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2012 MLS Combine best and worst performers

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FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The 2012 MLS Combine has come to a close, but not before several players used the event to help their stock while others did not.

In a class dominated by attacking talent, several forwards and creative midfielders enjoyed strong combines, showcasing their goal-scoring and playmaking abilities. There were also some defenders and goalkeepers who enjoyed good combines, but much of the attention this year was made by the offensive players.

Here are some of the players who we here at SBI feel had strong and rough performances at the combine:


Luis Silva, midfielder, UCSB

Silva was arguably the best player throughout the three days of the combine. He showed off his creativity, vision and technical ability in each of the games he played, though Day 1 and 3 were his strongest. Silva also used his size well, which is a unique trait when compared to the other attacking midfielders in this class.

Luckymore Mkosana, forward, Dartmouth

Mkosana was one of the bright spots on Day 1, demonstrating the ability to play with his back to goal while also making dangerous runs at his defenders. Mkosana did not look as good as a lone striker on Day 2, but he went back to being an active part of his team's attack on Day 3, scoring a goal as part of a two-man front-line.

Andrew Duran, defender, Creighton

Arguably the best defender over the span of the combine, Duran was solid in the air and rarely, if ever, got beat his man. He also scored a goal on the final day, getting forward to knock in a pass from Creighton teammate Ethan Finlay.

Calum Mallace, midfielder, Marquette

The lanky Mallace was one the best central midfielders at the combine. He showed the ability to control the tempo of games, and capped off three good days of work with arguably the best goal of the combine on Tuesday, his 22nd birthday. Mallace received a pass from Luckymore Mkosana, dribbled away from a defender and ripped a shot that curled into the upper corner of the goal.

Evan James, forward, Charlotte 

James could be the darkhorse of this draft class. He played at a number of positions at the combine, including forward, outside midfielder and fullback, and showed fairly well at each of them. He scored two goals and had an assist in his three games.


Tyler Polak, defender, Creighton

The late Generation adidas signee struggled. Polak did not show off the skills that made him one of the top prospects in college soccer. Polak had an okay game on Day 3, but it was not enough to erase the underwhelming showings of the first two days. 

Colin Rolfe, forward, Louisville

Part of a class full of attacking talent, Rolfe did little to distinguish himself from the rest of the pack, which may be somewhat of a surprise considering his constant success at Louisville. He never really got going and did not find the back of the net over the course of the combine. Had it not been for the roster sheets, one may not have known that Rolfe was playing.

Dom Dwyer, forward, South Florida

Another late Generation adidas signee, Dwyer had a strong last day and an okay second day, but he did not really show the goal-scoring prowess which he demonstrated at South Florida. Dwyer was completely negated on Day 1, and although he scored a goal in his final match, he admitted he was not as prepared for the combine as he should have been.

Nick DeLeon, midfielder, Louisville

DeLeon did not make the noise one would have expected him to. He was average on Day 1 before picking up an injury, and he just was not able to show the qualities that made him so successful at Louisville.

Chris Estridge, defender, Indiana

Estridge simply did not have a good combine. He looked a bit out of sorts, and did not have much of anything go in his favor. He had his worst showing on Day 2 when he was matched up against Ethan Finlay, who torched the fullback en route to a hat-trick performance.


What do you think of SBI's list of good and bad performers? Agree/disagree? Who do you think helped their cause the most at the combine?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I’m not sure why Finlay doesn’t make the good list.
    And I’m not sure why Dwyer makes the bad list (there were plenty who did far worse).

  2. I think Tyler Polak will fall to red bull if they dont trade away their pick that is…whoever gets callum mallace is lucky, my shot in the dark at a possible candidate for rookie of the year depending which team he goes too. He could shine in LA’s system, but doubt he will fall that low in the draft.

  3. Unless they were on the field for Charlotte vs. UNC or played for the US youth teams, you don’t necessarily know how they would handle serious competition. You get everyone in one place and see what they are capable of against each other. I think it’s a much better proxy for a tough game than presuming a 6-0 demolishing of Winthrop or Houston Baptist was representative of something.

    The teams might be better if they had more practice and could more fully sort out formations and personnel, true. But I’m looking for individual players. In this context I think you actually want to see how the players adapt to the rawness. “If I throw X out in my midfield as a late sub, how’s he going to react?” Does he still stand out? Can he adapt to new situations?

    I think there is more potential unfairness in players perhaps showing up with different fitness levels, etc., than judging players by how they play.

    As far as whether the combine is helpful, I liked Plata from the highlights last year, and voila. And experience teaches that a lot of the pedigree picks at No. 1, some chosen more for CV than for combine quality (if they even show) will end up flopping. I’d kind of like to kick the tires a little…..for instance, Mattocks looks the real deal, for what of the combine he played. That likely won’t be the next flop. But if you get too cute it may be Steve Shak or Chris Carrieri.

  4. The main issue with this, however, is that this is not a real game scenario. Sure you have 11 v 11, but teamwork and knowledge of your teammates’ habits and strengths/weaknesses are so important in the sport that this set up can be very misleading. I would say that this approach will always favor attackers and 1v1 type players, and is exceedingly difficult for defenders and goalkeepers — which base most of their success on a single approach/mindset.

    Of course, the coaches and scouts know this, as well.. just throwing it out there.

  5. Amen. Finlay had a hat trick fresh off the plane from the Hermann awards, and he had a nice assist in the finale. I’d pick him over several GAs.

  6. If you pay attention to the draft, you see that teams dont just look at the combine. They watch real games, talk to coaches, etc…

    However, for reporters (and fans) this is one of the few time when all of these guys are in one place and are easy to cover. Also it is a chance to see some of the guys that play in mediocre conferences go up against real competition.

  7. The combine might give coaches a better picture as to how players, who might stand out in their regular matches, fair against an across-the-board higher caliber of competition.

  8. If they could get rid of the combine they certainly would. However, MLS staffs dont have the scounting infrastructure to see that many college players. They generally scout well locally and are at the biggest matches (NCAA final 4) but not much beyond that. Add in the lack of games on TV and you see why getting to see a few players in person and versus other quality players is very helpful. Its not much different than a short day trial players will have with clubs. Yeah its condensed, but you generally can tell who has the goods and who doesn’t.

  9. I find it so strange that there is a big opinion out there to minimize the college game, but then there really is this much onus put on the “combine”? Like soccer, of all sports, is easily measured by a compressed few days full of scrimmages with guys who have never played together?

    Obviously if they can play, they can play . . . and hopefully they get the chance. But the combine, more so than the draft or anything else, is the most americanized take on pro soccer.Doesn’t click for me.

  10. Billy, SBI gave Finlay props when he scored his hat trick. This is merely a list of 5 players who SBI believes helped (or hurt) themselves the most over the entire course of the combine.

  11. No love for Finlay? I just don’t get why SBI doesn’t rate him. Sure he doesn’t have the size to a target forward, but he’s quick, good on the ball, has an amazing work rate and was the best player for one of the best teams in the country all year long — and he scored three goals at the Combine! Any one who watched Creighton this year knew he was underrated going into the Combine.


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