MLS Draft 2011

SBI MLS Draft Big Board (Version 3.0)

Darlington Nagbe (ISIPhotos.com)

Photo by Tony Quinn/ISIPhotos.com

The countdown to the MLS Draft has reached three weeks and the crop of 2011 draft prospects is shaping up to be a strong one.

With MLS closing in on finalizing its Generation adidas class of standout underclassmen signings, we now have a better idea of just what the top end of the draft will look like. As it stands, here is what the Generation adidas class should be:

Omar Salgado, Darlington Nagbe, Perry Kitchen, Zarek Valentin, Zac MacMath, Will Bruin, Corey Hertzog, Kofi Sarkodie, Michael Nanchoff

Of the above players, all but Kitchen and Sarkodie have signed, with Kitchen and Sarkodie still negotiating deals. If one or both of them doesn't come to terms, California goalkeeper David Bingham and Maryland striker Casey Townsend are leading candidates to be added to the Generation adidas class.

The newest SBI MLS Draft Big Board is out a bit later than expected, but with the Generation adidas class coming together I decided to hold off until I could remove some more names from the board of underclassmen who won't be coming out. Some really quality prospects won't be coming out, including Notre Dame midfielder Dillon Powers and Duke midfielder/defender Andrew Wenger, but one thing we can already see is that the 2012 MLS Draft class will also be a strong one (and I will be posting a list of 2012 Draft Players to Watch soon).

For now, we're focusing on the 2011 class. Here is SBI's MLS Draft Big Board, Version 3.0:

SBI MLS DRAFT BIG BOARD 3.0 (*-Underclassman)

1. *PERRY KITCHEN, Akron, Defensive Midfielder

Capable of playing defensive midfield, centerback or even right back, Kitchen is arguably the best long-term prospect in the draft. Currently in negotiations with MLS, Kitchen is a U.S. Under-20 standout and lock Top Three pick. 

2. *DARLINGTON NAGBE,  Akron, Forward/Midfielder

Speedy and skillful striker who can also play on the wing. Some think he can be better than Steve Zakuani and Teal Bunbury. The Liberian-born standout has signed with MLS.

3. *ZAC MACMATH, Maryland, Goalkeeper

Top-flight goalkeeper is a U.S. Under-20 starter and best goalkeeper available. Signed with MLS.

4. *ZAREK VALENTIN, Akron, Right Back/Centerback

U.S. Under-20 defender is capable of playing centerback or right back. Doesn't boast the attacking qualities of Kofi Sarkodie, but is a better defender. Signed with MLS.

5. *KOFI SARKODIE, Akron, Right Back

Best attacking fullback to come out of college in years. His ability to get forward from the right back position has teams drooling. Signed with MLS.

6. OMAR SALGADO, Gen Adidas, Forward

A teenage 6-foot-3 target striker with good feet and worlds of potential. He's more of a long-term project and is thought by some to have the most upside in the draft.

7. *COREY HERTZOG, Penn State, Forward

Fast, fearless and a clutch finisher, Hertzog has quietly climbed the charts this fall. Philadelphia tried unsuccessfully to land him as a Homegrown Player. He has  signed with MLS.

7. *WILL BRUIN, Indiana, Forward

Strong striker who has been one of the best finishers in college, he will draw serious interest from teams looking for a physical presence up top.

9. *MICHAEL NANCHOFF, Akron, Left winger

Might have improved his draft stock more than any player at the College Cup, Nanchoff is a skillful left winger whose passing, work rate and service from the flank has scouts very interested. Akron head coach Caleb Porter has been raving about Nanchoff since pre-season and now many squads have joined the fan club.

10. *DAVID BINGHAM, California, Goalkeeper

Considered a prospect on par with Zac MacMath, Bingham is a first-round talent who may not be available in the draft after initially being bypassed for a Generation adidas contract. If he stays in school (and Bingham could pursue Europe if MLS passes), Bingham could be a Top 3 pick in 2012. He could still sign with MLS if Kitchen doesn't.

11. A.J. SOARES, California, Central Defender

Tall (6-foot-2) and skilled central defender who is also a threat on set pieces, Soares is regarded by some as the best centerback in the draft. He could be this year's Tim Ream. Hasn't signed with MLS yet, but is expected to have a deal in place before the Combine.

12. ANTHONY AMPAIPITAKWON, Akron, Midfielder

His versatility, quickness and passing touch make him a very attractive prospect, and he also impressed scouts with his toughness at the College Cup.

13. JUSTIN MERAM, Michigan, Forward

Three months ago Meram might not have even been invited to the MLS Combine. After scoring a ton of goals in the final weeks of the college season, and thoroughly impressing at College Cup, Meram has catapulted himself into the first-round conversation.

14. MICHAEL FARFAN, North Carolina, Midfielder

A skilled attacking midfielder considered by some as the most talented senior in the draft, Farfan has great one-on-one ability and is one of the best passers in the draft. He has signed a senior MLS contract.

15. *CASEY TOWNSEND, Maryland, Forward

A top-notch prospect two years ago, Townsend had a strong comeback season to earn a place here. He's a fearless and fast forward who could still be a part of the Generation adidas class if Kitchen doesn't sign.

