By IVES GALARCEP
INDIANAPOLIS– The 2013 MLS Draft is set to kick off shortly but before we hear the first pick of the day I wanted to drop the final SBI MLS Draft Big Board.
No, it’s not as big as the previous Big Boards, but it should help give you a sense of how players are rated heading into today’s first round. I will add more names to the list shortly, but you’ll at least get a sense of where the top players have settled after the MLS Combine.
Here is the final SBI MLS Draft Big Board:
2013 MLS DRAFT BIG BOARD (Version 5.0)
(*-Generation adidas, %-Not attending combine)
1- *ANDREW FARRELL, Louisville, CB
Originally a midfielder, Farrell has developed into a standout centerback with the kind athleticism and technical ability scouts love. Widely-regarded as the top prospect in the draft and a safe bet to be the No. 1 pick by New England.
2- *% WALKER ZIMMERMAN, Furman, CB
U.S. Under-20 centerback has the tools and upside to develop into a standout. A 6-foot-3 aerial force, Zimmerman is young (19) and may not be ready to play right away, but his size and skill combination make him an enticing long-term prospect. He is second only to Farrell on most team’s draft boards.
3- KYLE BEKKER, Boston College CM
An attacking midfielder who can also play in a more central role, Bekker played his senior season with some injury issues that slowed him down. He remains a highly-regarded prospect and has had the chance to train with some MLS teams. He blew away the competition at the MLS Combine, catapulting his stock into the top of the draft. May not go in the top three, but a sure-fire Top 10 pick.
4- *KEKUTA MANNEH, FC Solar, F
A star on the Youth Soccer circuit as a goal-scoring machine on the Development Academy circuit, Manneh is a Gambian-born striker with good speed and strength. Scouts rave about his tools and potential, which led MLS to sign him as a teenager out of high school. A sure-fire first-round pick, Manneh showed enough at the MLS Combine to convince several teams that he could be a special prospect.
5- *J.J. JOHNSON, VCU, F
Combining power and speed, Johnson is a physical forward who could be able to transition smoothly into the pro game. He endured a terrible MLS Combine, which has clearly hurt his draft stock, but teams that scouted him during the college season are aware of what he can do so it’s tough to see him sliding too far.
6- ERIK HURTADO, Santa Clara, RM/F
A dangerous forward who could also project as a wide player in the pros, Hurtado’s nose for goal and versatility make him a highly-rated draft prospect. He boasts good speed and an ability to score with either foot. He had an outstanding combine, showing all of his best attributes, including a willingness to defend
7- *MIKEY LOPEZ, North Carolina, CM
A freshman starter on UNC’s national championship team, he impressed with his motor and passing ability and has earned a place on the U.S. Under-20 team. Hasn’t dominated the college game this year as he was expected to, but scouts still rave about his skills. Given Chivas USA’s emphasis on having more of a Mexican influence on the roster, Lopez could be a natural selection for the Goats at No. 2 overall. That said, of Chivas USA doesn’t take him, Lopez could slip down a few slots.
8- CARLOS ALVAREZ, UConn, CM
The best pure playmaker in the draft, Alvarez has been the driving force in UConn’s attack since arriving for years ago and the recent success of college-developed attacking midfielders in MLS should lead to Alvarez having a chance of going early in the draft. Will challenge Powers for ‘first-senior taken’ title.
9. *ERIQ ZAVALETA, Indiana, F/D
One of the more intriguing prospects in the draft. Originally a highly-regarded central defender, Zavaleta moved to forward as a sophomore at Indiana and promptly turned into a goal-scoring force who helped lead the Hoosiers to a national title. Despite his goal-scoring ways, more teams see him as a long-term centerback option. He is only 19, and at an athletic 6-foot-1, Zavaleta is an aerial force who will be a good bet to be a Top Ten selection.
10- *DESHORN BROWN, Central Florida, F
If teams go into the draft looking for someone to mimic Darren Mattock’s difference-making pace, Brown could be that prospect that draws extra attention. Arguably the fastest player in the draft, Brown is a burner who should cement his status as a top prospect at the Combine. Was finally added to the Generation adidas class formally on Thursday.
