Simpson leaves [University of] Portland [Pilots] to sign contract with England's Millwall.
(Friday, August 6, 2004) -- Portland's hopes for the upcoming men's soccer season were dealt a blow today when midfielder Josh Simpson
signed a two-year contract with Millwall of the English League Championship, formerly the First Division.
"This is a dream come true for me," Simpson said after signing. "I'm really looking forward to the challenge and hope that I get a chance to play in front of the Millwall fans as soon as possible."
The Lions, who finished 10th in England's second tier last season at 18-13-15, open their 2004-05 campaign tomorrow at Plymouth Argyle.
Simpson, now 21, went on to work with the Canadian (under-23) Olympic team and made his first appearance with the full national team January 18 in a 1-0 road victory over Barbados. After Canada failed to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Athens, Simpson earned a spot on the 17-player roster for the Men's World Cup Team Development Training Camp in early July. Coincidentally, Millwall was training in Canada and Simpson was spotted by the English club's manager Dennis Wise.
"This is just amazing for me," Simpson said. "When Millwall came over to Canada for the tour, a few of us were really keen to try and make a good impression.
In the camp, Simpson stood out in a match against Hearts of the Scottish Premier League, netting the equalizer in stoppage time for a 1-1 draw. He followed with an impressive showing in a 1-0 victory over Millwall.
"To be perfectly honest, Josh wasn't a player I was particularly aware of before we went on our Canadian tour, but he certainly caught our eye when we were there and really impressed me," Wise said. "He gave us a hard time when we played Canada and then did exactly the same against Hearts. Josh may only have just turned 21, but he has a lot of quality about him. He is very direct, fast and a player of real promise and ability. Not many people over here will have heard of him, but Josh is a young man with a bright future. He will join up with the other lads for training tomorrow and we'll take it from there."
Though Simpson's right foot is considered his strongest, Millwall has penciled him in for a trial on the left flank where the club has a glaring need. He could see action tomorrow, though it seems unlikely.
Simpson started all 17 games he played for Portland last season, contributing four goals and four assists to a 10-9-1 team which saw its year end in the second round of the NCAA Division I tournament. He had eight goals and nine assist over 53 matches in his career. Life could become a little more difficult for junior striker Alejandro Salazar, who led the Pilots with 10 goals in 2003.
"I knew Josh was pro-caliber and the time would come (when he would turn pro), but I was still hoping to get one last season out of him," Portland coach Bill Irwin said. "Josh had a great opportunity come up and decided to take advantage of it right now. He is just another Pilot great who will don a pro jersey and we wish him the best of luck."