By FRANCO PANIZO
The 2011 MLS Combine is in the books, but before all of the focus turns towards where these guys will be playing this season, we're looking back at the event's top performers.
Several of the top prospects did not participate in the Combine, but there were still many players who showed considerably well over the three days worth of matches in sunny Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Now this list isn't about who will be grabbed up first in the upcoming SuperDraft, nor is it a list of the most talented players at the combine. Rather, this list is of the guys who played best over the course of the three days.
are my top performers of the 2011 MLS Combine:
5. Hector Jimenez, Midfielder, California
AdiPure was probably the best team at the combine this year, and Hector Jimenez was a big part of the team's success. Jimenez looked solid on Day 1 and Day 2, and although he could have finished better on Day 3, he was still very active in his team's attack. Jimenez showed he could whip in a few good crosses and he also demonstrated his powerful shot.
4. CJ Sapong, Forward, James Madison
One of the best one-on-one moves at this year's combines came from CJ Sapong on Day 1, but that was just the beginning of a solid three days of work for him. Sapong showed quickness, a willingness to go at defenders and he always put in a strong effort on both sides of the ball. Day 2 was his worst, but he bounced back on the final day by scoring a goal in a much better showing.
3. John Rooney, Midfielder, England
Yes, his surname drew more attention to him than was warranted, but John Rooney still had himself a good combine. On Day 1 he came off the bench and showed flashes as an attacking midfielder in his 30 minutes of action for AdiPure. Day 2 was his best day, as he showed his willingness to unleash shots from range, and get them on frame, too. On Day 3 he was a bit more quiet in a central midfield role, but he made some good tackles and hit a beautiful long ball at one point.
2. Joao Plata, Midfielder, Ecuador
He may be as small as they come, but Joao Plata made a big impression at the combine. The 5-foot-3 attacking midfielder was the combine's top scorer with three goals, and he also showed good technique, and explosiveness with the ball at his feet. Plata was willing to take on defenders and shots without hesitation, and he was trusted with the freedom to roam across the field, behind the forwards for AdiZero. Plata's defensive abilities certainly weren't a strength, but he always hustled, and he also had a nifty swerving run-up on a penalty kick he scored on Day 2.
1. Jalil Anibaba, Defender, UNC
Joao Plata's only quiet performance came on Day 3, and part of that was due to the stout defending of Jalil Anibaba, who was the combine's top defender. Anibaba was a rock in the back for AdiPure, constantly breaking up attacks with his physicality and solid positioning. He also dealt well with aerial balls and looked a step ahead of most of the attackers he faced. Anibaba distributed the ball as well as any center back at the combine, especially with his knack of unleashing pinpoint long balls to the right flank.
What do you think of the list? Who impressed you at the Combine? Who didn't impress you?
Share your thoughts below.