On January 11, recent graduate of SFU men’s soccer Mamadi Camara was drafted by the San Jose Earthquakes in the second round of the Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft. Selected with the 46th overall pick, the 23-year-old forward will now prepare himself for the next step in his soccer career.
People who have followed SFU men’s soccer in recent years know just how special a player Camara is. Born in Montreal, Camara played high school soccer for the prestigious Champlain Cavaliers team before being recruited by the Clan.
Originally coming to Burnaby Mountain as more of a box-to-box midfielder, the 6’3”, 180-pound athlete found himself playing on the wing more often than not in head coach Clint Schneider’s squad during his first few seasons at SFU. He shone in this new position, consistently embarrassing defenders with his unique combination of speed, strength, and dribbling technique.
From the moment he played his first GNAC game for the Clan, he was one of the best players in the conference, making the GNAC first all-star team in all four seasons for SFU. Pretty soon, he was one of the best players in the West Region, making the All-West Region team in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. As he continued to mature as a player, he established himself as one of, if not the, best player in the entire NCAA DIV II.
After playing winger for most of his games in his first three seasons, Camara adopted to a more central role in the 2018 season, playing striker for the conference-winning Clan. He flourished in the role, scoring nine goals and a team-leading 13 assists in 18 games. For his fantastic season, he was awarded the GNAC Player of the Year and named a first-team All-American.
Camara leaves the Clan with career totals of 29 goals and 21 assists in 71 games. To go with the individual awards he’s received throughout the years, he also has won three GNAC championships with SFU. It was a pleasure watching such a skilled and exciting athlete during his time with the Clan.
“Playing for the clan has been a really good preparation for me. It is one of the most professional environments in all of college soccer,” said Camara to The Peak. “I feel more confident as a player going into pre-season with San Jose, knowing that I have been training like a professional for the past four years already, under a coaching staff that values their players and put them in the best position to excel.”
San Jose Earthquake and MLS SuperDraft
Camara was the only NCAA DIV II player, and one of only six Canadian players, to be invited to the MLS Combine. He performed well at the combine, highlighted by a top-six finish in the 30-metre sprint.
Despite this, Camara didn’t expect a non-Canadian team other than FC Cincinnati, now coached by previous SFU coach Alan Koch, to be interested in him. The most likely destinations seemed to be the Vancouver Whitecaps, who have selected SFU players before and had plenty of opportunity to scout him, or his hometown’s Montreal Impact. In fact, after the Vancouver Whitecaps selected Georgetown centre-back Brendan McDonough with their second round selection, Camara stopped watching the draft.
Shortly after, his sister called him.
“She said, ‘Hey, you actually got drafted!’ But it honestly took me about five minutes to believe it,” Camara told the Vancouver Sun’s J.J. Adams. “I wanted to see it on TV first. And then, I saw it was official … and I broke down a little bit. There were too many emotions going on at the same time.”
Obviously, Camara is very excited. After getting draft, Camara told The Peak:
“[Getting drafted] means the world to me. I have worked really hard since I was a kid to make my dream of becoming a professional soccer player a reality and I feel like I now have the chance to make it happen. I’m beyond grateful to the San Jose organization for believing in me and giving me this opportunity.”
There is still a long way to go, but San Jose is a good place for Camara to grow as a player. While fewer and fewer players are making the MLS from the SuperDraft and are ending up in the United Soccer League (USL), San Jose is different. The team has a very strong relationship with their USL affiliate, Reno 1868 FC, which has developed multiple first-team MLS players over the years.
Camara will also have the chance to learn from MLS legend Chris Wondolowski, San Jose forward and one of the all-time leaders in goals in the league.
“Anyone that knows MLS knows about him,” said Camara to Adams. “He’s had a wonderful career — and he’s still going. Just looking forward to meeting him and seeing what I can grasp of his experience and knowledge.”
Joining Camara in San Jose are Siad Haji (first round, number two overall) and Sergio Rivas (second round, 26th overall).
A tough road awaits all three on their quest to play in North America’s top soccer league, but Camara is ready for the challenge.
“I’m hoping to come in and earn myself a spot on the roster through my good performances in training and games. I know I can bring a lot of physicality and dynamic momentum to the game and I will use those qualities as I am heading into pre-season.”