Soccer

Canadian striker Pridham looks to turn heads at MLS Combine

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The Canadian Press
1/8/2014 11:22:41 AM
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TORONTO -- One might expect that the school that produced Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell knows a little bit about firepower.

Canadian Mackenzie Pridham led the Cal Poly soccer strike force this season with his 14 goals helping set a school record of 43 for the team.

"He's a true goal-scorer," said Cal Poly coach Paul Holocher. "He's really put up numbers like this throughout his own career but really took off the last two years in particular."

Pridham is Cal Poly's all-time leading scorer with 27 goals and the first to repeat as Big West Offensive Player of the Year since current Seattle Sounders midfielder Brad Evans did it at UC Irvine standout.

Liddell wrestled at Cal Poly from 1988 to '93, graduating with a bachelor's degree in business/accounting in 1995. Now retired as a fighter, the former light-heavyweight champion is the UFC's vice-president of business development and still lives in San Luis Obispo.

Pridham looks to show his attacking skills at the MLS Combine that opens Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Other Canadians among the 60-plus invited are forward Tesho Akindele from the Colorado School of Mines and Wisconsin midfielder Tomislav Zadro.

"I'm pretty honoured to be invited," said the 23-year-old Pridham, known as Mac to most of his friends. "Very happy and very excited for what lies ahead."

The Combine is followed by the MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 16 in Philadelphia.

D.C. United picks first with Philadelphia second. The Vancouver Whitecaps select third, using a Toronto pick obtained in the Eric Hassli trade, and seventh.

Montreal chooses 10th and Toronto goes 15th by virtue of a pick obtained from New York in the Bobby Convey trade.

Pridham finished sixth among Division I players with 0.70 goals per match, eighth with 14 goals and 10th with 31 points. Those numbers might have been bigger had the Mustangs made the NCAA tournament or had Pridham avoided a late-season injury (he was second in NCAA goal-scoring when he went down).

Pridham ranks second all-time in Cal Poly points (58) and multi-goal games (five) and eighth in appearances (70).

Pridham was born in Toronto to Canadian parents. Pridham's father is in the tech industry and moved the family, which now calls Saratoga, Calif., home, to California when Mackenzie was a young boy.

His relatives remain in Toronto, which he visits annually.

A redshirt in 2011 due to an ankle injury, Pridham found his scoring groove as a junior and senior with 11 and 14 goals, respectively.

"We really got a style and system down in our program that fit me and my style of play," he said. "I really was able to turn my game around from my injury and get back to how I should be performing."

Pridham has a nose for goal and where to be at the right time.

"I feel I'm very good at taking advantage of those opportunities and trying to be as clinical as I can in finishing them."

Six of Pridham's 14 goals this season were game-winners or equalizers.

"He's great in the (penalty) box," said Holocher, a former U.S. international who had MLS stints with San Jose and Chicago. "He has very, very good instincts."

Pro soccer is "absolutely" in Pridham's future, according to Holocher.

Pridham has already attracted attention north of the border. The six-foot-one 180-pounder trained with Toronto FC last summer and earned invites from the Canadian under-17 and under-20 teams.

The Canadian Soccer Association invited him to be part of the 2009 Francophone Games team but the dates clashed with school commitments.

His parents and sister are dual citizens and he is in the process of doing the same. Despite his time with Canadian age-group sides, he has not had to declare his international allegiance yet when it comes to soccer.

"For right now, my main focus is just getting to play professionally and hopefully making a name for myself so I do have to make that decision," he said.

But given his Canadian ties, "it would be hard to veer away from that," he added.

"But that being said there's no pressure right now and I haven't really thought about it all the way."

At Cal Poly, Pridham studied business administration with a focus on entrepreneurship.

Midfielder Efrain (Junior) Burgos became the first Mustang taken in the MLS SuperDraft when picked 44th overall by Toronto FC in 2011. Former Cal Poly goalkeeper Patrick McLain signed with Chivas USA in 2012.

Soccer (Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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