MLS Combine’s Top performers

Sam Cronin 1 (ISIphotos.com) 

                                            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.

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15 Responses to MLS Combine’s Top performers

  1. Jon says:

    As a UMD student I have watched aj for the last 4 years since he was a starting LB and then CB for the terps in his freshman year and i think he would be a HUGE addition for the redbulls, a team looking to upgrade their left and right backs

  2. TFC OZZ - Disgruntled TFC Fan says:

    Ives, why don’t you try using a picture of a different player, other than Cronin for posts involving the draft?? You fight for AJ De La Garza, and then put your third ranked player, although a damn good one, on the cover of the article (not to mention the fact that you’ve used this picture before).

    Spread the love Ives!

    haha I love your column!

  3. Ceez says:

    Thanks for the update Ives.

    I understand this top 5 is only those who IMPRESSED you the most but what about those who were consistently in the top 5 or 10 in your mock drafts? How did they fare? Any disappointments among that group (the top 5 or 10 in your mock drafts)?

  4. KingSnake says:

    The real story behind Landycakes’s german adventures:

    link to dirtytackle.net

  5. Villa Fan says:

    by GIANFRANCO PANIZO

  6. Villa Fan says:

    by GIANFRANCO PANIZO

    That is why “Ives” didn’t change the picture: )

  7. eric says:

    GianFranco – what’s your take on drafting based on the combine showing vs season? How much stock do you put in those 3 games?

  8. Anonymous says:

    i think the revs should try to pick up marosevic if he’s still around (though unikely) once our turn comes up

  9. GianFranco Panizo says:

    My take on the combine is this, the players who have stood out before the combine will most likely get the benefit of the doubt if they have a bad week. For instance, Jeremy Hall was as silent as a lamb but I think he’ll still get drafted in the first round.

    On the other hand, for players who aren’t being looked at as top picks, this is where they can make their cases. AJ de la Garza’s stock has risen tremendously due to his combine performances.

    For those who say the combine is irrelevant, I’d strongly disagree. The coaches and their staffs are paying attention.

  10. The kid from Louisville, Chapham had a very good week after a decent start. I think in a week midfield class (past the one or two stars to be) he’s got a real good shot of being drafted in the second round. I mention him because he wasn’t really on anyone’s list going into the combine but proves once again why you should still go if you’re invited but not a first round type guy.

  11. Chest Rockwell says:

    Delagarza’s success isn’t surprising to Maryland fans. He does everything right (well enough to have been a high-end center back in the physical NCAA despite his height). Someone is going to be very happy with him.

    I also think he might eventually add defensive midfield to his repertoire, like Logan Pause did (he was also a CB in college). He’s intelligent, tenacious, takes real pleasure in stopping opposing attacks, plays simply, and makes few mistakes. I’m not saying it’s a given, but it’s something he could do with proper coaching and time to grow into it.

  12. Travis says:

    Cronin to DC. Fingers crossed.

  13. Josh says:

    AJ is representing all of the talent that comes out of the Southern Maryland area, except he actually did something with his life and didn’t have a bunch of kids or flunk his SAT. Good for him, he is a natural fullback, quick, smart, and played forward throughout high school.

  14. Ceez says:

    Thanks for the update Gianfranco.

    I understand this top 5 is only those who IMPRESSED you the most but what about those who were consistently in the top 5 or 10 in Ives’s mock drafts? How did they fare? Any disappointments among that group (the top 5 or 10 in his mock drafts)?

  15. Terp Fan says:

    aj is and always has been a quick smart player. he kept up step for step with former bc amazing forward charlie davies. and him along with seniors graham zusi, rich costanzo, and michael marchiano carried the terps to the national championship.

    can anyone tell me why rich costanzo was not invited to the camp?