11- JOHN STERTZER, Maryland, CM
Big attacking midfielder with good feet and a striker’s finishing eye, Stertzer turned heads with his goal-scoring in 2011, and while he hasn’t scored as many in 2012 he remains a quality midfield prospect with a strong resume. He didn’t have the best College Cup performance, which could hurt his stock, but he is still highly-regarded enough to be a mid-first round selection.
12- DILLON POWERS, Notre Dame, CM
Two years ago Powers was a highly-rated U.S. Under-20 player who would have been a first-round pick if he had signed with MLS. Two years later, Powers is more mature, more polished and more ready to step in and contribute right away. A central midfielder who can play in a deeper role as well as a box-to-box role, Powers should be one of the first seniors off the board.
13- TOMMY MULLER, Georgetown, CB
Polished centerback with good size and and an ability to read the game well, Muller is the leader of the Hoyas defense and has the kind of poise that pro scouts love seeing in a central defender. Impressed in the NCAA Tournament, vaulting himself into the first-round range, and now some teams see him as the best senior centerback available.
14- BLAKE SMITH, New Mexico, LM
A need for natural left wingers in MLS should make Smith a popular option come draft day. He boasts pace, a willingness to go at defenders and an ability to provide good service from the left flank. Impressed with his performance against UConn in the NCAA Tournament and looks like the best pure winger in the draft.
15- RYAN FINLEY, Notre Dame, F
The top forward in the Big East in 2012 despite not being a starter, Finley didn’t let coming off the bench stop him from scoring goals in bunches against top competition. The former Duke standout has an uncanny nose for goal and combines strength with deceptive quickness. Stock took a hit with Notre Dame’s early exit from the NCAA Tournament, but the fact that he signed an MLS senior contract already suggest scouts have seen enough to rate him highly.
16- EMERY WELSHMAN, Oregon State, F
The Canadian-born striker boosts a good combination of size and quickness, had a dangerous shot and is also a skilled passer. He finished his senior season with 10 goals and 4 assists, and while he did play for the Portland Under-23 team, Welshman is very much a draft prospect and not a Homegrown Player.
17- ASHTON BENNETT, Coastal Carolina, F
Boasting impressive speed and shiftiness to elude defenders, Bennett turned it on in the second half of his senior year to remind scouts of the quality he showed as a goal-scoring machine as a junior. His showing against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament impressed, and helped bring him back into the conversation of best senior forwards. It should be noted he has Canadian residency.
18- DYLAN TUCKER-GAGNES, Washington, CB
Looking for a big centerback who is strong in the air and a threat on set pieces? Tucker-Gagnes fits the bill, and as one of the better centerbacks available he is a player who could climb up for a team in need of central defense depth. He’s 6-foot-3 and finished the year scoring eight goals for a surprising Washington side. His stock is rising steadily as more teams become familiar with his qualities.
19- ERIC SCHOENLE, West Virginia, CB
A skilled centerback who drew Generation adidas consideration in 2011, Schoenle has some teams very interested while some still question his strength and ability to adjust to the increased physical level of the pros. Good in the air, and a sharp passer out of the back, Schoenle could see a major boost if he goes to the Combine and shuts down the forwards he faces there.
20- TAYLOR KEMP, Maryland, LB
A highly-skilled left back who may be more attacking threat than defensive specialist, Kemp drew some Generation adidas consideration last season, and this year he’s had injuries cost him playing time. That still won’t stop teams in need of left back help from seriously considering him with a first-round pick.
21- KORY KINDLE, CSU-Bakersfield, LB
Want a speedy left back who can get forward and whip in good service? Kindle is your guy. Plenty of scouts are aware of him and he could be a player who skyrockets up the board with a strong combine against top level competition.
22- IAN CHRISTIANSON, Georgetown, M
The Georgetown senior makes his debut on the big board after MLS denied the Chicago Fire’s Homegrown Player claim on him, making Christianson eligible for the draft. A tireless defensive midfielder with poise and good passing skills, Christianson is going to be a popular target for teams looking for defensive midfield help.
