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MLS SuperDraft Combine begins: An Analysis

Published: January 7, 2012

Fort Lauderdale, FL - Following are my notes on the two matches from Day one of the MLS SuperDraft Combine.
Game One
adiPower (Red), with a superior team on paper. were able to come back twice and win the match over Prime (Green) with a score of 3-2. Unlike many years, the first match was well played and generally positive for many of the players, though terrific or horrific first day isn't going to make or break a player.
ucsb men's college soccer player luis silvaLuis Silva
This year fans are not allowed to attend the combine, although many seemed to find a way in to watch the matches.
adiPower Red
1st Half
F: Casey Townsend (Maryland), Chandler Hoffman (UCLA)
M: Kelyn Rowe (UCLA), Luis Silva (UCSB), Greg Jordan (Creighton), Jason Banton (Alec Purdie (Indian)a 29’) 
D: Hunter Jumper (Virginia), Matt Hedges (North Carolina), Justin Chavez (Tulsa), Aubrey Perry (South Florida)
GK: Brian Rowe (UCLA)
2nd Half
F: Yuri Gorentzvaig, Lucky Mkosana (Dartmouth)
M: Luis Silva (UCSB), Calum Mallace (Marquette), Tony Wells (Wisconsin Green Bay), Alec Purdie (Indiana)
D: Gienir Garcia, Matt Hedges (North Carolina), Justin Chavez (Tulsa), Aubrey Perry (South Florida)
GK: Brian Rowe (UCLA)
Prime Green
1st Half
F: Bryan Gaul (Bradley), Darren Mattocks (Akron)
M: Eder Arreola (UCLA), Rafael Garcia (Cal Northridge), Lance Rozeboom (New Mexico), Brendan King (Notre Dame)
D: James Kiffe (UCSB), Patrick Sigler (Cal Poly), Tommy Meyer (Indiana), Chris Estridge (Indiana)
GK: Jhojan Obando (Providence)
2nd Half 
F: Darren Mattocks (Akron), Babayele Sodade (Alabama-Birmingham)
M: Christian Barreiro (Penn), Kirk Urso (North Carolina), Antoine Hoppenot (Princeton), Aldo Paniagua
D: Chris Estridge (Indiana), Lance Rozeboom (New Mexico), Tommy Meyer (Indiana), RJ Allen (Monmouth)
GK: Jhojan Obando (Providence)
Who had a good game (or played better than I expected)?
  • Greg Jordan (Creighton) – has a soft touch and he is a crisp passer. Sensational vision. Good passing. Smart player. Very competent midfielder.
  • Chandler Hoffman (UCLA) – had an assist on the first goal to Townsend and scored the game winner with a calm slotted finish. Didn’t finish a 1v1 breakaway. I have reservations, but he played well today. Will he vanish in the next 2 games?
  • Calum Mallace (Marquette) – brought his “A” game. If he continues, an MLS contract is inevitable. Very active. His touch was precise and sharp. He combined with Silva to provide a setup for Alec Purdie. Very dynamic play.
  • Lucky Mkosana (Dartmouth) – had the game winning assist. He found space behind the backs in the second half though he didn’t finish his chance. The potential explosion is there. Will he be a consistent finisher? Late in the half, went wide and looked competent.
  • Luis Silva (UCSB) – is exceptionally calm on the ball – and I’m not surprised. With a head fake, he created space before slipping a ball through to Lucky Mkosana. I liked how he got back to support the backs. At times, he pressed his passing and dribbling, trying to do too much.
  • Casey Townsend (Maryland) – scored the first goal taking a pass from Chandler Hoffman after pressuring a Prime defender to give up the ball. Townsend was active and determined to provide support in the midfield.
  • Eder Arreola (UCLA) – terrorized Aubrey Perry around the corner. Additionally, he made a nice stop on Perry when he got forward.
  • Darren Mattocks (Akron) – created the first goal absorbing the pressure before getting the ball out to Brendan King. He blazed by Perry. I liked his leaping ability on the far post on set pieces.
  • Tommy Meyer (Indiana) – made several key defensive stops. Good in the air; made a poor clearance when pressured.
  • Aldo Paniagua – scored the second goal with a blast that was unstoppable. He didn’t do much after this – which is a slight concern. I’d like to see him combine more with others and show on both sides of the ball.
  • Lance Rozeboom (New Mexico) – was the best player for Prime. In the first half, he was composed providing service forward and linking the defense. In the second half, he played center back where he was confident in the air and a solid tackler with a dearth of sufficient midfield support.
