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MLS Combine Day 2: Read Joe’s Analysis

Published: January 9, 2012
Fort Lauderdale, FL – Day Two of the MLS Player combine is complete. Here are my observations following the two matches, watched by the MLS coaching and front office cadre.
Game One
adiPower (Red) remained undefeated with a convincing 2-1 victory over adiZero (Blue) in the second day of the MLS combine.
men's college soccer player hunter jumperHunter Jumper
On the second day, it’s important for players to either demonstrate that they can play at the high level that they exhibited on the first day or show that the first day was an anomaly.
adiPower Red
1st Half
F: Lucky Mkosana (Dartmouth)
M: Yuri Gorentzvaig, Calum Mallace (Marquette), Kelyn Rowe (UCLA), Jason Banton
DM: Tony Wells (Wisconsin Green Bay)
D: Gienir Garcia, Matt Hedges (North Carolina), Justin Chavez (Tulsa), Aubrey Perry (South Florida)
GK: Brian Rowe (UCLA)
2nd half 
F: Casey Townsend (Maryland), Chandler Hoffman (UCLA)
M: Alec Purdie (Indiana), Luis Silva (UCSB), Kelyn Rowe (UCLA), 
DM: Greg Jordan (Creighton),
D: Hunter Jumper (Virginia), Matt Hedges (North Carolina), Justin Chavez (Tulsa), Aubrey Perry (South Florida)
GK: Brian Rowe (UCLA)
adiZero Blue
1st Half
F: Dom Dwyer (South Florida), Evans Frimpong (Delaware)
M: Miguel Ibarra (UC Irvine), Benjamin Ubierna, Kenney Walker (Louisville), Tony Cascio (Connecticut)
D: Shawn Singh (UCLA), Mykell Bates (Santa Clara), Aaron Maund (Notre Dame), Warren Creavalle (Central Florida)
GK: Ryan Meara (Fordham)
2nd Half
F: Colin Rolfe (Louisville), Emiliano Bonfigli
M: Brian Ownby (Virginia), Enzo Martinez (North Carolina), Warren Creavalle (Central Florida), Evan James (Charlotte)
D: Shawn Singh (UCLA), Charles Rodriquez (Charlotte), Aaron Maund (Notre Dame), Mykell Bates (Santa Clara)
GK: Ryan Meara (Fordham)

Who had a good game (or played better than I expected)?
  • Justin Chavez (Tulsa) – is playing solid defense. He makes plays and keeps his head when the defense is starting to break down. He even made a slick dribbling move to elude Emiliano Bonfigli and maintain possession and start the play.
  • Greg Jordan (Creighton) – made a critical through pass to set up the game winner. I love his vision. Part of the reason that he sees the game so well, is that he is so fundamentally strong on the nuances of the game. He is unafraid to go in hard on the tackle.
  • Hunter Jumper (UVA) – did the things that he’s good at doing. He stroked the ball with his cultured left foot. He played with effort in the air. Essentially, he induced Evans James to switch sides, because James couldn’t figure out how to beat him (hint. Go at Jumper with speed and pop outside as you near him trying to not get grabbed or pushed; repeat).
  • Calum Mallace (Marquette) – continues to impress with his unbridled enthusiasm and his motor. He beat Aaron Maund on the dribble, but Warren Creavalle dispossessed Mallace forcing Mallace to foul. Mallace related that the heat is quite different from his training in Milwaukee. It’s a disadvantage for a talented player to come from a school that doesn’t have a long history of sending players to the combine and properly prepare them for the combine. His touch wasn’t as tight as it was the first day.
  • Kelyn Rowe (UCLA) – showed his calmness on the ball with composure under pressure. He took a precise pass from Greg Jordan to set up Casey Townsend for the game winning goal. The game seems slow for Rowe.
  • Luis Silva (UCSB) – is the focal point for good things on the attacking side of the ball. His vision is exemplary. But, not only can he see the play, he has the skill to complete it. He was able to beat Kenney Walker (not an easy task) and release his shot with Walker nipping at his heels.
  • Casey Townsend (Maryland) – is my man of the match with an assist and a goal. His goal was a one-time blast from Kelyn Rowe. He crossed the ball to the far post finding Chandler Hoffman open for his assist. I was thoroughly impressed with the way that Townsend tracked a deep corner kick – finding space on the backside.
  • Aaron Maund (Notre Dame) – continues to dominate in the air and not complicate the game by being reckless with the ball. He’s sending long searching balls.
