Evan Newton was disappointed when the call didn’t come. No call to the MLS Player Combine, no team calling from the MLS SuperDraft. But a phone call Tuesday from the Houston Dynamo was enough to give him a shot at professional soccer.
“Getting looked over, that always hurts a little bit,” Newton said. “I was expecting to go today but trying not to get my hopes too high. When I saw my name go pretty high today, it felt really good, and I’m ready to get going and start working hard to try to get a spot.”
A former member of the U.S. U-17 residency program who did not make the roster for the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup, Newton has been a standout at Old Dominion since 2006, redshirting the 2008 season due to injury. He even led the Monarchs to the NCAA Round of 16 in 2006 as a true freshman, posting back-to-back shutouts over Winthrop and North Carolina before Old Dominion lost to eventual national champion UC Santa Barbara.
However, even as his school’s all-time leader in saves and shutouts, Newton was not invited to the MLS Player Combine. That did not stop Dynamo goalkeepers coach Tim Hanley from using his considerable coaching connections to unearth a prospect.
“We never really go on just one thing like the combine,” Hanley said. “We’ve always tried to piece a lot of stuff together. The report on his attitude I got from talking to other coaches about him helped pieced that puzzle together.”
Being selected by the Dynamo made things even better for Newton, who has spent time in Houston while visiting his uncle and cousins, who live in the area. Although he has driven by Robertson Stadium, the 22-year-old has not yet had a chance to experience a Dynamo game.
“I have family in Houston, and I know it’s a nice city,” Newton said. “I follow the team a little bit from knowing Corey [Ashe] and know the club’s been successful in the last five years. It’s a good organization, from all the coaches I’ve talked to, and I’m excited to get going.”
Newton grew up in Virginia Beach, as did Corey Ashe and Dynamo assistant coach Wade Barrett. Newton and Ashe also know each other from the U.S. residency program, where Ashe was one cycle ahead of Newton, and from playing PDL soccer together for the Virginia Beach Submariners.
“I’m pretty good friends with Corey, and whenever he’s home we’ve hung out,” Newton said. “It’ll be good to have somebody I know pretty well to help me get through the hectic days.”
Newton has also previously met the Dynamo’s No. 1 pick, Kofi Sarkodie, when Newton was playing with Ofori Sarkodie, Kofi’s older brother, in the U.S. residency program. He gained invaluable experience last summer when training with D.C. United. The young goalkeeper hopes to use his experience to earn the Dynamo’s No. 3 goalkeeping position and push returners Tally Hall and Tyler Deric in training.
“I trained with D.C. this summer, and I got that experience and got used to the speed of play a little bit,” Newton said. “So hopefully it won’t take me as long to adjust to that level. I haven’t played at that kind of game speed since the summer, but hopefully it helps me make a quicker transition.”