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MLS Combine: The field takes shape

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After two days of the MLS Combine two things are clear. This year's draft really is deep with solid prospects and there will be more wheeling and dealing this week than perhaps any other draft week in MLS history.

I gave my rundown on all the players who have impressed, and some who have disappointed, in an piece on the MLS Combine today.

The Generation adidas players as a group rebounded very well in day two after a very shaky day one performance. Omar Gonzalez was especially impressive on Sunday, showing some surprising pace for his size and better tools than he displayed when he dragged around on Saturday. That performance might just be enough to keep him in the Top Four. It will have to be since both he and Rodney Wallace have left the Combine to attend classes at Maryland.

Steve Zakuani didn't do much on Sunday and I am starting to wonder if he is about to go on the Patrick Nyarko slide in the draft. Zakuani did show some great glimpses on day one, but he hasn't come close to scoring and has dropped behind Stefan Frei and Sam Cronin in the eyes of some scouts.

Here a few Best XI teams from the Combine as we stand three days away from the 2008 MLS Draft:

Best XI-Draft Prospects

——-Chris Pontius————-Peri Marosevic—————Steve Zakuani—-

-Jeremy Hall———————-Sam Cronin———————Michael Lahoud

Rodney Wallace——Omar Gonzalez—-Yohance Marshall———Kevin Alston

————————————Stefan Frei—————————————

Keep in mind, the above Best XI is not based just on the Combine performance, but also on their draft values according to my conversations with more than a dozen MLS coaches and GMs/technical directors. That is why Yohance Marshall is in there despite making mistakes on both Combine days. The tools are there and Marshall is certainly showing first-round talent, but he's made too many sloppy mistakes that have scouts wondering what the problem is.

Don't fret about the formation please, there just haven't been any true and impressive attacking midfielders so I used the above formation. Baggio Husidic has skill and maybe he gets in shape and becomes a good playmaker, but right now his stick is down. Graham Zusi is looking like a solid attacking midfield prospect but I'm not sure he's done enough to move into the first round. And yes, Lahoud looks much better in central midfield, so humor with me on his placement here.

Best XI- Draft Sleepers

—————Jordan Seabrook—————Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe———-

Josh Boateng———————————————————–Ryan Maxwell

——————–Jokull Elisabetarso——-Jean Alexandre———————-

David Hertel——–George John———–Darrius Barnes————–Evan Brown

———————————Steward Ceus—————————————–

Consider this the group of players who weren't considered first-rounders before the Combine but who I see having shown some things that will make scouts take a look at them when the draft rolls around. I was very impressed with John and Barnes, who along with Gonzalez, Marshall, Besler and Ogunbiyi give this draft a very solid top six central defenders.

Best XI-MLS Combine performance

———————-Chris Pontius———-Peri Marosevic—————————

Josh Boateng————————————————————-Ryan Maxwell

————————-Sam Cronin——–Michael Lahoud—————————-

David Hertel—–Babajide Ogunbiyi—–A.J. De La Garza————Oscar Castillo

————————————Stefan Frei——————————————-

Jordan Seabrook was tough to keep off this list because he has been very good. Same goes for Matt Besler, who just might be the No. 2 center back on some draft boards now. Ogunbiyi has definitely impressed but I'm still not sure if he's a first rounder. He could be this year's Yomby William. You might recall William as the big central defender who was arguably the best center back in last year's Combine. He wound up being the No. 23 pick in the draft by KC, but was waived early in the season and now plays for the Puerto Rico Islanders. To be fair to Ogunbiyi, he looks like a much better prospect than William and I can't help think some teams have moved him past Marshall on their draft boards.

I will offer my full Combine observations on Wednesday as well as the final Mock Draft, Version 5.0 so stay tuned for that. Also, be sure to check out the MLS Combine observations of MLS Draft guru Buzz Carrick over at 3rd Degree, as well as the in-depth analysis of college soccer expert Joe Mauceri over at Pro Player Pipeline.

For now, feel free to share your thoughts, observations AND QUESTIONS on the MLS Combine in the comments section below.


  1. What’s the word on Clapham at the moment? I’ve heard some people say he looks like an interesting late round pick as a linking midfielder.

