It was cold, wet and pretty miserable in Fort Lauderdale on the first day of the MLS Combine, but that didn't stop the players on dsiplay from actually putting forth some better soccer than we've come to expect from the first day of the Combine.
Many of the draft's top prospects played like top prospects, while some others experienced what could be written off as the traditional first-day jitters that can hit even the best players (like Omar Gonzalez last year).
So who impressed and who left coaches wondering where the spark was? Here is a rundown of my own observations as well as some input from coaches I spoke to.
Ike Opara and Tony Tchani are locked in a battle to see who will be the second player taken in the 2010 MLS Draft (Now that Danny Mwanga has been targeted as Philadelphia's No. 1 pick). Tchani not only showed off the sharp passes that impress coming from a player his size, he also won a good number of the challenges he jumped into. As for Opara, he has another gear that is truly impressive and his leaping ability could be the best in MLS the day he steps on the field in a league match.
Opara and Tchani weren't the only standouts. Here are some of the other top prospects to do well (along with some darkhorse surprises and disappointing first-day performers):
Zach Loyd is just a good soccer player, plain and simple. He's never really played on the left wing but he was used there and made the most of it with some assists and a good showing. He will likely settle in as a holding midfielder in MLS, but he could handle himself just as easily in central defense and at right back.
Corben Bone was his usual active self, and is clearly a cut above, but on a day when fellow top prospects Tchani, Opara and Bunbury impressed, Bone let some scouts believing he might be a notch below the other four members of the Fab Five. He's clearly a dynamic midfield option, but may have lost some ground to Opara, Tchani and Bunbury.
Michael Stephens was a player who came into the Combine needing to play well to have a chance of first-round status and he stepped up in his first action. He's mobile, has a great touch and passing eye and outplayed many ofthe midfielders he's competing with for first-round status.
Teal Bunbury showed off his speed on Saturday, and when a player his size can move, scouts take notice. That being said, there are some concerns about his disappointing College Cup performances and he could wind up sliding a bit (likely no lower than fifth though) unless he can keep impressing in the coming days.
Kwame Watson-Siriboe played well and did nothing to lose his place as the second highest rated centerback in the draft. Showed some good speed for a player his size and moves well. He looks like a first-rounder.
Brian Perk was able to show his skills more than the other keepers on day one and his quickness and decision-making is that of a much older player.
Some of the lesser-known prospects who impressed included:
Justin Morrow emerged as the most impressive fullback of day one, with his attacking runs creating constant opportunities.
Andrew Hoxie was considered a classic target forward but he showed some ability to run at defenders and he hit a beautiful shot for the first goal of the day. He assisted on another goal and showed good touch for a big man.
Irving Garcia thoroughly impressed with his confidence on the ball, quickness and impeccable touch. A real player who left some coaches eager to see him again on day two.
Othaniel Yanez was compared by one observer coming into the Combine as a Chris Armas type defensive midfielder, but the long-range bomb he scored on showed us he's got a little more offense to his game than the Chicago Fire legend. A tough kid who's not afraid to get into hard challenges, Yanez opened some eyes.
Mike Seamon reminded me of Nick Zimmerman on day one with his quickness, size, aggressiveness, as well as an even better passing touch than the Philly Union midfielder. He was a player on the tale end of our Big Board, but he will be climbing ahead of the draft if he can keep this up.
Drew Yates didn't stand out in the same way as others did, but he made the most of being on a poorly-performing team with some good passes and vision.
Connor Chinn. Okay, so maybe he's arguably the most well-known player at the Combine, but he's fairly unknown to coaches and scouts. That will change if he keeps showing the quickness and tenacity to go with his good size. It wasn't a great day for strikers overall, but Chinn did leave some coaches impressed.
Collen Warner. If you show mobility with a good passing touch, you are going to increase your stock and Warner did just that. One of our sleepers coming into this Combine, the Portland midfielder should move up draft boards as East Coast teams learn more about him (many of the West Coast teams already knew about him).
Players who didn't help their stock
Andrew Wiedeman was largely invisible and had me wondering if it was him and not Danny Mwanga who had skipped the Combine. To be fair, his midfield didn't provide much service.
Amobi Okugo had a good chance to go up against Bone, and didn't really win the battle. To be fair, the opposing midfield was loaded, but Okugo will need to step it up if he will move into the top six or seven.
Dilly Duka is a player and he had some moments, but he wasn't as impressive as some of the other attacking midfielders on day one. As a player who needs a strong combine after several months out of action (and out of sight) Duka will need to assert himself in day two (and he just might if he's played in his preferred central role rather than on the wing).
Ryan Peterman came into the draft regarded as one of the top fullbacks, but his performance was erratic and forgettable.
Tyler Barry showed the rust that you might expect from a player who has missed more than a year due to knee surgery. He's one to watch on day two to see how he responds.
Ross LaBaeux did well to earn a penalty kick, but was otherwise ineffective and looked surprisingly tentative. First day jitters might have played a part.
Sean Johnson had a miserable first day. His team couldn't defend well and he got lit up for three first-half goals. He really didn't have a chance to show much at all.
That's all for now. I will have some trade talk to discuss later on today so stay tuned for that. For now, please feel free to share your thoughts on these observations in the comments section below.