Notre Dame midfielder Dillon Powers isn't a goal-scoring machine, or a dynamic playmaker, but for many experts his well-rounded game makes him the most complete player in the nation, and arguably the best pro prospect in college soccer.
A key figure on the U.S. Under-20 national team, Powers has established himself as a mature midfield force who has grown considerably since being one of the youngest members of the 2009 U.S. Under-20 World Cup team.
"He's a very good two-way player and he has a great engine," said U.S. U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen. "He's a guy that when the chips are down his work rate increases. It's contagious and it forces the guys around him to pick up."
"He's a quiet boy, he's not a talker but he leads by example," said Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark. "He's a very mature young man and a main cog in our midfield this year. We've been very lucky to get him."
It was an intense work ethic and high soccer IQ that caught the attention of Clark and his coaching staff three years ago when Powers was a youth player in Plano, TX.
"My assistant coaches loved him and it was before he really burst on to the national scene so I went to a tournament where he was playing," Clark said. "They didn't tell me which one he was, but within 10 minutes it was clear who we should be recruiting."
Since committing to Notre Dame in the spring of 2008 Powers stock has been rising steadily. He was named the 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year and the 2008-2009 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Co-Player of the Year.
"It's always nice to get recognized but you can't dwell on it," Powers said. "I appreciate that but sometimes you deserve an award and don't get it and there are others that you don't deserve that you do get."
The accolades paid off and, as an 18-year old, Powers was named to the U.S. U-20 World Cup team in 2009.
"I was so excited. I didn't know if I would have the chance on this cycle, so I was just trying to do my best and see where I am. I knew it would be ambitious for me to make the squad as a '91," Powers told ussoccer.com in the leadup to the tournament.
The U-20 World Cup ended up being a disappointment for the USA, narrowly missing out on the knockout rounds,
"Dillion reacted in a very mature way. He proved over time that he belonged on the field. He told his teammates that we'll do better next time and turned it into a positive, " Rongen said. "I was really very happy with how he responded. He was disappointed but he didn't dwell on it."
Rongen was impressed enough to retain Powers for another U-20 cycle. The move paid off at the Milk Cup this summer when the USA finished first and Powers was named MVP. It's a victory Powers hopes can start to change international perception of American squads.
"I think in general I don't know if Americans have earned respect but a lot of heads have been turned by American soccer teams," Powers said. "We have a drive and we never give up and we have an unwavering belief that we can win."
"He was instrumental at the Milk Cup," Rongen said, comparing Powers to players like Michael Bradley and Frank Lampard. "You see more and more specialists nowadays. You don't see too many players that are comfortable in both 18-yard boxes. That's a special player because it's dying out," Rongen said.
Powers is far from settled on his future plans but says participation in a World Cup is his ultimate goal. "It's always been a dream and it should be any players dream to play in a World Cup and you have to envision those moments."
Clark, who played for Scotland in the 1978 World Cup, is confident about Powers' future with the national team.
"He's a very mature young man so if anyone can do it, it's Dillon Powers."