Who was adequate?
  • Matt Hedges (North Carolina) –involved in the second goal allowing Babayele Sodade to touch the ball back to Aldo Paniagua. Big in the air; playing aggressively. Loved how he stepped up to steal the ball, but his first touch (with his weaker left foot) was rough and the ball sailed out of bounds.  
  • Justin Chavez (Tulsa) – made solid defensive stops. He was able to stop Darren Mattocks cutting through the defense. Nifty tackle.
  • Gienir Garcia – is a tall, physical left back with a cultured left foot. He needs to finish plays. A give-and-go with Yuri Gorentzvaig turned to be a give-and-no, because Garcia didn’t follow the play. Started the play for the winning goal with a long diagonal to Lucky Mkosana after calmly stepping around a defender.
  • Kelyn Rowe (UCLA) – was good on the ball; missed a scoring chance from a square ball from Casey Townsend when his shot went too close to the goal keeper.
  • Hunter Jumper (Virginia) – got up the line, finding Townsend who flashed around Chris Estridge in the box. I expected him to be victimized on defense and it didn’t occur.
  • Rafael Garcia (Cal State Northridge) – had a few good early touches, made a few tackles including a nice one against Luis Silva; needs to continue to make plays.
  • Christian Barreiro (Penn) – didn’t project his will into the game, allowing others to have more impact. He needs to play with more confidence (like I’ve seen him in every other college and PDL match). He’s not someone’s little brother that is here to fill out the teams. He can play better – and I expect that he will. He delivers driven corner kicks.
  • Antoine Hoppenot (Princeton) – played opposite of Barreiro (including in style). For example, he was on the ball more, played more effectively, but he’s too soft on contact and his passing is erratic – at times, good and at times poor. I have low expectations for Hoppenot, but I wouldn’t mind being wrong, because I really loved his game prior to his junior year.
  • Brendan King (Notre Dame) – scored the first goal taking a Darren Mattocks pass and looped the ball over goal keeper Brian Rowe. After that, he had little impact other than a random poor pass even under little pressure.
  • Babayele Sodade (Alabama-Birmingham) – assisted on the second goal using his strength to hold off Hedges before dropping the ball to Aldo Paniagua. I like his strength and desire. I want to see him do more on the ball than step-over moves. I want to see simple 1v1 attacking. He’s a big guy who could make an impact.
Who needs to improve?
  • Alec Purdie (Indiana) – didn’t finish the chances provided and his crosses were mostly poor. He did get the ball to Yuri Gorentzvaig who didn’t finish. Purdie’s worst mistake was squaring the ball near midfield but Kelyn Rowe didn’t convert the mistake.
  • Brian Rowe (UCLA) - allowed a soft first goal and he didn’t garner confidence on the control of his box.
  • Jason Banton – is a tall, quick player that made an early exit after 29 minutes. He easily lost shape. He pressed trying to win the world cup in the first half.
  • Yuri Gorentzvaig – was on the end of a couple of plays; he didn’t finish. Intriguing, big guy. He took shots but they were either soft or off target. He has potential.
  • RJ Allen (Monmouth) – didn’t complete his passes; his long diagonal was too close to the goal keeper. He wasn’t sharp. He can play better. Allen just needs to relax and play his game.
  • Chris Estridge (Indiana) – didn’t successfully get forward; he was beat on the dribble by Hunter Jumper. This was a poor game for Estridge. He’s much better than he’s shown today.
  • James Kiffe (UCSB) – had problems defending Kelyn Rowe. He was able to get around Aubrey Perry (but who didn’t); 
  • Patrick Sigler (Cal Poly) – had trouble maintaining his mark on his man. His foot skills are underdeveloped. I was surprised that Tommy Meyers was bigger than Sigler who looked liked a mountain in the Cal Poly back 4. Perhaps, Sigler has lost some weight.
Who should consider a couple of days on the beach before starting a regular job?
  • Aubrey Perry (South Florida) – was continuously chasing his man as he rounded the corner – not any particular player, but anyone was equally beating him. It was a struggle watching this.
  • Jhojan Obando (Providence) – did little to change my mind that he doesn’t deserve to be at the combine. I like his throwing distribution, but he lacks foot skills. He blocked a few shots. 
Who do I need to continue to observe/didn't do enough today?
  • Tony Walls (Wisconsin-Green Bay) – started the second half, but I didn’t record any notes on him.
