By IVES GALARCEP
The 2015 MLS Draft may not boast star power or the type of top-level prospects that headlined previous drafts, but what this draft does feature is plenty of depth at some key positions.
Central defender and left back are two spots where teams needing help will be able to find a variety of options, while central midfield prospects are also in abundance.
The Final SBI MLS Draft Big Board takes into account every players college season, as well as their performances at the recent MLS Combine. We have spoken with dozens of coaches and team officials to get a sense of how this year’s prospects stack up, and our final Big Board is what we believe is the best way to gage what the consensus is on the players available.
Does that mean we might not see a team reach for a player much higher than most would have expected? Of course not, but our final Big Board will give you a good sense of the pick range where most players are likely to go.
Now, without further ado, here is the final SBI 2015 MLS Draft Big Board:
SBI 2015 MLS Draft Big Board (Version 5.0)
(@-Generation adidas players, $-MLS Senior Contract)
1- CYLE LARIN @, Forward, UConn (BIO)
Teenage Canadian striker is highly coveted, boasting the tools and potential to be an impact player on the pro level. Already has Canadian national team experience and is a lock top two pick.
2- CRISTIAN ROLDAN @, Midfielder, Washington (BIO)
Skilled central midfielder with excellent vision and a good motor. Would be a longer-term project, and not all teams convinced he’s ready for the next level yet, or that he has a set position to play in the pros. NYCFC is expected to take him at No. 2, but if not, Roldan could slide a bit in this draft.
3- KHIRY SHELTON $, Forward, Oregon State (BIO)
Strong and skilled forward with the pace and technical quality to play as a striker or winger, Shelton can dazzle at times, but also frustrate at times with poor finishing. Some teams absolutely love him as one of the top talents in the draft, while others aren’t convinced he will ever be the finished product.
4-ROMARIO WILLIAMS @, Forward, Central Florida (BIO)
Fast Jamaican forward was a bit of a surprise Generation adidas target, but teams like his potential and track record of Jamaican forwards in the MLS Draft in recent years helps his stock. Size-speed combination and fearlessness make him a safe bet for the top of the draft.
5- ALEX BONO @, Goalkeeper, Syracuse (BIO)
Best available goalkeeper in the draft pool, the 6-foot-3 shot stopper is the top goalkeeping prospect in a good crop of netminders. His recent U.S. Men’s National Team call-up won’t hurt his stock.
5- NICK BESLER $, Central Midfielder, Notre Dame (BIO)
Matt Besler’s younger brother is a smart central midfielder who reads the game well and has the kind of poise on the ball and intelligence pro coaches love. Has signed an MLS senior contract.
7- OTIS EARLE $, Left Back, UC Riverside (BIO)
The son of NBC analyst Robbie Earle is a very talented fullback with the skill set to be one of the first defenders off the board. Has edged past Andy Thoma as the top let back in the draft, though some teams still rate Thoma higher. Has signed an MLS senior contract.
8- DZENAN CATIC, Forward, Davenport (NAIA) (BIO)
Tall, mobile, good with both feet and isn’t afraid to shoot the ball. Combines well with teammates and boosted his stock as much as anybody at the MLS Combine. Looks capable of contributing to an attack in year one, which isn’t something that can be said for many players in this draft.
9- TIM PARKER, Central Defender, St. John’s (BIO)
Tough and strong central defender who has the attributes to transition well to the pro game. A four-year starter at St. John’s, Parker is a 6-foot-2 centerback who is seen as a safer prospect than some others with more upside but more question marks. Posted some impressive numbers in pre-Combine physical testing, and actually tested as the fastest central defender.
10- ANDY THOMA $, Left Back, Washington (BIO)
Thoma is a quick left back who provides good service. Has not had the strongest combine, but remains a player who should be one of the first defenders taken. Has signed an MLS senior contract.
11- FATAI ALASHE $, Defensive Midfielder, Michigan State (BIO)
Another player with the characteristics to contribute as a rookie, Alashe covers ground in midfield well, is strong on the ball and passes well from deep in midfield. Missed the first two Combine days with an injury.
