MLS Combine: Day One Rewind

Sam Cronin 1 (ISIphotos.com)

                                                  Photo by ISIphotos.com

by GIANFRANCO PANIZO

The first day of the MLS Combine had its highlights and lowlights, but while some of the MLS draft's top prospects struggled pretty badly, there were also players who helped increase their stock.

Steve Zakuani showed flashes that tell us why he's projected to be the top pick in the draft, and Sam Cronin (pictured) definitely showed why teams are raving about him, but Omar Gonzalez, Baggio Husidic and Rodney Wallace left observers wondering if they are as bad as their showings would suggest.

Here is a recap of Saturday's MLS Combine games along with lists of who stood out and who struggled in day one:


Game 1 (adiTunit vs. Predator PowerServe)

Goals from Chris Pontius and Peri Marosevic helped the adiTunit squad knock off the more highly-regarded Predator PowerServe squad. Pontius pounced on a Yohance Marshall blunder to blast home a 20-yard shot that left observers impressed. Marosevic added his second when he tapped home a headed pass from Santa Clara defender Babajide Ogunbiyi.

Zakuani came on as a second-half sub and impressed in flashes, but he looked tired, which made sense considering he just flew in from St. Louis on Saturday morning after Friday night's Hermann Award presentation.

Cal goalkeeper Stefan Frei made one quality save and several other stops he made look pretty easy in posting a shutout and keeping his hold on the title of best goalkeeper in the draft.

Here is a rundown of who looked good and who didn't:

Players who impressed

Sam Cronin- The guy is just plain good. He's the best midfielder in the draft and showed why. Steady on the ball, a sharp passer and has some bite as well.

Babajide Ogunbiyi- A big boy at 6-4 and 212, Ogunbiyi won everything in the air, never got beat and even set up a goal. As far as MLS-ready central defenders, he looked the most like one on Saturday.

Stefan Frei- You know a goalkeeper is good when he impresses in a game where he didn't have much to do. Makes things look easy, has great hands and kicks the heck out of the ball.

A.J. De La Garza- Impressed all day. He's very quick, reads the game extremely well, is tough and aggressive. Actually, the only thing you can say is he's just too short to play center back in MLS. He could make a very good fullback though.

Kyle Patterson- A right winger by trade, this guy did most of his damage cutting into the middle and going at the defense. Didn't hit any good crosses but he was active and aggressive and showed good skill.

Steve Zakuani- Didn't play that much, but when he did he showed good flashes on a pair of plays that left coaches impressed. Only player to have some true WOW moments. 

Chris Pontius- His goal came on a very bad defensive blunder but he still managed to hit a beautiful shot from 20 yards out. Established himself as the best forward in the draft after Zakuani.

Oscar Castillo- He's short and a little stocky, but this guy was VERY tough at right back, outplaying Rodney Wallace most of the day. Probably still a late-round pick, but he helped himself on Saturday.

Peri Marosevic- Strong kid who held the ball up well and was very active. Not the fastest, but he's a smart player and strong player.

Brandon Barklage- Had some good flashes, and more importantly, showed a good left foot, which there aren't many off here.


Players who struggled

Omar Gonzalez- This guy looks VERY slow. Yes, he's big as can be, but I can't help but think he will get torched in MLS.

Yohance Marshall- Was playing well before his awful mistake on Pontius' goal, which came when he just stumbled under no pressure and left the ball for Pontius to take on goal. Too many turnovers.

Lyle Adams- Very tall for a fullback, he's fast and didn't get beat but he's not a left back. Has a weaker left foot that you would expect, which is definitely hurting his stock.

Quincy Amarikwa- Better in the first half than the second half, but not he's not fast enough to beat people and I don't see him doing much on the next level.

Rodney Wallace- This kid looked lost in the first half playing in left midfield. When he moved to left back in the second half he was better, but still didn't show high first-round ability.

Andrei Gotsmanov- He just didn't impress me much. Didn't seem too interested in going at people. He looked content to hit long balls, which weren't that bad, but I'm not sure he stood out.

Akeem Priestley- Probably shouldn't be on this list, but for someone who's supposed to be an attacking midfielder he didn't generate much attack. He can hold the ball, is pretty strong, but didn't show much creativity.

Matt Poole- Tough kid, won plenty of tackles, but he is slow and looks heavy. Just doesn't look like an MLS player really.

