By IVES GALARCEP
It has only been a week since the 2013 MLS Draft wrapped up, and just two days since the Supplemental Draft gave another group to of college players their dream of being selected by a pro team, but MLS scouts are already looking ahead to next year and the players who just might be having their names called when the next draft rolls around.
It might seem early to think about it, but if you are wondering what the talent pool is looking like for 2014, it is shaping up to be a strong class and some think potentially a stronger class than the 2013 draft has yielded.
This year’s draft was deep in forwards and central midfielders, but the 2014 draft is promising to boast a strong crop of central defenders as well as attacking midfielders. If your team needs a centerback or playmaker, a first-round pick should be able to yield a promising one.
With that in mind, here is a look at 30 players (including seven potential Generation adidas candidates) who could make up the 2014 MLS Draft:
2014 MLS DRAFT BIG BOARD
(*-projected Generation adidas player)
1. *SCHILLO TSHUMA, Maryland, Forward
He will only be a sophomore in the fall, but Tshuma is being pegged for a monster year playing alongside Patrick Mullins. His speed and ability in the final third have scouts drooling and he’ll be a sure-fire Generation adidas target if he puts together the big season expected.
2. *EMA BOATENG, UCSB, Left Midfielder/Attacking Midfielder
The highly-skilled left midfielder saw his freshman season tainted a bit by UCSB’s epic collapse, but with a strong incoming freshman class to support him, Boateng should have a breakout sophomore campaign and should be one of the first players offered a GA deal.
3. *ANDRE BLAKE, UConn, Goalkeeper
If Blake returns to UConn for his junior season, he will be one of the first players MLS approaches with a Generation adidas deal. The feeling after his sophomore season was that he needed one more year of seasoning in college, and if he doesn’t leave UConn to try his luck in Europe he could be a first-round pick for a team in need of a top young goalkeeper. He boasts the size and athleticism to be a star, but can definitely still use some seasoning and is probably still a few years from being a top starter in the pros.
4. PATRICK MULLINS, Maryland, Forward
A player who would have been a lock Top 10 pick if he had been signed to a Generation adidas deal as a junior, Mullins boasts great finishing ability with intelligent movement and technical quality that MLS scouts love. The Hermann Award winner should enjoy a big senior season and is a good bet to be the first senior off the board in 2014.
5. *DYLAN MARES, Indiana, Attacking Midfielder
You might remember him as the freshman standout who started in Louisville’s midfield alongside the likes of Nick DeLeon, but after missing a year with a torn ACL, Mares returned in 2012 and re-established himself as an exciting playmaker who is one of the best passers in college soccer. He is transferring to Indiana, which should only help him showcase his talents even better as the Hoosiers boast a stacked attack.
6. *WILL VITALIS, Louisville, Attacking Midfielder
Mares may have left, but Louisville still has an outstanding midfield maestro in Vitalis, who might struggle to stand out on a rebuilding Cardinals team. Chances are he will still be able to do enough to merit Generation adidas consideration as a dynamic second forward/playmaker with a nose for goal
7. PEDRO RIBEIRO, Coastal Carolina, Central Midfielder
A tall and skilled central midfielder in the Patrick Viera mold, Ribeiro drew some Generation adidas buzz as a junior after heling lead Coastal Carolina deep in the NCAA Tournament. The Brazilian-born midfielder has the technical skill and size to be a real force in MLS, but a scouts will want to see him get a bit stronger.
8. JARED WATTS, Wake Forest, Defensive Midfielder
The 2013 MLS Draft lacked a true first-round caliber defensive midfielder, but that won’t be the case in 2014, when Watts will be highly-coveted by teams looking for some bite in midfield. The former U.S. Under-17 national team captain has the size, maturity and composure in the middle to play in MLS right now, and another year of seasoning will only make him an even more intriguing draft option in 2014.
9. KYLE VENTER, New Mexico, Central Defender
Arguably the best centerback in the 2014 MLS Draft, Vetner drew mild Generation adidas buzz but will now return for his senior season with the Lobos. The 6-foot-3 central defender is a sure-fire first-rounder for his size, strength and ability to handle attackers in 1-v-1 situations.