12- CONOR DONOVAN @, Central Defender, North Carolina State (BIO)
A long-time youth national team player who is now a part of the U.S. Under-20 national team setup. The 6-foot-2 centerback is only 19, but his work with the U-20s helped boost his stock and could help him go in the top half of the first round of the draft.
13- CONNOR HALLISEY $, Left Winger, California (BIO)
Best (and some would say only) left winger in the draft, Hallisey has shown an excellent left foot and good service from the flank.
14- MIGUEL AGUILAR, Forward, San Francisco (BIO)
Mobile, tenacious with good instincts in the attacking third, Aguilar would likely be a first-round lock if not for his international status. Has first-round talent, and a team with available international slots could grab him early.
15- DAN METZGER $, Defensive Midfielder, Maryland (BIO)
Tough and intelligent midfielder who heads into the draft with the polish of four years starting for one of college soccer’s top programs. Looked good on the first day of the Combine, but picked up a knock that forced him to miss day two. Has signed an MLS senior contract.
16- AXEL SJOBERG, Central Defender, Marquette (BIO)
A 6-foot-7 Swedish central defender, Sjoberg moves very well for his size and makes full use of his imposing height on set pieces. Some teams love him, but some teams think he’s too slow. He is a graduating junior, but turns 24 on MLS opening day, so he isn’t exactly young.
17- LEO STOLZ, Central Midfielder, UCLA (BIO)
Could be as high as a top five player on this board if not for uncertainty about his plans to play in MLS, but sources tell SBI he has reached out to MLS teams that he is interested in playing for.
18- AKEIL BARRETT, Right Winger/Forward, Tulsa (BIO)
Exciting attacking player who boasts speed and the ability to take defenders on with a variety of moves. He can create his own shot, and also pass well.
19- OUMAR BALLO, Central Defender, UMBC (BIO)
Turned heads at the Combine with better technical quality than he had shown in the past. Even had a successful turn at right back. Edged ahead of some other central defenders who didn’t fare as well through the Combine’s first two days.
20- ERIC BIRD, Central Midfielder, Virginia (BIO)
The NCAA champion has missed the Combine through injury, but being absent hasn’t necessarily hurt his stock. Especially with several central defensive midfielders being hurt. Has good skill and passing vision, but questions remain about whether he has the motor and quality to thrive as a pro.
21- IGNACIO MAGANTO, Attacking midfielder/Forward, Iona (BIO)
Highly-skilled Spanish midfielder really impressed scouts with his technical ability, vision and mobility. His international status hurts his stock a bit, but enough teams like him to see him slip into the first round.
22- AARON SIMMONS, Central Defender/Defensive Midfielder, UCLA (BIO)
Athletic central defender who has shown well at the Combine. Not everybody is convinced he has the technical qualities to excel as a pro, but enough teams rate him to consider him a good candidate to be taken in the first round.
23- MATT POLSTER, Defensive Midfielder, SIU-Edwardsville (BIO)
Really turned heads at the Combine with his two-way ability in central midfield. Tenacious and tough on the tackle, but also good in transition and in the attack. A sleeper heading into the MLS Combine, Polster has impressed enough scouts to push toward a possible first-round place.
24- ANDY CRAVEN $, Forward, North Carolina (BIO)
Fast forward with a good frame, good feet and intelligence that has scouts impressed enough to earn him an MLS senior contract. Not everyone seems him developing into a starting caliber forward though, which could keep him out of the first round.
25- RAMON MARTIN DEL CAMPO, Defender, UC-Davis (BIO)
Entered the draft rated extremely highly, but saw his stock dip after two rough first days. Rebounded on day three at the Combine, and impressed coaches with his toughness, size and leadership qualities. Still could slip out of the first round given the number of good central defenders there are, but he has the make-up of someone who could have a long pro career.
26- ZACH STEINBERGER, Forward, Butler (BIO)
Quietly impressed at the Combine with a tireless motor, good feel for timing in the attack and effective play in the final third. Small school player is no stranger to those who saw him excel in PDL, but the Combine has led some teams to rate him as high as a first-round grade.
