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And down the stretch they come.
We are exactly a week away from the 2009 MLS Draft and this weekend all 15 MLS teams will be in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to watch the MLS Combine and make their final judgments on a strong and deep draft class.
With Marcus Tracy on his way to Denmark, and Mike Grella looking to follow him to Europe, the crop of forwards has been weakened considerably, but the overall draft is still deep with talent and the first round should offer great entertainment as teams wheel and deal to move up into prime position to grab one of the handful of top Generation adidas players.
Not all the hot commodities are underclassmen though. Wake Forest senior Sam Cronin (pictured) has caught the attention of multiple teams interested in moving up to take him. Several clubs see him as the most MLS-ready player in the draft and all you need to do is look at the teams needing defensive midfielders to know the teams hot on his trail.
Another player whose stock is high heading into the Combine is goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who is being tabbed as a future star.
As you might recall, I was going to do a two-round mock draft this time around. Those plans have changed and I will stick to the first-round format for now. The final mock draft before the actual draft, which will run on Wednesday, will include two-rounds. I will also run my final position rankings on Wednesday as well.
For now, here is the latest SBI MLS Mock Draft:
2009 SBI MLS Mock Draft (version 4.0)
1. Seattle Sounders- Steve Zakuani, F, Akron
The absence of Marcus Tracy from the draft suddenly makes this pick all the more likely. We've had Zakuani No. 1 for three straight mock drafts and there is no reason to believe he won't be taken here. Now, if he has a shocker of a Combine Sigi Schmid might have to reconsider, but the money is on Zakuani.
2. Toronto FC- Omar Gonzalez, D, Maryland
Let me say it for those of you who haven't been following along: Toronto FC will NOT be keeping this pick. TFC will trade the pick and odds are that the team they deal with will take Gonzalez. FC Dallas is the favorite to trade up to this spot.
3. Los Angeles Galaxy- Sam Cronin, M, Wake Forest
The biggest mover in this mock draft is Cronin, who several teams are very high on. The growing consensus is that Cronin is the player most ready to step right in and start in MLS. The Galaxy need a defensive midfielder and Cronin is as polished a deep-lying midfielder as you'll find coming out of college. LA needs to clear cap space but it will be worth Cronin's salary to have him ready to step in, as opposed to selecting another player who might not be ready from day one.
4. Toronto- Rodney Wallace, D, Maryland
You know that message at No. 2? It applies here as well. TFC will be dealing this pick and the two most coveted players at this point are Wallace and Cal goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who several teams are extremely high on.
5. FC Dallas- Jeremy Hall, M, Maryland
The Hoops have been feverishly searching for a left midfielder and have approached multiple teams about veteran options on the flank. If they cannot find a veteran before the draft look for Schellas Hyndman to grab Hall, a left winger who can play on either side and who boasts good speed and a surprising goal-scoring touch.
6. D.C. United-Kevin Alston, D, Indiana
D.C. will be pleased as can be if Alston falls to them. With contract discussions with right back Bryan Namoff at a standstill, United could land a cheaper and more athletic alternative who also happens to be from the area. He doesn't boast Wallace's upside, but Alston has the tools to be a very good pro.
7. D.C. United- Michael Lahoud, M, Wake Forest
With no standout central defenders available here, look for D.C. to grab the speedy and versatile Lahoud, who has shown an ability to play on the left flank as well as in a defensive midfield role. D.C. needs to add some speed in midfield and Lahoud is just the player to provide it. Do not be surprised to see D.C. grab Frei. Yes, they have Crayton and re-signed Zach Wells, but Frei is a special talent D.C. might not be able to pass on.
8. Kansas City- Baggio Husidic, M, Illinois-Chicago
The Wizards need a midfielder who can create and provide a real threat out of the middle. While they are still interested in bringing back Claudio Lopez he is not getting any younger. Enter Husidic, who boasts an impressive combination of size and a deft passing touch. There are concerns about him being able to cope at the next level, so the Combine will be key for Husidic.
9. Chivas USA- Stefan Frei, GK, California
Do not be surprised to see Frei go higher, much higher. There are teams that rate the 6-foot-3 shot stopper as one of the best goalkeepers to come out of college in years, with some even saying he has more potential at this point in his career than Brad Guzan had.
10. New England- Peri Marosevic, F, Michigan
The Revs clearly need help in central defense, but with a group of centerbacks still available, and the Revs holding another first-round pick, they grab the best young attacking prospect available in Marosevic. A tough and strong forward in the mold of an Alejandro Moreno, Marosevic could develop into the perfect partner for Taylor Twellman, and potentially a replacement for him if Twellman ever leaves.
11. FC Dallas- Yohance Marshall, D, South Florida
Let's be clear here. We still see FC Dallas winding up with No. 2 and taking Gonzalez. If not, and if this drat scenario played out, the Hoops would grab the best center back available, which most MLS folks believe is Marshall, a strong and athletic college senior with four years experience as a starter.
12. Real Salt Lake- Daniel Cruz, M, UNLV
If there is one position RSL lacks more than most it is a right-sided player and Cruz projects to be a tough righting winger. The youngest player in the draft, Cruz is still considered one of the most physically gifted. A strong and fit player who can find the net on his own as well as deliver good crosses in, Cruz can also be used up top if needed.
13. Toronto- O’Brian White, F, UConn
This pick isn't the foregone conclusion it seemed a few weeks ago. No, not because Toronto doesn't want him, but because there are other teams that covet White (D.C. United and RSL to name two). TFC might be tempted land a higher pick (after dealing away 2 and 4 that is) in order to secure White's services, or Toronto can gamble that teams will be too scared by White's recovery from knee surgery to spend a Top 12 pick on him.
14. New York- Lyle Adams, D, Wake Forest
In an ideal world, the Red Bulls would prefer to trade up to grab Rodney Wallace, but with that very unlikely, the Red Bulls would do well to grab Adams as a consolation prize. A speedy left back who can also get forward into the attack, Adams is just the type of overlapping fullback Juan Carlos Osorio is looking for. The Red Bulls could also go for a forward, like Chris Pontius.
15. New England- Calum Angus, D, St. Louis
The Revs need to replace Michael Parkhurst, a smallish but skillful central defender, and could have his replacement in Angus. While Angus projects more as a right back on the pro level, he did play well as a central defender in college and Steve Nicol just might see him as a player he can mold into a starting central defender. Another possibility is the Revs could draft Indiana midfielder Brad Ring and work toward moving Jeff Larentowicz into central defense.
MLS Draft Best XI (Version 3.0)
———-Peri Marosevic———Steve Zakuani————-
Jeremy Hall—————————————-Daniel Cruz
Rodney Wallace———————————Kevin Alston
————Omar Gonzalez—-Yohance Marshall———–
What do you think of the new mock draft? Still don't think Zakuani will be the first pick? Have a hard time seeing LA grab Cronin at No. 3? Happy with who your team landed?
Share your thoughts below.