Hoffman moving up in draft projections

Former Oak Mountain High School soccer standout Chandler Hoffman, left, is currently projected to be one of the top three picks in the upcoming Major League Soccer Draft. (Contributed)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

Former Oak Mountain High School soccer star Chandler Hoffman entered the Major League Soccer Draft combine with certainty of being selected in the first round of the draft.

After shining in a combine featuring the top college soccer prospects in the nation, Hoffman has made his way to the top of the projected draft boards.

The combine is a four-day annual showcase, occurring every January in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where future MLS players perform physical and mental tests in front of coaches, general managers and scouts.

Hoffman is currently projected to be a top-three pick by three separate draft analysts three days ahead of the 2012 MLS Draft, which will be held Jan. 12 at 11 a.m. and will be televised live by ESPN2.

Hoffman wrote in a Jan. 2 interview by email that he is excited about embarking on a professional soccer career.

“It is a dream I have had since I was young to be a professional athlete,” Hoffman responded. “It is truly a blessing to have the opportunity for the dream to become a reality.”

Hoffman, who was awarded a Generation adidas contract reserved for the top underclassmen prospects in the country, is projected to be the top overall pick in the draft by the Montreal Impact according to analyst Simon Borg. Hoffman decided to forego his final season of eligibility at UCLA, but the Generation adidas contract promises to help Hoffman finish his degree while playing professionally.

Borg compared Hoffman to Javier Hernandez Balcazar, a Mexican soccer player also known as “Chicharito,” who plays for Manchester United, one of the top professional teams in European soccer.

“The Alabama native projects to be the American version of Chicharito, and the Combine has confirmed it,” Borg said. “Natural-born goal scorers are a rarity.”

Hoffman is projected to be picked third overall by the New England Revolution according to draft analysts Jason Saghini and Travis Clark.

Hoffman decided to forego his final season of eligibility at UCLA and enter his name into the MLS Draft pool after leading the Bruins to the Division I men’s College Cup, the men’s soccer version of the Final Four, in December at Regions Park in Hoover. Hoffman was one of 15 semifinalists for the Hermann Trophy, the men’s soccer equivalent to the Heisman Trophy.