27- CONNOR BRANDT, Left Back, San Diego (BIO)
A converted winger who has looked like a natural at left back, Brandt has been the most impressive fullback at the Combine. Is fast and has good technical qualities, but there are some concerns about how good a defender he is.
28- SERGIO CAMPBELL, Central Defender, UConn (BIO)
Endured a disappointing senior season that hurt his stock, but came into the MLS Combine on a mission to impress and he did that with his toughness, strength and athleticism in a 6-foot-3 frame.
29- DANIEL KELLER, Central Defender, Louisville (BIO)
In a draft filled with big and physical central defenders, Keller is the more technical and cerebral option for teams looking for finesse in the back.
30- ANTHONY MANNING, Central Defender, Saint Louis (BIO)
One of the bigger centerbacks available at 6-foot-4, Manning has the size, but isn’t quite as dynamic or quick as some of the other big bodies available.
31-BOYD OKWUONU $, Right Back, North Carolina (BIO)
32- SAGI LEV-ARI, Forward, Cal-State Northridge (BIO)
33- ONIEL FISHER, Right Back, New Mexico (BIO)
34- ANDREW WOLVERTON, Goalkeeper, Penn State (BIO)
35- LUKE MISHU, Right Back, Notre Dame (BIO)
36- CAMERON PORTER, Forward, Princeton (BIO)
37- SPENCER RICHEY, Goalkeeper, Washington (BIO)
38- TYLER MILLER, Goalkeeper, Northwestern (BIO)
39- ROBBIE LOVEJOY, Forward/Midfielder, North Carolina (BIO)
40- WES CHARPIE, Right Back, South Florida (BIO)
41- JAMES ROGERS, Right Winger, New Mexico (BIO)
42- SAAD ABDUL-SALAAM, Right Back, Akron (BIO)
43- JOSE RIBAS, Left Back, Creighton (BIO)
44- CAMERON IWASA, Forward, UC-Irvine (BIO)
45- JAINEIL HOILETT, Forward/Midfielder, Youth International
46- SAL BERNAL, Forward, UNLV (BIO)
47- SKYLER THOMAS, Central Defender, Syracuse (BIO)
48- TYLER ARNONE, Central Midfielder, Michigan (BIO)
49-STEFANO BONOMO, Forward, California (BIO)
50- JORDAN MURRELL, Left Back, Syracuse (BIO)
51- ANDREW BEVIN, Forward, West Virginia (BIO)
51- SETH CASIPLE, Midfielder, California (BIO)
52- EMEKA ONYONYE, Central Defender, Wright State (BIO)
53- CRAIG NITTI, Central Defender, Loyola Marymount (BIO)
54- MARC FENELUS, Forward, Cal-State Fullerton (BIO)
55- SHAWN MCLAWS, Right Back, Coastal Carolina (BIO)
56- TYLER ENGEL, Forward, North Carolina (BIO)
57-WILL SEYMORE, Central Defender, Oregon State (BIO)
58- ALEX SHINSKY, Forward, Maryland (BIO)
59- NICK MIELE, Central Defender, New Mexico (BIO)
60- ADRIA BESO MARCO, Midfielder, UConn (BIO)
61-NIKOLA PAUNIC, Central Defender, South Florida (BIO)
62- DUKE LACROIX, Forward/Winger, Penn (BIO)
63- MARQUEZ FERNANDEZ, Right Back, UMBC (BIO)
64- SIDNEY RIVERA, Old Dominion, Forward (BIO)
65- EARL EDWARDS, UCLA, Goalkeeper (BIO)
66- ZACH BATEER, Forward, Stanford (BIO)
67-FABIO MACHADO, Midfielder, Providence (BIO)
68- ADAM MONTAGUE, Forward, Michigan State
69- JOSEPH GREENSPAN, Central Defender, Navy
70- DOMINIQUE BADJI, Forward, Boston U.
71- ERIC OSSWALD, Goalkeeper, Xavier (BIO)
72-TOMAS GOMEZ, Goalkeeper, Georgetown
73- LAURIE BELL, Defender/Midfielder, Wisconsin-Milwaukee
74- RICKY GARBANZO, Forward, Coastal Carolina
75- CHRISTIAN VOLESKY, Forward, SIU Edwardsville