Former Coastal Carolina soccer standout Ashton Bennett has cleared the next hurdle on his way to making a mark in the professional ranks.
Toronto FC announced Friday that Bennett has signed a contract with the club after being selected in the second round of Major League Soccer’s Supplemental Draft in January. Being drafted came with no guarantees other than an opportunity to try out, but the 5-foot-9 forward who scored 39 goals in two seasons with the Chanticleers earned his way onto the roster.
“It’s an extremely competitive situation,” said CCU soccer coach Shaun Docking, who has been in contact with Bennett this week. “I think they probably had seven or eight guys in on tryouts, including the Top Drawer Soccer national player of the year from Creighton – Jose Gomez, and he got cut – so I think it goes to show you how competitive it was to try to earn a spot. They only signed three guys, I believe, that were drafted out of maybe seven guys they were looking at. … So he’s pleased, and it’s a good opportunity and he’s looking forward to it.”
Docking, who said he’s been emailing with Bennett this week because the player has not had a cell phone, suggested the forward could make his professional debut Saturday as Toronto FC opens the 2013 season at Vancouver.
Bennett was named a semifinalist for the prestigious Hermann Trophy in both of his seasons with the Chants after transferring from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and is one of just three players ever to win the Big South Conference’s Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons. He led all NCAA Division I players with 23 goals as a junior and guided the program to records of 18-4 and 20-3-2 with three NCAA tournament wins the last two years.
“I’m really pleased for him. It’s very well deserved. He’s worked very hard to earn a contract and I think over the last couple of years he was with us, he really dedicated himself to improving his game and learning what becoming a professional soccer player is all about,” Docking said. “Because there’s so much that goes into it other than just playing on the field. There’s so much that goes into the mental side of the game and how you take care of yourself and your body off the field and how to act like a professional. I think he’s really come a long way in that area.”
Bennett was the eighth player in Coastal’s program history to be drafted by an MLS team and now becomes the third in the last two years to sign a contract with the league following defender Cyprian Hedrick and goalkeeper Scott Angevine last year.
“Toronto is getting a good player,” Docking said. “I think they’ll get a lot to come from Ashton. I think he’ll surprise a lot of people.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.