  • Kenney Walker (Louisville) – is top-notch in the center of the field. His passing is precise. With Warren Creavalle forward, he quickly and smartly went to cover his position.
Who was adequate?
  • Jason Banton - has brashness and quickness. He loves taking on defenders, but he loses the ball because he’s going too fast for his level of competence. He seems like a high-maintenance player.
  • Gienir Garcia – is a competent passer, might be lacking a step of quickness. He’s someone that could be a competent left back.
  • Chandler Hoffman (UCLA) – tracked back to score the first goal at the far post. Today, his touch was off, turning the ball over infrequently.
  • Lucky Mkosana (Dartmouth) – needs to get in better positions for better looks at the goal. He’s trying to combine with his teammates. He looks stronger.
  • Aubrey Perry (South Florida) – was much better not allowing Miguel Ibarra to beat him like he was allowing everyone else on Friday.
  • Alec Purdie (Indiana) – was supposed to start in the first half, but a last minute change and Jason Banton started, instead. Combined with Luis Silva, Casey Townsend and Chandler Hoffman to create several opportunities in the second half.
  • Brian Rowe (UCLA) – was inconsistent catching the ball. He dropped a couple of balls, but he was clean on a few high balls. He doesn’t endear confidence in me.
  • Mykell Bates (Santa Clara) – was enigmatic. Surprisingly, he was competent playing center back, but was more mistake-prone at his more familiar right back. He lost concentration late in the game.
  • Warren Creavalle (UCF) – is a raw right back. Not too surprising given that he’s played defensive midfield for the past several years. His ball skills need further refinement, but his willingness to get in on tackles and take the ball forward is commendable. He is a tremendous athlete.
  • Dom Dwyer (South Florida) – battled Matt Hedges winning a few of the battles including dispossessing him deep in the corner. He wasn’t able to break through the defense with the ball.
  • Evans Frimpong (Delaware) – has quick feet and moves the ball elusively on the dribble. His first touch isn’t always clean – popping the ball up into the air. He needs to think quicker and move the ball to his teammates.
  • Miguel Ibarra (UC Irvine) – combined effectively with Evans Frimpong to get behind the defense, but his cross was blocked by Aubrey Perry, because Ibarra didn’t release the cross quickly enough. Ibarra wasn’t aggressive enough taking on Perry.
  • Evan James (Charlotte) – scored the lone goal on a blast from 25 yards. He shifted speeds to give him space to release the ball. He had a hard time getting into the game as he entered at half-time. He was not moving the ball quickly enough, putting Colin Rolfe in an off-side position, rather than providing the ball in a timely manner.
  • Enzo Martinez (UNC) – had problems completing passes – not entirely his fault. For example, he got the ball wide to Mykell Bates who had a mini-Florida vacation and the ball bounded out of bounds. Martinez’s shooting was soft. He was best working in tight spaces, but his teammates aren’t prepared to handle the passes.
  • Ryan Meara (Fordham) – is still the best goalkeeper in the combine and senior goalkeeper in the nation. He made several reliable stops. However, he could have really stepped up and stopped either goal; he could have preserved the draw.
  • Brian Ownby (UVA) – was active on both sides of the ball. He didn’t distinguish himself, but as long as he stays healthy, it’s a victory for him.
  • Charles Rodriguez (Charlotte) – was adequate in the air. His passing wasn’t sharp.
  • Colin Rolfe (Louisville) – isn’t able to find good goal scoring positions and he’s not receiving service. Rolfe isn’t demonstrating that he could create his own opportunities and finish those chances.
  • Benjamin Ubierna – was more tenacious on 1v1 defense specifically against Kelyn Rowe winning the ball from him. He blocked a shot by Calum Mallace. He showed his lack of foot quickness by tackling (er, wrapping his arms around) an opponent who beat him. His shooting is ill-advised.
Who needs to improve?
  • Matt Hedges (UNC) – made many good plays in the air where he reigns supreme. But, he made a dumb play giving up a needless chance to Dom Dwyer. On the play, he tried to cut the ball back against the grain and work the ball forward, but Dwyer picked his pocket. Additionally, he fouled Dwyer outside the box. Hedges needs to clean up his passing which is typically not something that he’s careless to complete.
  • Yuri Gorentzvaig – is slow to react to the play. He shows too much of the ball, allowing quick footed defender to dispossess him. He’s apt to shoot, but his shot isn’t threatening.
  • Tony Walls (UWGB) – started slow with an uncontrolled pass; calmed down a little to get the ball to Kelyn Rowe. He needs to inject more terror in the middle.