10. MAMADOU DIOUF, UConn, Forward
The Dynamic Huskies forward has been a force in the Big East for two straight years and while he and UConn will miss Carlos Alvarez, Diouf should be penciled in for another big season as a senior.
11. *CHRISTIAN DEAN, California, Central Defender
The 6-foot-3 centerback is one of the best young defensive talents in the nation and he will be one of the key cogs in a Cal defense that could be the strongest in the nation. The one-time U.S. Under-20 national team call-up
12. *AXEL SJOBERG, Marquette, Central Defender
A 6-foot-7 Swedish centerback who turned heads in the Big East as a freshman in 2012 by scoring eight goals and dominating the aerial game against most Marquette opponents. While some scouts considered him a bit raw as as a freshman, there was no denying that he moves very well for someone his size and another year of development could earn him a spot in the 2014 Generation adidas class.
13. NIKITA KOTLOV, Indiana, Left Midfielder
The electric left winger was one of the driving forces in the Indiana national title run and his late-season heroics put him squarely in the conversation of players to watch in 2013. Teams looking for a dangerous left-sided player will pounce on Kotlov quickly. Especially if he winds up being Indiana’s leading attacker with the departure of Eriq Zavaleta.
14. STEVE NEUMANN, Georgetown, Forward/Right Midfielder
Enjoyed a breakout turn in the NCAA Tournament semifinals, notching a hat-trick against Maryland that seriously boosted his stock. He will partner with forward Brandon Allen (A Red Bulls academy product) to form one of the most dangerous partnerships in college soccer in the fall, but will need a strong season to break into the Top 10 of the 2014 MLS Draft.
15. ALEX MARTINEZ, North Carolina State, Attacking Midfielder
The brother of Real Salt Lake midfielder Enzo Martinez, Alex is a more attack-minded player who showed off his scoring touch in 2012 with 11 goals and 10 assists.
16. KEVIN COPE, Michigan State, Central Defender
The 6-foot-2 All-Big 10 defender isn’t as big as some of the other defenders in this draft but he remains highly regarded for his strength, positioning and quality on the ball.
17. STEVE BIRNBAUM, California, Central Defender
A 6-foot-2 former U.S. Youth national team player, Birnbaum saw his senior year erased by injuries, but he will return in 2013 for a fifth college season and will head into next year’s draft as one of the most highly-regarded defenders available.
18. ROBBIE LOVEJOY, North Carolina, Forward
Injuries limited Lovejoy to just 11 games as a junior in 2012, but he remains one of the better attacking players heading into the 2013 college season. With playmaker Danny Garcia setting him up, and strike partner Andy Craven also looking to earn a place in the MLS first round, Lovejoy should be able to play his way into the first round conversation.
19. ROMENA BOWIE, VCU, Defensive Midfielder
When MLS scouts watched VCU to check out Generation adidas forward Jason Johnson, they also found a dominant defensive midfielder in Bowie who looked MLS ready as a junior. The Jamaican-born standout is a 6-foot-1 enforcer in the middle who has first-round talent and some scouts think he could have been a first-rounder in 2012.
20. LUCA GIMENEZ, Wake Forest, Forward/Attacking Midfielder
The Brazilian-born 2nd-team All-ACC selection generated seven goals and three assists for the Demon Deacons in 2012, flashing the individual skill that isn’t easy to find in college soccer. With standout striker Sean Okoli (a Seattle Sounders academy product) leading the attack, Gimenez should have plenty of opportunity to show off his passing and scoring skills.
21. MARK SHERROD, Memphis, Forward
22. FIFI BAIDEN, UCSB, Central Midfielder
23. BRIAN CIESULKA, Marquette, Central Midfielder
24. JOEY DILLON, Georgetown, Defensive Midfielder
25. A.J. CORRADO, Indiana, Attacking Midfielder
26. SPENCER RICHEY, Washington, Goalkeeper
27. BEN SWEAT, South Florida, Left Back
28. REINALDO BRENES, Akron, Forward/Midfielder
29. REED WILLIAMS, UCLA, Forward
30. HARRISON PETTS, Indiana, Right Midfielder