  • Bryan Gaul (Bradley) – a tall attacker whose only contribution was being fouled near the box.
  • Kirk Urso (North Carolina) – started the second half and was invisible for much of the half. He took a free kick (away from teammate Christian Barreiro) to the far post. He looks thicker in green. Perhaps, Carolina Blue is more slimming – if so, I might take this as a fashion necessity.
Game Two
uc irvine men's college soccer player miguel ibarraMiguell Ibarra
With the two best goal keepers at the combine, the game between adiZero and adiPure ended in a scoreless draw. Either team had opportunities, but neither team could finish.
AdiZero Blue
1st Half
F: Colin Rolfe (Louisville), Brian Ownby (Virginia)
M: Evan James (Charlotte), Kenney Walker (Louisville), Enzo Martinez (North Carolina), Tony Cascio (Connecticut)
D: Shawn Singh (UCLA), Charles Rodriquez (Charlotte), Aaron Maund (Notre Dame), Mykell Bates (Santa Clara)
GK: Ryan Meara (Fordham)
2nd half 
F: Dom Dwyer (South Florida), Emiliano Bonfigli
M: Evans Frimpong (Delaware), Benjamin Ubierna, Enzo Martinez (North Carolina), Miguel Ibarra (UC Irvine)
D: Shawn Singh (UCLA), Charles Rodriquez (Charlotte), Aaron Maund (Notre Dame), Warren Creavalle (Central Florida)
GK: Ryan Meara (Fordham)
adiPure White
1st Half
F: Karo Okiomah (High Point)
M: Nick Deleon (Louisville), Arthur Ivo (Southern Methodist), Sam Garza (UCSB)
DM: Michael Green (New Mexico), Andy Rose (UCLA)
D: Tyler Polak (Creighton), Austin Berry (Louisville), Andrew Jean-Baptiste (Connecticut), Nick Blake (Connecticut)
GK: Chris Blais (South Florida)
2nd Half
F: Sam Garza (UCSB)
M: Luke Holmes (Akron), Arthur Ivo (Southern Methodist), Kohei Yamada 
DM: Kevon George (Central Florida), Andy Rose (UCLA)
D: Diogo de Almeida (Southern Methodist), Austin Berry (Louisville), Andrew Duran (Creighton), Nick Blake (Connecticut)
GK: Chris Blais (South Florida)
A terrific or horrific first day isn't going to make or break a player.
Who had a good game (or played better than I expected)?
  • Tony Cascio (Connecticut) – attacked from many angles, seemingly getting numerous looks, but he was unable to either put it on goal or put it past Chris Blais.
  • Warren Creavalle (Central Florida) – only played in the second half, but played right back brilliantly using his quickness to steal passes. Then, he flawlessly initiated the attack. He earned the penalty kick with an obvious step-over and cut to the right. However, he was fouled on the play from a poorly-timed tackle by Diogo de Almeida.
  • Miguel Ibarra (UC Irvine) – is a joy to watch. He’s brilliant on the run. His passing is sublime. Every time that I see him play, I remark that he reminds me of Andy Najar. His future is bright.
  • Evan James (Charlotte) – played one of the best games that I’ve seen him play. He was competent on the dribble causing problems for Tyler Polak (which he wasn’t able to do against Creighton in the NCAA tournament). 
  • Ryan Meara (Fordham) – was his usual top-notch stopper. His goal kicks were hit like a professional. He moved well in the box. I think he can still play better, if challenged.
  • Brian Ownby (Virginia) – blasted a shot that Chris Blais couldn’t handle, but his defense covered for him. Ownby was active checking back to assist the midfield and to get the ball.
  • Austin Berry (Louisville) – was the best player on adiPure. He made numerous timely tackles including one where Dom Dwyer had gotten behind the defense and Berry recovered to stop him before he got off a shot. In the air, Berry was a beast. He’s at the top of his game. Early in the second half, he hung a long pass to the sidelines which Nick Blake made a meal out of controlling. Berry is going to need to hit every pass.
  • Chris Blais (South Florida) – played better than I expected. He made countless saves and his distribution was above average (but a little less than Meara). Kudos to him.
  • Arthur Ivo (Southern Methodist) – played more central midfield than his normal withdrawn forward, at times seemed awkward or unsure. His passing is top notch and his service on set pieces is tight. He created his own shot beating Aaron Maund on the dribble, but his shot was high.
  • Andy Rose (UCLA) – was calm on the ball and when standing up attackers. His demeanor and his defensive support were encouraging for his team. I’m starting to become an Andy Rose fan.