16. JALIL ANIBABA, North Carolina, Defender

A dominant physical presence at centerback, Anibaba could be considered this year's Ike Opara (though he isn't quite as physically gifted). Rivals Soares for title of best centerback in the draft. If he has a good combine he could lead a team to make an early first-round play for him. He has signed a senior MLS contract.

17. JASON HERRICK, Maryland, Forward

A mature, quick and a good finisher, Herrick is one of the better seniors available and good bet to go in the first round.

18. STEVEN MCCARTHY, North Carolina, Midfielder

 A 6-foot-4 central midfielder who scouts have had eye on since his days at Santa Clara. He passes extremely well for his size and is a legitimate aerial threat on set pieces. Has already signed a senior MLS contract.

19. DANIEL KEAT, Dartmouth, Midfielder

A polished soccer player with skill and work rate to be effective two-way player. New Zealand-born midfielder plays well centrally, but also floats out to provide dangerous service.

20. COLE GROSSMAN, Duke, Midfielder

Overshadowed by standout Duke underclassmen Andrew Wenger and Ryan Finley, Grossman has won over his share of scouts with his attacking qualities.


The New Zealand-born centerback is arguably a more mature defender than the other top prospects, Boxall is a tough player and good leader. A strong Combine could push him into the first round.

22. ASHLEY MCINNES, Tulsa, Forward/Midfielder

A versatile attacking player capable of contributing as a striker and as a winger, McInnes is a Scottish-born product of the Aberdeen system.

23. TYLER LASSITER, North Carolina State, Defender

Combining good athletic ability with impressive passing skills for a centerback, Lassiter was one of the more polished defenders in the ACC in 2010.

24. JEFF ATTINELLA, South Florida, Goalkeeper

If David Bingham doesn't sign, Attinella could wind up as the No. 2 goalkeeper on the board on draft day. Carried an underachieving South Florida team at times and his physical qualities make him a standout prospect.

25. BOBBY WARSHAW, Stanford, Midfielder/Defender

Tough and talented defender who looks more suited to defensive midfield role in MLS. A former U.S. youth national team player, Warshaw has a good skill set, but stands more to gain from a strong combine than most.

26. J.T. MURRAY, Louisville, Defender

A marauding left back with a natural left foot and good attacking qualities, Murray is the best player at his position in the draft. A strong combine could lead a team to reach for him in the first round.

27. RICH BALCHAN, Indiana, Midfielder

A smart and skilled defensive midfielder who could be a second-round steal. Balchan impressed scouts with his poise and ability to disrupt opposing attacks.

28. RYAN KINNE, Monmouth, Forward

One of the better attacking players in college last season, Kinne was inexplicably excluded from the MLS Player Combine but several teams are aware of his goal-scoring ability and creativity.

29. LEVI HOUAPEU, UMBC, Forward/Midfielder

With speed to burn and a keen passing eye, Houapeu is intriguing scouts who could see him as an impact winger or fast option up top. He'll need to impress at the Combine to prove that his small school background isn't hiding a lack of ability.

30. DIEGO RESTREPO, Virginia, Goalkeeper

A national champion as a junior, Restrepo enjoyed one of the best goalkeeping careers in college history but still managed not to get invited to the MLS Combine. His size (6-foot) is a concern to some scouts, but Restrepo has trained with MLS clubs before and is set to trial with Colombian side America de Cali. Could be a draft-day steal.

31. ERNESTO CARRANZA, Sacramento State, Forward/Midfielder

32. JOSUE SOTO, SMU, Midfielder

33. EDDIE ABABIO, North Carolina, Defender

34. BRYAN MEREDITH, Monmouth, Goalkeeper

35. BRAYAN MARTINEZ, Seton Hall, Forward/Midfielder

36. JUAN LEONE CRUZ, SMU, Defender

37. GREG KING, UConn, Defender

38. AMANI WALKER, Forward, UC-Irvine

39. DAVIS PAUL, California, Forward/Midfielder

40. JOSH FORD, Connecticut, Goalkeeper


  • Santa

    In D3, there are a few options. From Messiah you have Geoff Pezon (national POY) and Nick Thompson (Thompson scored 17 goals from Def-Mid) that have carried the team to 3 straight national championships. From Stevens Tech you have goalie Zach Carr who is a two time 1st team all-american who took his team to the final a couple years back, and from Ohio Wesleyan you have Tyler Wall who is a 3 time all-american and finished 2nd in the country in goals with 19 while taking his team to the elite 8.

    After seeing all three of these players, I am pretty confident they could succeed, however it’s common sense that that many D3 players won’t have a chance. Let’s hope for a successful reserve league!


  • Toni

    Servando Carrasco, by far most underrated player in the pool

    (SBI-He’ll be on the board when I expand to a Top 50. He’s one I’ll definitely have an eye on at the Combine.)


  • Steve

    I think Salgado is being underestimated because of the fact he didn’t play in the NCAA. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s taken first since the Caps decided to pick 1st in the superdraft after having Salgado in for a training session.


