Vikes star Hundal to showcase talents for MLS teams

Cam Hundal’s speed on the soccer pitch, during five exceptional seasons with the University of Victoria Vikes, was nearly blinding. But not so much so, he hopes, that pro scouts can’t see him.

The 2015 Canada West and CIS national MVP has been invited to scrimmage in the annual Major League Soccer pre-season tournament in Tucson, Arizona, and leaves Friday. Hundal will be with tournament host FC Tucson of the USL Premier Development League.

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FC Tucson will scrimmage against the defending MLS-champion Portland Timbers and twice against Sporting Kansas City, also of the MLS and is led by U.S. national team players Matt Besler and Graham Zusi. Also involved in the tournament, which runs Sunday through Feb. 12, are the Vancouver Whitecaps, who drafted Josh Heard of Victoria 71st overall in the fourth round of the 2016 MLS draft out of the NCAA Pac-12 University of Washington Huskies. Other MLS teams playing will include the Seattle Sounders, Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes.

“This will give me a feel for the pro environment. I hope it opens some doors,” said Hundal, who will graduates this spring from UVic with a degree in kinesology, after his standout career as a striker/attacking midfielder with the Vikes.

“I like to think I have the ability to play at the next level. It’s hard to teach that first-few-steps explosiveness. I’m hoping that might push me to the next level. It’s not that the players are so much better at the next level, it’s that they bring consistency and professionalism.”

Scrimmaging against the likes of Besler and Zusi certainly won’t hurt anybody’s development.

The five-foot-nine Hundal knows the time is now.

“Soccer is the priority,” said the 23-year-old, who got the opportunity to roll with the pros thanks to a recommendation to FC Tucson by former Victoria Highlanders coach Steve Simonson.

“I will always have the degree and can use it anytime. In terms of soccer, this is the prime time.”

It is what he has committed himself to, first moving from his hometown of Terrace to Surrey at age 15 to pursue his playing career in the better youth programs offered on the Coast, and then accepting a recruitment offer from veteran Vikes coach Bruce Wilson. The five years at UVic were book-ended by Hundal’s audacious CIS tournament MVP turn as a freshman in leading the Vikes to the 2011 national title, and his overall CIS MVP award in 2015 as a senior and Vikes co-captain.

These are bright days for CIS soccer after the recent announcement that former Victoria Highlanders PDL star midfielder and now Finnish league pro Jamar Dixon, who played for St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, has been named to the roster for Canada’s friendly against Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. team Feb. 5 at StubHub Center in Carson, California.

“Jamar played in the CIS and for Highlanders before me,” noted Hundal. “If you’re good enough, you’re good enough, no matter where you play.”

These have also been heady days for the Highlanders organization, which is rejoining the PDL this season after one year away, and which counts Hundal, Heard and Dixon as alumni.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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