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Typography

Julius James was just a kid in short pants when one of my favourite song writers, Mary Chapin Carpenter, released her critically acclaimed 1992 album Come On, Come On.One of the many successful tracks to be lifted as singles could have been written with James specifically in mind.

It's a song about taking risks, about tempting fate and about exploiting opportunities. It's entitled: I Take My Chances. On a day when Major League Soccer's brightest star was absent, James played out the song on a soccer field and a new star may have been born.

James's impact was the stuff of comic book fantasy. It wasn't supposed to be his day. The 23-year-old should have sat dutifully on the bench and been a mere spectator as two teams weakened by injury, suspension and international calls battled for supremacy as the storm clouds gathered overhead.

Unforgettable debut

Then fate took a hand. An early injury meant Olivier Tebily couldn't continue at centre-back for Toronto FC and, already without the injured Tyrone Marshall, coach John Carver had no alternative but to turn to the rookie in the dugout. The following 75 minutes must have raced by for the youngster but his professional debut is one he'll never forget.

From the get go James's first touch was assured, his positioning adept and his sense of danger alert. At half-time he walked to the locker room knowing he had risen to the unexpected challenge. But not even James could prepare himself for the fairytale that was to follow.

Just three minutes after the re-start, Rohan Ricketts floated a free kick into the penalty area knowing the height of Smith or the pace of Cunningham could cause problems for the Galaxy defence. The strikers both failed to connect but, with a run timed to perfection, James did not. His glancing header diverted the ball away from LA 'keeper Steve Cronin and, in a flash, it nestled in the corner of the net.

The execution would have would have satisfied many a seasoned veteran - never mind an inexperienced new recruit barely half an hour into his professional career. Close your eyes for a moment and you could almost hear the party starting in his hometown of Maloney Gardens - less than 20 kilometres from Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad & Tobago.

Shoulder injury an early obstacle

James may be the new kid in town, but we should not be surprised at his apparent maturity. I was fortunate to get to know him a little during pre-season down in Charleston. The first thing you notice is his smile - a beaming grin that makes him instantly likeable. He's a modest but articulate young man - humble, yet highly ambitious. Had it not been for a painful shoulder injury that sidelined him for a month, James might well have been a starter on Carver's team.

An outstanding college career with the UConn Huskies made him a highly coveted selection in the 2008 MLS Superdraft - Toronto FC was fortunate he was still available when it picked him ninth overall. James has had to wait patiently for his break - TFC's encouraging start to the year only made his job more difficult and the acquisition of the vastly experienced Tebily did nothing to improve his chances.

But when opportunity knocked, as it did against Los Angeles, James seized the moment and turned reality into a dream. He may be pinching himself for a while. There's another song on that Mary Chapin Carpenter album about winning the lottery, called I Feel Lucky.

Someone send Julius James a copy of the CD.