Trio of Hamilton FC players attract attention

Three members of Hamilton Football Club have caught the attention of other soccer clubs, highlighting the focus of the team as a member of the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League.

Midfielder Andrew Barsalona has signed with German Bundesliga 2 club Eintracht Braunschweig; Josh Bennett has been granted a two week trial with the San Jose Earthquakes of the Major Soccer League; and Evan James was selected by the Montreal Impact as the first overall pick in Major League Soccer’s supplemental draft.

Barsalona, a Stoney Creek native, played his high school soccer with Cardinal Newman before going to the University of Alabama,

“I am very pleased to be signing with such a passionate and historical club, which has great support from the fans,” said the 21-year-old Barsalona. “I am happy to be a part of the club and the very professional environment, and with hard work I know I will develop even more as a player and be successful.
“This (past) summer training and playing with Hamilton FC in the PDL league allowed me to focus and continue to work hard in a professional environment which fostered growth for me as well as the team. I’d like to thank the staff and everyone involved with Hamilton FC, including our head coach Brett Mosen, and everyone behind the scenes like Jack Brand, Neil Brown, Karen McConnell, and Valdi Greco for allowing HFC to be such a success in its inaugural season. The mutual relationship between the club and I was very positive and allowed me to focus all of my energy on the field and get the results I wanted.
“It has been a lifelong dream for me to play at the highest level in Europe, and now that I have made this initial step, I will continue to work hard and pursue my goal in Germany.”

During his high school years, Barsalona was chosen the team’s most valuable player as a junior and senior while leading Cardinal Newman to two city championships.

He played for the Oakville Blue Stars and was a member of the U-17 Canadian National Team, winning a national championship in 2004, two provincial titles (2004 and 2005), and five league and Ontario Cup Titles. He was also a member of the team that captured the 2005 Caribbean Cup championship.

Bennett converted his play at Simon Fraser University and Hamilton FC into a trial with San Jose. The Earthquakes compete in the Western Conference of Major Soccer League and finished seventh in the nine-team division.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” said Bennett, “I’ll have the opportunity to work with the team for an extended period and I know I will have to work hard the entire time I’m there.”

Bennett, a native of Hamilton who played high his school soccer at St. Thomas More, finished up his Simon Fraser Clan career with 21 goals and 17 assists. He capped off his senior season by being named to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference first team, All-Region first team and was also named a second team All-American.

He was a key member of the Clan throughout his collegiate career. He was a big contributor to the SFU men’s soccer program winning back-to-back GNAC championships as well as becoming the first non-American institution to be named in the U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association rankings, helping the Clan reach a first overall ranking in NCAA division II soccer this past season.

Bennett attended Simon Fraser virtue of being selected as the recipient of the David Smith Memorial Scholarship Award. This opportunity was presented to Josh through the efforts of former National Team player and Canadian Soccer Association Hall of Famer and Hamiltonian, John McGrane. “This is a great opportunity for Josh and represents the outcome contemplated when this scholarship was first established,” commented McGrane, who also attended Simon Fraser before embarking on a nine-year professional career in the professional North American Soccer League. He also played for Canada’s national team 17 times.

James, from Mississauga, attracted the attention of the Montreal Impact while playing for the University of North Carolina Charlotte where he was a standout for the 49ers. He had a strong performance and two goals at the 2012 MLS Combine.

A very quick and technically sound player, the 21-year-old James impressed numerous scouts at the Combine in Florida. In his first season in PDL with Hamilton FC, he contributed two goals in eight games including the equalizer in a 3-3 road draw against the Chicago Fire.

Evans was humbled by the Impact’s selection.

“It is such an honor and I am so grateful to be deemed someone with enough talent to be wanted by an MLS team. I want to thank Hamilton FC for getting me prepared for this past college season. The club has a fantastic program with a great group of players and staff. I wish them all the best in this upcoming season.”

The UNC Charlotte senior midfielder played a major role in helping the 49ers reach the College Cup Championship game for the first time in school history last season, where they lost to North Carolina. A first-team All-Atlantic 10 selection, he led the 49ers with seven assists. He was second on the 49ers with five goals.

James finished his career 12th in school history with 63 points and 13th in the program’s history with 22 goals. He finished 14th in school history with 19 assists.

Prior to joining Hamilton FC, James played his youth soccer at Oakville SC and Mississauga SC.