SBI’s Top 5 2014 MLS Combine performers

UConnBlake (Getty)

By FRANCO PANIZO

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The 2014 MLS SuperDraft is less than 24 hours away, and several of the players entering it will do so after having raised their stocks over the last few days.

The recently-concluded MLS Combine may not have showcased as much talent as in years past, but it still gave coaches and scouts a clearer picture of what they can expect from players looking to make the jump to MLS this year. In fact, there were some standout performances from a select few that really made coaching staffs take notice.

Those outings may not mean much in the grand scheme of things during Thursday’s draft in Philadelphia, as players who have had good combines in previous years have gone undrafted and others who have struggled have still been chosen high. They did, however, help players make cases for themselves ahead of Thursday’s draft.

Here are the five players who SBI considered the top performers at the 2014 MLS Combine (not in any order):

ANDRE BLAKE

Arguably the best and most consistent performer in South Florida, Blake showed why many believe he will be taken early on Thursday. The goalkeeper showed cat-like reflexes throughout the combine, especially during the first two days, and made a range of saves. He even impressively stopped a dangerous free kick, pushing the ball off the crossbar with a full-stretch dive before it was cleared away.

TESHO AKINDELE

Akindele may have spent his collegiate playing days in Division II, but that did not stop him from shining at the combine. His speed and athleticism were on display for all to see, and he was one of the few wide attacking players to really impress. Akindele also was not afraid to try and take players on, a trait which had some coaches licking their chops.

MARCO FRANCO

There are not many natural fullbacks in this year’s draft class, but Franco is one of them and he looks worth taking. Deployed at right back for all three of his matches, Franco showed good skill on the ball and an ability to jump into the attack. He also defended competently and provided an outlet for centerbacks and midfielders.

STEVE BIRNBAUM

Considered by many to be the most MLS-ready player in this year’s class, Birnbaum delivered three sturdy outings in central defense. Birnbaum was not only good with his defending, but he also demonstrated some of his aerial ability by getting on the end of a few set pieces. Birnbaum could have had a goal, but one of his headers was cleared off the goal-line.

ANDRE LEWIS

The Jamaican youngster was a big bright spot on Day 2, but he showed promise on the other days as well. Lewis, a midfielder, had a lot of the play go through him when he was on the field and his small stature did not prove at all to be a hindrance (though it might at the next level). Lewis played smart and simple, taking lots of quick touches and looking for combinations to help his team move up the field.

—–

Do you think all five of these players will be drafted on Thursday? Who would you like to see your team pick up?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Featured, Major League Soccer, MLS Draft 2014. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to SBI’s Top 5 2014 MLS Combine performers

  1. MMV says:

    I have literally seen Tesho grow up playing in North Metro Denver (Northglenn HS and Thornton, CO). I have been smiling ear to ear ever since he was invited to the Combine. It surprised me that he has shown so well at the Combine but it’s not a complete shock. It might be for the rest of the Combine players, coaches, scouts, and administrators., though, But not for folks in the Denver area. Tesho has always had the goods but I have always questioned if his dominance at CO School of Mines, H.S. and club (CO Storm North) would translate if faced with stiffer competition. Well, is typical fashion he has not only stepped it up but there is a real possibility he could sneak into the 1st round. He will be an absolute steal for someone. I promise. The kid is super talented and is incredibly smart and articulate. His hometown Rapids???? One could dream, right?? We have DeShorn Brown of similar vain but it could be hard to turn Tesho away.

    • FC Denver says:

      Agreed, I didn’t now how Akindele’s game would translate in the combine, but I’ve played against him several times in our top adult youth leagues as he was maturing at 16/17 and I can remember one game in particular where he scored 3/4 goals against one of our teams by himself. Special player and wish him the best.

  2. White Kix says:

    Thanks for the reporting from the combine.
    I have two requests for stories;
    1) Where would the recent group of Homegrown signings fall in this draft. Are any top 3 pick types (future stars or guys who will make an impact in year one)? are they mainly late first round and 2nd round type of players?
    2) Who are some of the top college players with their homegrown rights spoken for who we could see sign within the next year or so?

    Thanks

  3. Dinho says:

    Franco, I’m reading that Cardenas stepped up his game on the last day of the combine. Your thoughts? Ives?

  4. We Re says:

    I think Stefano ‘ Boeroe’ Rijssel will make it. He will be the first Surinamese ( Dutch ) player who will play in MLS , opening the door of more talent players in that country. Is no news that this country delivers lots of good world class professionals such as Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Ruud Gullit, Aaron Winter, Frank Rijkaard, Drenthe, Floyd Hasselbaink, Menso, Kluivert, and lots more.