23- WILL BATES, Virginia, F
A torn ACL late in the 2011 season ended his season and chances of a Generation adidas contract (though he was still a bit of a long-shot to be offered one). Bates is a physical target forward who has made an impressive return from knee surgery to put together a solid senior season. Teams looking for a traditional center forward will have to consider him. as a late first-round option.
24- KOFI OPARE, Michigan, CB
A 6-foot-2 centerback who hails from Canada, first made an impression as a starter on the Michigan team that reached the NCAA Final in 2010. He needs to show he has the strength to deal with bigger forwards, something he’ll have the chance to show at the MLS Combine. His Canadian citizenship shouldn’t hurt him too much, particularly with all three Canadian teams in the market for some centerback depth.
25- GREG COCHRANE, Louisville, LB/LM
Whether as a left back or a left midfielder, Cochrane has the technical quality on the wing to be a contributor on the next level. Projects more as a left back, an area of need for several MLS teams, which could help him go earlier in the draft.
26- JIMMY NEALIS, Georgetown, LB
Few players boosted their stock more in the NCAA Tournament than Nealis, a talented and tireless left back who boasts good pace and quality service from the left wing. There are quite a few quality left backs in the 2013 MLS Draft Pool, but Nealis has done enough to thrust himself into the conversation. A disappointing Combine hurt his stock and will probably keep him out of the first round, but he’s still highly-regarded among the left backs in the draft.
27- CHRIS THOMAS, Elon, F
The nation’s leading scorer in 2012 with 23 goals, Thomas turned heads with his productivity, particularly given Elon’s tough non-conference schedule. He boasts an eye-catching combination of size and speed, and scores with both feet. He needed a good MLS Combine to answer some questions about his quality, and he delivered, which should help him get into the second round.
28- MACHAEL DAVID, UCSB, CM/DM
Teams looking for a tenacious central midfielder will have an eye on David, who can deliver the hard tackle, go box-to-box and also deliver a good pass. He does face the scrutiny that comes with dealing with multiple injuries during his college career, which is why his stock has slipped. He showed good quality at the Combine at times, and even showed he can play right back if needed.
29- % PAOLO DEL PICCOLO, Louisville, DM
A defensive midfielder this year for Louisville, DelPiccolo can play a variety of position along with providing a polished passer and tenacious presence in a deep-lying midfield role. He skipped MLS Combine to go on trial with German club Eintracht Frankfurt. Even with that, some MLS teams have been in touch so expect him to go in the second round.
30- DONNIE SMITH, Charlotte, LM
If the name sounds familiar, it is because Smith is the left winger who turned heads in the 2011 NCAA Tournament during Charlotte’s run to the final. He showed outstanding one-on-one attacking skills and good speed, and while he didn’t exactly light it up for Charlotte in 2012, he remains an intriguing prospect even if he had a relatively quiet MLS Combine.
31. DREW BECKIE, Denver, Left Back/Centerback
32. UWEM ETUK, West Virginia, Left Winger
33. JOE FRANCO, Cal-State Northridge, Right Back
34. DON ANDING, Northeastern, Forward
35. JAMES BELSHAW, Duke, Goalkeeper
36. JORDAN GAFA, North Carolina, Right Back
37. YAZID ATOUBA, Cameroon, Left Winger
38. JOSE GOMEZ, Creighton, Central Midfielder
39. BRENTON GRIFFITHS, South Florica, Centerback
40. JOHN GALLAGHER, Penn State, Left Back
41. LARRY JACKSON, Santa Clara, Goalkeeper
42. DANNY WENZEL, Wake Forest, Centerback
43. STEPHEN OKAI, Mobile, Midfielder
44. STEFANO PINHO, Brazil, Midfielder
45. LUKE SPENCER, Forward, Xavier
46. RYAN CLARK, Midfielder, Monmouth
47. ALEX ISERN, Midfielder, Winthrop
48. FERNANDO MONGE, Midfielder, UCLA
49. CHARLIE RUGG, Forward, Boston College
50. MICHAEL BUSTAMANTE, Midfielder, Boston