate talent ahead of the four-round, 76-selection SuperDraft on Jan. 16.
“My expectations are to go in and show the best that I can possibly show,” Pridham said, “and hopefully what I’m able to show and represent to the coaches is something they like. My goal is to go in the first or second round. I just need to do anything I can to prepare for that and sign a professional contract.”
With his prolific collegiate scoring marks, Pridham has already made quite a name for himself, Mustangs head coach Paul Holocher said.
His 27 career goals are the high-water mark for the program. With 0.70 goals per match this past season, Pridham ranks sixth in the country. His 14 goals, two shy of the program single-season record, are eighth, and his 31 points are 10th.
He had three multi-goal games, led the conference with 67 shots and six of his goals were either game-winners or equalizers as Cal Poly rang up a program record 43 goals, which ranks seventh among Division I programs despite the Mustangs failing to qualify for the national postseason tournament.
Of the 50 seniors invited “probably only 8 to 10 are forwards,” said Holocher, “so he’s one of the best players in the country at his position, and this is a golden opportunity for him.”
Holocher himself is a former All-America midfielder who set the career scoring record for a national championship program at Santa Clara and played for both the U.S. national team and in the inaugural season of the MLS in 1996.
He said he would not be surprised to see Pridham go high in the draft depending on what positions teams are looking for.
“Mac is a goal-scorer,” Holocher said. “He’s a true goal scorer, and I think he’s going to have the ability to score at the next level, too. He has certain qualities that you can’t teach. He has this fantastic desire to score, to get in positions to create shots. It’s almost a single-mindedness.
“Scouts are going to look at that and think if he gets enough service and is getting served the balls in the box, he’s going to be someone that can sore goals.”
Pridham will be the first Cal Poly player to perform at the combine since defender Patrick Sigler in 2012.
Surprisingly, Sigler was not drafted that season, but forward Junior Burgos was selected in the third round, 44th overall, by Toronto FC in 2011. Burgos, however, was unable to stick with the team for the entire season.
Former Cal Poly midfielder Jacob Hustedt transferred to Washington after spending the first three years of his college career in San Luis Obispo. He was taken in the second round, 25th overall, by the San Jose Earthquakes but was released after a season with the reserve team before having a trial with Toronto last season.
Former Mustangs goalkeeper Patrick McLain has spent the past two seasons with Chivas USA, and former Cal Poly midfielder Anton Peterlin is playing for a Danish team after he debuted professionally with English Premier League club Everton in 2009.
In addition to Pridham, Cal Poly senior midfielder George Malki has also been receiving interest from MLS clubs. Holocher said Malki recently performed well at a combine held by the Seattle Sounders.
It’s not easy to earn a professional contract. Pridham has to capitalize on this opportunity.
“When it comes down to it, I need to produce and I also need to show my work ethic and my heart defensively,” Pridham said. “And offensively, I need to show composure and my soccer intelligence, creating and producing chances and goals.”