Photo by ISIphotos.com
by GIANFRANCO PANIZO
That's it, that's all. All the (potential) future MLS players have made their cases and now just have to sit back and wait to see if their number is called.
With just one more day to go before the MLS draft commences I want to share my final thoughts on the players that impressed the most. With how things shaped up over the past four days at the MLS Combine, I wouldn't be shocked to see a few "surprise picks" tomorrow. With that said, I'm going to do a recap of the top performers from this year's Combine.
Now this list is not a most talented list nor is it the guys who I think will get picked first. Plain and simple, this is just who I believe to have been the top overall performers at the Combine. Whether they get drafted high, low or at all is up for discussion but here's who I saw as the best performers:
5. Oscar Castillo, D, Connecticut
He might not be as prolific as some of the other guys on the list but this fullback had himself quite the Combine. Although short, the stocky defender showed his toughness from the opening minutes of his first match. He was switched between the RB and LB spot and showed well at both positions. Castillo's first two games were near flawless as he broke up play after play and even got forward to send in some crosses. He could've been higher on this list had his final game been slightly better. Not saying his last game was bad. On the contrary, he defended well. It just wasn't up to par with the first two days.
4. Kevin Alston, D, Indiana
After a dismal first half on opening day at the Combine in which he played left back, Alston bounced back with a solid performance in the second half, at his natural RB position, and never looked back. His second and third days were much better from start to finish as he spent more time at RB. He showed off his great pace and got forward well. Day three was where he stood out the most. and that's not surprising as he himself said he was shaking off the rust with each passing game.
"I think the first day I was trying to shake off the cob webs and get use to this heat and get back into things," said the fullback. "I think once (the team) got past that, the play was consistently decent."
3. Sam Cronin, M, Wake Forest
Showed why so many call him the only "MLS-ready" player in this year's draft. Cronin displayed a wide variety of abilities at the Combine ranging from taking corner kicks to his defensive positioning. In all three matches he was one of best (if not the best) on his team. Though he wasn't perfect, Cronin rarely made mistakes and he appears ready to live up to the hype.
2. Peri Marosevic, F, Michigan
The leading goal-scorer of the Combine. He definitely stood out above the rest of the crop of forwards as he scored in all three games. But it wasn't just his scoring that got him on this list, his combination play improved with each passing day and his never give-up attitude was impressive. He showed good strength on the ball and did a lot of hustling and defending, more than expected out of a forward.
When asked if he had heard that his style of play resembles that of Jaime Moreno's, the forward replied humbly.
"It's kind of hard to be compared to Moreno. That's definitely an honor if somebody compares me to him because he is a legend in (MLS)," said Marosevic. "It's definitely an honor to be compared to him. But yeah, I like to get the ball to my feet, try to turn and go at defenders. My movement is what gets me more into the attack."
That it did as not only did he score on the final day of play but he also tallied an assist. At 19-years-old Marosevic has a bright future ahead of him.
1. AJ de la Garza, D, Maryland
I don't know how anyone could make a case against AJ de la Garza being one of the best players at this year's Combine. His speed, defensive skill, reading of the game and passing were all impressive and on display from the get-go. Though he was playing (and playing well) at center back on Day 1 and Day 2 it was obvious that this defender's future lies out wide.
On Day 3, after some MLS coaches asked for a change, the Terrapin was positioned at right back. For someone who had not played the position in quite some time, he looked very impressive and felt at ease with his new role.
"I was really young when I first played there. It was different. I thought I did pretty well. I kept the ball and I tried to get forward as much as I can," said the 5-foot 8-inch player.
When asked after his final game on how he felt about being considered one of the better players throughout the Combine, de la Garza stated that it was part of his mission for the weekend.
"I came out here this weekend wanting to be consistent, be one of the best players"
De la Garza was easily the most consistent performer this weekend and looks to be a promising left/right back for whoever selects him tomorrow.
What do you think of this list? Agree? Disagree? Wondering why some of your favorite college players didn't make the list?
Share any questions, thoughts or comments below.