  • Emiliano Bonfigli – has not figured out how to be complement the attack. He looks like he has some ideas, but he isn’t connecting with his team mates. In the waning seconds, he made a poor pass on the dribble that could have leveled the match.
  • Shawn Singh (UCLA) – didn’t make defensive plays against Yuri Gorentzvaig. His passing was inaccurate creating transitional attacks.
Who do I need to continue to observe/didn't do enough today?
  • Tony Cascio (Connecticut) – didn’t make any noticeable impact on this match.

Game Two
men's college soccer player darren mattocksDarren Mattocks
adiPure (white) outclassed Prime (green) with four first half goals before surrendering two second half goals to make the final 4-2. Ethan Finlay scored a hat-trick in 30 minutes after flying in from the Hermann awards ceremony on Friday night.
adiPure White
1st Half 
F: Luke Holmes (Akron), Sam Garza (UCSB), Ethan Finlay (Creighton)
M: Kevon George (Central Florida), Kohei Yamada, Andy Rose (UCLA)
D: Diogo de Almeida (Southern Methodist), Austin Berry (Louisville), Andrew Jean-Baptiste (Connecticut), Andrew Duran (Creighton)
GK: Chris Blais (South Florida)
2nd Half
F: Luke Holmes (Akron), Ethan Finlay (Creighton), Karo Okiomah (High Point),
M: Arthur Ivo (Southern Methodist), Kohei Yamada, Michael Green (New Mexico)
D: Tyler Polak (Creighton), Andrew Duran (Creighton), Andrew Jean-Baptiste (Connecticut), Nick Blake (Connecticut)
GK: Chris Blais (South Florida)

Prime Green
1st Half
F: Bryan Gaul (Bradley), 
M: Eder Arreola (UCLA), Christian Barreiro (Penn), Aldo Paniagua
DM: Kirk Urso (North Carolina), Rafael Garcia (Cal Northridge),
D: Chris Estridge (Indiana), Tommy Meyer (Indiana), Patrick Sigler (Cal Poly), RJ Allen (Monmouth)
GK: Jhojan Obando (Providence)
2nd half
F: Darren Mattocks (Akron), Babayele Sodade (Alabama-Birmingham)
M: James Kiffe (UCSB), Lance Rozeboom (New Mexico), Brendan King (Notre Dame), Antoine Hoppenot (Princeton)
D: Chris Estridge (Indiana), Patrick Sigler (Cal Poly), Bryan Gaul (Bradley), Kirk Urso (North Carolina)
GK: Jhojan Obando (Providence)


Who had a good game (or played better than I expected)?
  • Darren Mattocks (Akron) – has blazing speed which changed the game when he was inserted in the second half on the wrong side of a 0-4 score. He was instrumental on both Prime goals. If Montreal doesn’t take him, Vancouver will.
  • Antoine Hoppenot (Princeton) – continues to show the speed of play that has been missing from his game in his senior season. He blew past Tyler Polak with pace. He provided the through ball that Mattocks struck that Chris Blais initially stopped and James Kiffe acrobatically knocked in for the first goal. If Hoppenot continues attacking defenders and playing with his teammates, he has a shot to get invited to camp. The key for me will be watching if he gets back on defense.
  • James Kiffe (UCSB) – scored the first goal for Prime (see above).
  • Babayele Sodade (UAB) – understands team tactics and he isn’t afraid to urge his teammates to play appropriately. He scored the second goal when Mattocks got free after colliding with Tyler Polak and Mattocks got up quicker. Mattocks’ cross was precise and Sodade finished it from 6 yards.
  • Ethan Finlay (Creighton) – is my man of the match, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s everyone’s man of the match. Finlay scored a hat trick. He was quick and precise on his shot. He exhibited why he was on the top of “Joe’s Big Board” for much of 2011. I’m concerned that he may have injured himself in the second half.
  • Sam Garza (UCSB) – continues a strong combine demonstrating his size and strength with the ability to play wide and up top. Garza exploded around the right corner leaving Chris Estridge in his wake. Garza stole the ball off Patrick Sigler’s foot, freeing Finlay for his first goal. On the third goal, he gathered the rebound and dropped it to Finlay for a medium range shot.
  • Luke Holmes (Akron) – scored his first combine goal, sliding the Andrew Duran cross into the goal. He was successful working as part of the top 4 of Garza, Finlay and Kohei Yamada.
  • Andy Rose (UCLA) – started the second goal looping the ball to Andrew Duran down the sideline. Rose is smart on the ball. He isn’t shy to unleash a rocket from distance.
