Top prospect Dean has rough first day at MLS Combine

ChristianDean (California)

By FRANCO PANIZO

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Christian Dean last played a game at left back more than a year ago, but when a lack of left back options on his MLS Combine team led to him being asked to play there, the University of California defender stepped up to the challenge.

The end result? A subpar performance on the first day of the 2014 MLS Combine.

Dean endured a less-than-memorable opening match at the MLS Combine on Friday playing a position that he has some familiarity with, but not much. The 6-foot-3 defender helped create the equalizing goal in Nitro Charge’s (Red) 4-1 loss to Predator (Green) with a low shot that was mishandled and knocked in on the rebound, but much of the talk about his performance was that he struggled with his defending and was beaten badly on the go-ahead goal from Tesho Akindele.

Afterwards, Dean said that he enjoyed playing left back but admitted it was different than his customary centerback role.

“Personally, I like left back because of the freedom but I also like centerback because it also gives you (a view of) the entire field and I don’t have my back to the line,” said Dean, a member of this year’s Generation adidas class, when asked what position he prefers. “I feel more consistent at centerback than left back. Centerback. Centerback, yeah.”

That Dean had a rough first outing is forgivable. Plenty of quality players have struggled on opening days of MLS combines (including another tall centerback in Omar Gonzalez back in 2009) for a number of well-documented reasons, and have bounced back with better showings on Day 2 after building some chemistry with their temporary teammates.

Dean also boasts impressive size (something that is quickly noticeable) and is left-footed, making him an intriguing prospect that several coaches and scouts are drooling over because of his upside.

He is also quite candid with the media, as evidenced by his responses when asked what he felt he did and did not do well with on Day 1.

“I thought I got forward really well on the left side and finding the gaps in the middle to play with our centermids,” said Dean before stating what needed to improve. “Better 1-v-1 defending, definitely. It wasn’t good today.”

While part of Dean’s struggles can be attributed to him playing left back (combines are known for not bringing enough natural fullbacks and forcing players to play out of position), the 21 year-old is also well aware that his 1-v-1 defending needs to improve. That is especially the case seeing as how he was beaten far too easily on the match’s decisive goal and given that MLS teams could envision him as a left back or use him there sporadically to help make up for the loss of other players.

“It’s something that I’ve been working on and have to continue working on,” said Dean. “Being in the middle, there’s not as much 1-v-1 defending, so being thrown at left back it’s a little different. I did really enjoy it, it was something I haven’t done in a while and it was new, so I think next game if I do play left back, just focusing more on the defending rather than getting forward.”

Dean added that he probably will play centerback on Day 2 on Sunday in South Florida. A strong performance there and his stock could rise to the point where he convinces D.C. United or another team to take him with the No. 1 overall selection in next Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft.

That is how highly he is rated by many and why one mixed showing on the first day of the combine will not damage his stock all that much, even if he thinks it might.

“I kind of take (talk of being taken with the first pick) with a grain of salt, because after this game I might drop, you never know, because of the defending mistake I had,” said Dean. “But it’s exciting and I would love to be No. 1. I think it’s everybody’s dream, but in saying that, I just want to play. That’s it.”

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10 Responses to Top prospect Dean has rough first day at MLS Combine

  1. Mike says:

    If combines are known for not bringing enough fullbacks, why don’t they, you know, bring more fullbacks?

    • adam says:

      you’re giving MLS too much credit…

    • Liam Gavin says:

      It seems like it would be that straightforward, but I can think of a couple of reasons why they might not.

      1) They tend to invite the 50 best college seniors, regardless of position. While this might mean certain positions aren’t equally represented, if (for example) they picked the 4 or 5 best players for each position, others might miss out. This draft is deep in centrebacks, so a guy like Taylor Peay (projected to be drafted in the 2nd round but maybe the 10th best CB) would miss out to the 4th best left back, who may have no shot at making a roster. The combine’s only the final showcase. The best players deserve to be there.

      2) MLS teams tend to like versatile guys as depth players on their squads. If you look at their depth charts for the outside back positions, there aren’t always pure LB’s and RB’s backing up the starters. It isn’t the most important position. When you’ve got to think about the cap, versatility is a big bonus.

    • JoeW says:

      Because the purpose of the combine is not to field a competitive team, it’s to show off and test the players most likely to be drafted. Thus, you’ll see guys playing roles that they didn’t flourish at in college…b/c coaches want to see if that guy can play outside mid or outside back. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mullins gets a trial at outside mid when he arrives…b/c some MLS coaches apparently aren’t sure if he’ll cut it as a forward in MLS.

    • Andrew says:

      Most players at the MLS combine will play at least two positions in the three games. MLS coaches often want to see players playing out of their usual college positions.

  2. Owlsie says:

    Ummm . . . likely because there are very few true left back prospects coming out of college. Most of those that are at left back in college aren’t rated highly enough to even be considered. So – they bring in a few extra rt back and center back prospects to see if they might be converted (or really, might be a player they can bring in and try at several positions, one of which might be left back). Left back is a traditionally weak position in MLS (and across the world) because there aren’t as many true left-footed left back prospects.

  3. Dust Juice says:

    sounds like he sucks. any scout “drooling” over him is probably a queer

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