  • RLW2020

    would Nagbe’s immigration status be complicated if selected by Vancouver or Toronto (via trade)?


  • WahooFan

    Ives, you’re doing your homework on the GK’s, i like it. Agree 100% with your assessment, saw all the combine keepers play in college (except the Denver kid) and Diego Restrepo is right up there with MacMath as the best of the bunch. DR is going to be a draft steal, and I have a hunch that a certain team in the Northwest with a GK retiring next year and a coach that is known for evaluating talent is going to snag him up.


  • Duck

    Thanks for putting up the nationalities as well. It is interesting to note that quality international players come into the college system (Zakuani is a prime example). Do they come in with education as a priority? Or they didn’t want to be a part of an academy system or reserve team that other leagues rely upon?

    OT. My fiancee went to UConn and says that it is Connecticut football, but UConn basketball. What is soccer? Both UConn and Connecticut are listed above.


  • Karo

    Ives you come up big again with this list i cant wait to see who you project for the 2012 draft. By the way how soon can we expect that?


  • USA_A_OK

    I remember reading an article in which Zakuani said his reason for college ball was that if he stayed in England he would have to play soccer or get an education but couldn’t do both the way he could by attending college here.


  • SnowMiser


    With Levi Houapeu being a DC United Academy product, why wouldn’t DC look to sign a potential second rounder to a contract before the draft? I read alot about White being a product before signing, but very little about Levi. I believe I read that there is expected to be 30 roster spots in 2011 and no limit to academy signings, so it would make sense for DCU to fill one of those ‘reserve league/US Open Cup’ spots with a second rounder like Levi.


  • Yup

    Can someone list (or provide a link for) the draft order? I know that VAN is starting, but is there an updated draft oder that includes picks that have been traded for, etc.?


  • JoeW

    I talked to a guy from Northern Ireland to came to the States on a soccer scholarship to play for George Mason when Gordon Bradley was there as the coach. He said that a soccer scholarship in the States was an incredible deal–you got a great education, you got it for free (or reduced expense) and you got to play soccer. He said he could never understand the American guys who blew off their studies or didn’t take it seriously–this guy (his name was Martin Dunphy) said that from his perspective it was like a golden opportunity that had dropped from heaven, a once in a lifetime chance to exploit for all you could.


  • Nebraskacoog

    Dynamo’s president, Cannetti, stated that they are about to sign a few academy products. I assume one of those is Soto (he is a homegrown player for the Dynamo).

    I think they are trying to convince Ibeagha to come out of college, but don’t know if the front office will succeed in that just yet.


  • Dannyc58


    Matt Kassel not in the top 40, or did I miss him?



    (SBI-At this point Kassel will either sign a Homegrown Player contract with New York or go back to school. He won’t be in the draft.)


  • elf

    THIS! No kidding, I’m actually relived to see some non-college kids up there. There’s hope yet! College kick-and-run soccer has got to change. We need more quality kids who can handle a ball, and only the club system can do this.


  • GY

    I think Boxall’s international experience will help him move up the board. Of course a strong combine will help. Rumor is NYRB said he is easily a top 3 defender so they might be looking. Also, Sam Hayden from UCSB might be a late addition to the combine. He is a smaller GK but has the ability to get up and control his box. He joined Restrepo at the Sounders Vegas combine and rumor is he outperformed him.


  • WahooFan

    Rumor from whom, Hayden himself? I know people that were in Vegas (players, press members and coaches) and they stated that “Restrepo was by far the best keeper there”. DR allowed 1 goal in 3 matches while the next keeper allowed like 4, and “he killed it in GK training”. One player that was in DR’s team told me that in the 1st match of the Seattle Combine DR had “3 world class saves”. I asked about the other GK’s and heard that Ford was “athletic but limited technically”, and that Meredith was “ok, nothing special”, didn’t hear a peep about Hayden from anybody.


  • Lorenzo

    I know. Dempsey, Davies, Holden, Bocanegra, Cherundelo, Edu, Bedoya, play like total crap. The college system just can’t produce good pro’s.

    Thank god Ibrahim, Besagno, Szetela, Nimo, Adu were drafted early and got into the pro system!

    College just hasn’t produced much pros lately. Ream, Mwanga, etc. Especially these Akron kids… Zakuani, Bunbury, Gavin, etc.

    Long Live the myths in US Soccer!


  • Lorenzo

    BTW, non-college professional prospects should fill out the Draft, especially higher picks, because they would be signed out of the academy system.

    The draft system is more so for the college kids.


  • ta607@bellsouth.net

    top sr keepers are definately Josh Ford(UConn) and Jimmy Maurer (South Carolina),

    then Jeff Attinella (So Fla). Size, ability, consistency, intellect, organization skills and true athleticism all add up to top keepers as well as maturity.

    Mac Math is probably #1 on list but Ford and Maurer are long term Keepers who will make an impact in MLS or Europe. Maurer also trained under Drew Keeshan-Keeper Coach for Dallas FC – and could be the real steal of the draft!!!!

    From Former College Recruiter


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