Game 2 (adiPure vs. adidas Tiro)

Jordan Seabrooks finished off the only goal of the match, taking a perfect long pass from Jokul Elisabetarson and chipping a shot past the goalkeeper to give adiPure a 1-0 win on the second match on Saturday.

I can't say there was that much impressing action in this match. Not a ton of scoring chances, but some players did manage to stand out.

Players who impressed

Jordan Seabrook- Best attacking player in second game. Has good speed and

George John- No central defender was better on the ball today than John, who has great size and looked composed throughout. He was mainly a midfielder in college but at 6-3, he's going to be a good centerback and his stock definitely went up.

Michael Lahoud- Steady in central midfield, he covers a lot of ground quickly and reads the game well. Can really get forward quickly at times.

Jokul Elisabartson- Defensive midfielder who delivered some good passes and controlled things in the middle. He needs a nickname though, that name is too long.

Matt Besler- A polished central defender, he was steady all day and looks like someone who should be creeping up draft boards.

Jack Traynor- On a day when left backs were disappointing in general, Traynor's steady performance stood out. Didn't blow people away, but he's a natural in that position, something rare here.

Darrius Barnes- Athletic central defender who looked a step faster than the other central defenders today.

Evan Brown- Another fullback who did pretty well. He's always looking to get forward and stays in position well. A promising player.

David Hertel- Surprise of the second game. A very agressive fullback who got forward quite a bit. On a day when many fullbacks disappointed, Hertel helped his stock quite a bit.

Kevin Alston- struggled in the first half at left back, but when he went to his natural right back, he showed his class and why he's a projected high first-round pick.

Players who struggled

Baggio Husidic- Wow, this guy looked slow. You can see the skill, but he is definitely carrying some extra weight.

Jeremy Hall- Disappointing day. He just didn't do much and wasted the one good chance he did find. Did not live up to his reputation at all, but it's onlyday one.

Calum Angus- He's not on this list for his play because, to be fair, he was a very good central defender, but he didn't look like someone who will play fullback on the pro level. He looks a bit heavy and seems better suited for central defense.

Daniel Cruz- Ran up and down the right wing but didn't get any good crosses off and just didn't have much of an impact. I know he's young but I doubt scouts came away impressed.

Graham Zusi- Didn't have much of an impact today. Wasn't the difference-maker you saw at College Cup. It's not long he was terrible, just didn't get too involved. 

That's all for now. Feel free to share your thoughts (and even ask some questions) on the first day of the Combine in the comments section below.

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20 Responses to MLS Combine: Day One Rewind

  1. Aljarov says:

    It’s interesting to read how you, Buzz and Sean all seemed to take different things away from the first day. Just shows how subjective a process scouting is….not that we didn’t already know that.

  2. Carl says:

    Seems like it would be tuff to just throw some teams together and really try and get a feel for who are the best players in that type of situation…??

  3. the scout says:

    Read 3rd degree and this blog, and you quickly understand what a complete waste of time the Combine is.

    If you’ve ever been, you know the coaches spend 90% of their time discussing current MLS players, not the dross that are scrimmaging.

  4. J says:

    There seem to be a few trends across all the reports. Players who have gotten good reports that weren’t projected to be first round picks:

    Jordan Seabrook

    A.J. De La Garza

    Babajide Ogunbiyi

    George John

    Michael Lahoud

    Matt Besler

    Kyle Patterson

    I could see a few of them creeping up to the firs round while a few of the GAs (Cruz, Husudic, Marosevic) go the other way. However, I doubt that poor combine results will knock the other GAs out of the top ten players selected.

  5. Eric says:

    Good to see Darrius seemed to be showing his ability well. I think he’ll surprise some people in MLS.

  6. Blake says:

    Seabrook is a speed demon with GREAT positioning. I hope he succeeds in MLS.

  7. Zach says:

    La galaxy and Bruce, please dont leave Sam Cronin. He’s exactly what LA needs at defensive midfiled. Just pick him and i know u never know bout rookies but there is nothing to loose and all to gain.

  8. Jags98 says:

    I thought Daniel Revivo (Winthrop) had a good showing both days, better on the first @ outside rt. midfield than playing up top today. Ryan Maxwell (Tampa) was dangerous in the first half out on the wing. Gave them trouble, took people on to beat them into the corner, and getting some good crosses in. A little surprised with the fitness level of some players. Looks like they havent done a thing over the break.

