ORLANDO, Fla. — Creighton University defender Akeem Ward enjoyed the 2019 MLS Player Combine this week in Orlando, calling it a chance to play with the best collegiate players in the country. After four years with the Bluejays, the Brooklyn native is hoping to find out where his professional career will begin on Friday during the MLS SuperDraft in Chicago.
Pro Soccer USA recently spoke with Ward about the process and his thoughts leading up to the draft.
Q: What are your thoughts on the MLS combine?
Akeem Ward: “It’s a very humbling experience because you’re playing with the best players in the country, so you’re on the same boat. There’s kind of a togetherness, and it’s been fun meeting the guys.”
Q: Describe your time at Creighton University.
AW: “I had a great time. I went there because the many players they pushed up to the professional ranks. We have a great fan base, so that made it playing a lot easier. We played a very attacking style, and I had a lot of players that played academy with, so that created several bonds that will last for a long time.”
Q: What feedback you have heard back from the coaches?
AW: “Many coaches have different criteria. I think MLS is more attack-minded. It’s cool to see different things. Some of the things they are saying is we need to be more aggressive and get forward, but they really stressed defending is very big and positioning as well.”
Q: How difficult is it to play in scrimmages with players you really never played with or against?
AW: “I don’t think it was very difficult. I knew many of the guys, and the guys I didn’t know, I got to meet. I’m an outgoing guy; I’m not shy. I like to have fun and be outgoing and break ice most of the time to start conversation.”
Q: What are your emotions heading into the MLS SuperDraft?
AW: “A lot of things going on. Nothing is set in stone. Anything can change. I look at some of the stuff and it’s people’s outside perception, and those are things I can’t control.”
Q: Do you pay attention to any mock drafts?
AW: “I don’t go looking for them unless I’m tagged. If I see any criticism, I just learn from it and improve. That’s the type of player I am. I look to improve any certain aspects of my game. But in terms of actually seeing any mock drafts, I don’t pay much attention to that because it can also serve as a distraction. I rather get my feedback from the coaches who want to see me play professionally.”
Team Copa's Mitchell Osmond, left, and JJ Williams battle for the ball during a training session at the professional soccer MLS Player Combine Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (Phelan M. Ebenhack for the Orlando Sentinel)