  2. T Puzz, lookup up scaryice and blog and you might find something like that. Generally, Chicago, Dallas, and New England have stocked their rosters with good draft picks with only the occasional headscratcher (Leandro, Monteiro). Colorado does well, but they rarely have top picks. Teams without much success the last few years include DC and maybe RSL. But with GM/coaching changes, it’s only fair to go back however many years the new regime has been in power. KC and Chivas have had some good picks. Houston does well and rarely has a chance. Toronto has had so many picks and been hit or miss.

    Bob Bradley had some amazing years. In 2006, he traded down from the top pick to #5. Everyone said he wanted Movsisyian over Wynne but KC took Yuri at #4. We may never know, but Bradley got Klejstan at #5. In his next pick at #37 he got Bornstein. His 3 supplemental picks all went on to serious pro careers (Lawson Vaughn when healthy can start in MLS, Helm went to Portugal then Sweden, Spicer is playing in USL). What a year!

    I think Nicol was only an assistant in 2002 when NE got Twellman at #2 and Joseph at #14. But his career includes: 2003: #9 Noonan; 2004: #8 Dempsey & #58 Dorman; 2005: #9 Parkhurst, #21 Riley, and Larentowicz (late supplemental); 2006: took year off?; 2007: Thompson, Igwe, #48 Cristman; and 2008: Dube (supplemental). He’s also spent late picks on guys looking at Europe – Jeremiah White, Lochhead, Videira with it now panning out with Videira signing. I think it’s more that other teams caught up than Nicol & co slowed down but I’d argue that Nicol knows the ACC as well as anyone.

  3. IVES – I’m picking George John as the Sounders no. 2 pick. Do you he’s doing well enough to justify such a place? Or is he doing so well he might not even be around then? Which central defenders (converted or otherwise) do you see going before him?

  4. Is there any record of teams’ draft success over the last X years based on MLS games started/played? Which team is the best in the draft? The worst?

  5. Okay guys, the draft is important in the sense that A) it allows pro teams to see in person the players they have scouted, B) see those players playing against a higher level of competition and C) see some new faces who might just prove they are just as talented and might be worth a look. Nobody ever said the Combine was the end-all, be-all for teams and their evaluation of the draft, but it is a useful tool.

    What some people need to realize about this year’s draft is that it has considerably more talent than last year and more than the 2007 draft. Nobody is saying we’re going to find stars here, but players with good pro tools who can play in MLS are in this draft, more than there have been in the past two years.

    I’ll say this. It is a good year to have a handful of first and second round picks. If you’re a team that has scouted well that is.

    As for De La Garza, he looks really good but he’s just too short and small for the pro game and would get eaten alive by the better forwards in the league. That said, he’s got talent and he’s a player who I see finding a career in MLS as a right back.

    Maduro has been decent but hasn’t really stood out for me. His hair, on the other hand, surely has.

  6. josh boateng is awesome. He went to my school (Liberty). I watched him play a couple times, and he got it man. He will make in the mls.

  7. How important is the combine? It’s a matter of perspective and a tough question. At least 10 guys are already signed. For them the combine is sometimes not much more than a contractual obligation. The difference in quality between MLS teams being small means it’s not like trying to get on ManU vs Stoke City. 5-10 guys will play themselves out of any chance of getting drafted or getting preseason invites to MLS camps. 5-10 guys will play themselves into being drafted and thus get a guaranteed invite to a preseason camp. These guys are generally well known (if not well scouted) so it’ll be rare for a MLS combine to find a player that wouldn’t have worked his way up the pro system otherwise. But it is rather important in deciding which players attend which MLS preseason camps.

    de la Garza is well known but has many confused as to how as a centerback at 5’8″ he’ll transition to the pro game. I didn’t see much potential in him as a sophmore, but as a senior at Maryland, it is evident that there’s something there. It’s just hard to project him to a pro position. It’s probably unfortunate bias, but few get excited over 5-8 centerbacks.

  8. every time you post a lineup, it never is formatted correctly for me, in either safari or firefox… do other people have this problem?

  9. Every report I’ve read from the combine has rated De La Garza really high. Is he a legit MLS player Ives, and why did we never hear about him before?

  10. Hey Ives, Still trying to wrap my head around how important (or not) the MLS Combine is.
    Could you do a Best XI of players who had a great Combine, got drafted high, and actually panned out?
    Or any other way to describe how important (or not) this Combine is to actually finding a player who can play in the MLS.
    Thanks man.

  11. Anyone know if/why Michael Fucito (Harvard) isn’t showing? He was on the combine list originally but haven’t seen his name since.


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