  • Kohei Yamada – is a lightning quick, wide player with superb ball control. Once he gets comfortable with his teammates, I foresee wonderful things happening in the next 2 games. I’m looking forward to watching him again.
  • Sam Garza (UCSB) – demonstrated his physical attributes with strong runs ending with low, hard shots on goal. He was freed by a Kohei Yamada pass but he was unable to beat Ryan Meara 1v1. Garza has the tools, but does he have the mental maturity to succeed in a long MLS season?
Who was adequate?
  • Emiliano Bonfigli – Slim, slick ball handler who served a nice cross after running onto a long pass from Miguel Ibarra. He contributes, but I want to see more.
  • Enzo Martinez (North Carolina) – missed the penalty kick (off frame) in the final seconds of the game which was a surprise, because he’s a dependable penalty taker. He got the ball wide on a bullet. He confidently wanted the ball, but held onto it for too long and was dispossessed. To his credit, he assertively won it back. This was not his best game, but it wasn’t his worst. He can play better and I expect that he will in the coming days.
  • Aaron Maund (Notre Dame) – wasn’t rattled with tacit pressure. He made several key plays in the air. He didn’t make senseless errors with the ball, but he didn’t take chances, either. He was beaten on the dribble by Arthur Ivo on an obvious dribble move with Ivo’s preferred left foot.
  • Charles Rodriguez (Charlotte) – played solid competent center back. He was confident and moved well. He didn’t do anything extraordinary.
  • Colin Rolfe (Louisville) – had several opportunities, but lacked the desire that he had when he dominated against Maryland in the NCAA. He’ll need to find his game, again.
  • Kenney Walker (Louisville) – made several soft, small touches to get the ball moving. He also made a nice tackle in the first half. I’d like to see him orchestrate better movement side-to-side like he does with Louisville.
  • Nick Deleon (Louisville) – drifted through most of the first half, trying to maintain calm, but he needed to take his game up a notch. He absorbed a physical challenge at midfield, spinning into the attack while maintaining control of the ball – this was his best play.
  • Andrew Duran (Creighton) – organized the defense in the second half with Austin Berry making most of the highlights. He softly brought a ball down from his chest, took a few touches before sending an accurate ball down the sideline.
  • Kevan George (Central Florida) – ranged around the midfield with a few timely tackles in a single half.
  • Andrew Jean-Baptiste (Connecticut) – played simple, not making any mental mistakes. He even laid off the ball for Sam Garza to take a shot after moving forward on a corner kick. I love his body – his mind, not so much.
Who needs to improve?
  • Evans Frimpong (Delaware) – held the ball too long and when he did release the ball he didn’t get the ball to his forwards in good attacking positions.
  • Shawn Singh (UCLA) – hid for much of the match with little to do. When he did get involved, his passing was inconsistent or his first touch was lacking.
  • Nick Blake (Connecticut) – showcased his speed and his lack of quality on the ball. He took a long square pass from Austin Berry and controlled it after several harrowing touches. It looks like the ball unbalances him – almost like he’s petrified of it.
  • Diogo de Almeida (Southern Methodist) – fouled Warren Creavalle in the box providing a clear opportunity for his team to lose the game. He had a chance to score early in the second half, taking the ball with a nice touch down on the far post, but his shot was off target.
  • Michael Green (New Mexico) – had a rusty touch, giving up the ball too easily. He’s better than he played today.
  • Luke Holmes (Akron) – had a rough day and he didn’t really get going after entering the game in the second half. His passing and his dribbling weren’t sharp. He made a nice sliding shot just. Previously, he plunked a shot wide after a terrific dribble and cross by Sam Garza. He’s better than he’s showed.
  • Karo Okiomah (High Point) – tried to pick on Shawn Singh, but he singularly defeated himself. He didn’t do much with the limited service he received.
  • Tyler Polak (Creighton) – was disappointing. He only infrequently got forward and he had trouble defending against Evan James. I’ve seen him play better. I’m not worried about this match, but he can play better.
Who do I need to continue to observe/didn't do enough today?
  • Mykell Bates (Santa Clara) – needs to do more. I don’t have any notes on him – but I saw him on the far side of the field in the first half.
  • Dom Dwyer (South Florida) – started the second half but wasn’t getting service. He may have a hard time since his game is predicated on timing and service.
  • Benjamin Ubierna – came on in the second half patrolling around the defensive midfield.
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