  9. Steve says:

    I was there myself on Saturday. I would agree with Ives opnions for the most part. The 2 players that really stood out above all others were Michael Lahoud and AJ Delagarza.

    Lahoud looks ready to start for any team right now. Covers a lot of ground, shows for the ball constantly, works to win it, distributes well, extremely composed, etc.

    Delagarza looked very good in the back. He is short though. It was never really a hinderance for him in college and it wasn’t at all yesterday, but I can very well see why coaches would be concerend. He was clearly the best defender out there though.

    Some other things:

    -Gonzalez looked really sluggish and quite frankly slow.

    -George John was classy, calm, cool, and collected.

    -Baggio Husidic did not impress at all.

    -Totally agree with Ives on Angus.

    -I think Jeremy Hall played well when he was on the left, but not on the right.

    -Seabrook was impressive to me. (Former US Youther)

    -I didn’t think Wallace was that bad actually.

    -Keum Sung Kim was a major surprise for me. He seemed very nifty playing LW.

  10. Jags98 says:

    Steve, I agree with Ives & you. I thought the same about Keum Sung Kim on the LW.

  11. Eugene says:

    Steve, Jags98 did you guys notice Ives didn’t write this article?

  12. Jags98 says:

    No, I didnt notice that.

  13. Ives says:

    Listen guys, the players noted above were guys GianFranco and I came to a consensus on so I agree with the above comments on all the players.

    Terp, Gonzalez did have a bad first day. No two days about it. Anybody who came away from day one saying he played well must have confused him with somebody else. Talking to several personnel people afterwards one constant theme was just how slow and sluggish he looked.

    Now, Gonzalez came out on Sunday and played very well, showing more of the player he is supposed to be. He is going to be a high pick regardless but there are definitely two opposing camps when it comes to Gonzalez. There are the teams that think he is challenged in terms of quickness and will struggle, and there are those who rate him and think he could be an all-star down the road. I was leaning toward the “He will struggle camp” but today he brought be back to the middle.

  14. Wiz Kid says:

    I believe Buzz more…

  15. Eugene says:

    Ives,

    Looking at your/Gianfranco’s notes, Buzz’s notes and Sean Keay’s notes there only appears to be a few players where there is consensus that the guy is good and ready for MLS.

    Are there any guys here that you think, with a full pre-season, could potentially start on an MLS side on day 1 against opposition like Chris Rolfe or Chad Marshall?

    Seems like the consensus is:

    Sam Cronin

    AJ Delagarza

    Chris Pontius

    George John

    Jide Ogunbiyi

    but would these guys perform as well in MLS or have a shot of displacing a current starter?

    Also, of the players that you didn’t think stood out, could any of them be stand outs at another position that wasn’t tried on Sat or Sun?

  16. Justin O says:

    Wiz Kid – It’s not a contest. The more different opinions the better. There will different opinions amongst the coaching staffs, and even within coaching staffs. It’s not a matter of picking the person you believe.

  17. Paul says:

    I understand that everyone wants to be “the guy” that has the crystal ball, I get that. But before anyone gets too far ahead of themselves, remember this is day one of an off-season combine (I’d actually bet that the 5 “most promising” players, as judged from yesterday, will not be the best 5 rookies come November).

  18. Eugene says:

    I’m just wondering if there is anyone to get out of this draft at all. By the descriptions posted, most of these guys aren’t ready to play pro, although maybe get some sub minutes as they develop.

    The guys I pointed out were the ones where there was some consensus that the person could play, had composure, had some good skills. There only seemed to be a handful and these kids are being tested against each other, not against MLS-level players.

  19. lasoccer says:

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

  20. Steve says:

    Eugene,

    I have been going to this combine every year and to be honest there aren’t too many players that come to mind that have stood out to me during the combine. The only two players that I can recall that really stood out from the others were Taylor Twellman and Demarcus Beasley(at 17y/o).

    Now those two players have become stars in terms of MLS standards. Basically, this combine is actually very difficult to guage talent. It’s three games in 3-4 days after, for some, being off for 1-2 months.

    I think more than anything it’s an opportunity for coaches and GM’s to do the “eyeball” test and to interview the players that they are potentially interested in.