  • Kohei Yamada – is a player. He’s small, but quick. He’s tenacious. I have taken a liking to his play. He’s dynamic and a precise player. On the third goal, Yamada blasted a shot that Jhojan Obando didn’t hold and Garza snapped up the rebound. He doesn’t speak English which could be a deterrent for some teams. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go to the Pacific Northwest (Seattle/Vancouver).
Who was adequate?
  • RJ Allen (Monmouth) – shielded Luke Holmes out of a play. After getting crunched by Tyler Polak, he tried to get paybacks, but he didn’t get full contact on Polak near the end of the game. He made several crosses into the box and 1 poor one in the second half.
  • Rafael Garcia (Cal State Northridge) – made a nice run, but didn’t help enough in the first half Prime colander defense. He combined with Urso for a quick combination early in the game.
  • Bryan Gaul (Bradley) – lacking in the first half at his usual forward, but he was serviceable as a center back in the second.
  • Brendan King (Notre Dame) – didn’t look bad as a defensive midfielder in the second half including getting forward to make a neat cross.
  • Aldo Paniagua – unleashed a 30 yard shot requiring Chris Blais to tip it over the cross-bar. He stuck Diogo de Almeida, dispossessing him on the way.
  • Kirk Urso (UNC) – combined with his teammates to try and hold possession. As a right back in the second half, did a serviceable job.
  • Austin Berry (Louisville) – wasn’t challenged sufficiently and coasted through the first half. His passing continues to not be on-target consistently.
  • Chris Blais (South Florida) – made a few good plays, but he allowed 2 goals including the first that looked soft. His best stop was on an open shot by Mattocks that he deflected wide.
  • Andrew Duran (Creighton) – had an assist as a right back demonstrating that he is a competent attacking option. He didn’t do as well as a center back struggling to contain Maddox and his quick feet.
  • Kevan George (UCF) – picked up the first yellow card of the combine on a crunching (out of control) tackle. He’s a good hitter, but he needs to be more composed on the ball.
  • Arthur Ivo (SMU) – changed the point of attack successfully. He has a good first touch, but he wound up mis-touching a ball that he was trying to set up for a shot.
  • Andrew Jean-Baptiste (Connecticut) – is a strong center back but his ball skills continue to elude him.
  • Tyler Polak (Creighton) – was better than he was on Friday. But, he was torched by Antoine Hoppenot with speed. As the game progressed, his confidence grew especially after a crunching tackle of RJ Allen. Polak relished in the physical play including successfully shielding the ball. He needs to clearly demonstrate that he is a competent defender. I’ve seen it, but just not at this combine.
Who needs to improve?
  • Eder Arreola (UCLA) – was little more than a speed bump in the rocky first half with his side particularly abused. He didn’t handle Kirk Urso’s pass, turning it over.
  • Christian Barreiro (Penn) – wasn’t able to generate any type of attack in the first half requiring his defense to defend for the vast majority of the first half.
  • Chris Estridge (Indiana) – continues to struggle to do the things that he has been successful doing in college and PDL. He couldn’t stay with Finlay for the fourth goal. He got forward in the second half including one series pressuring Nick Blake and Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
  • Tommy Meyer (Indiana) – was unable to stop the goal scoring in the first half, but to his credit he remained calm and composed. He’s a player, but he’s on a bad team.
  • Who should consider a couple of days on the beach before starting a regular job?
  • Nickardo Blake (Connecticut) – has lightning feet and clogs for shoes. I have no confidence that he has sufficient technical skills to be a viable right back. He has a lot of work to do to get to that point.
  • Jhojan Obando (Providence) – is over his head. He allowed a goal by allowing a rebound. I like his distribution to his right, but too often that is after he’s picking the ball out of the back of the net.
  • Patrick Sigler (Cal Poly) – for the second consecutive game allowed an attacker to take the ball off his foot and it led to a goal. He isn’t quick enough.
Who do I need to continue to observe/didn't do enough today?
  • Lance Rozeboom (New Mexico) – entered the game in the second half, but he wasn’t challenged much.
  • Diogo de Almeida (SMU) – didn’t do much in the first half, other than be dispossessed by Aldo Paniagua.
  • Michael Green (New Mexico) – didn’t do much in his first half of play.
  • Karo Okiomah (High Point) – came on in the second half, but didn’t get many touches.
Who didn't play/missing?
  • Nick Deleon (Louisville) – did not play. When I questioned Louisville coach Ken Lolla on Saturday about Deleon’s lack of passion in the first match, he questioned whether Nick may be carrying an injury. Lolla was not at Friday’s match.
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