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After two days of the MLS Combine two things are clear. This year's draft really is deep with solid prospects and there will be more wheeling and dealing this week than perhaps any other draft week in MLS history.
I gave my rundown on all the players who have impressed, and some who have disappointed, in an ESPN.com piece on the MLS Combine today.
The Generation adidas players as a group rebounded very well in day two after a very shaky day one performance. Omar Gonzalez was especially impressive on Sunday, showing some surprising pace for his size and better tools than he displayed when he dragged around on Saturday. That performance might just be enough to keep him in the Top Four. It will have to be since both he and Rodney Wallace have left the Combine to attend classes at Maryland.
Steve Zakuani didn't do much on Sunday and I am starting to wonder if he is about to go on the Patrick Nyarko slide in the draft. Zakuani did show some great glimpses on day one, but he hasn't come close to scoring and has dropped behind Stefan Frei and Sam Cronin in the eyes of some scouts.
Here a few Best XI teams from the Combine as we stand three days away from the 2008 MLS Draft:
Best XI-Draft Prospects
——-Chris Pontius————-Peri Marosevic—————Steve Zakuani—-
-Jeremy Hall———————-Sam Cronin———————Michael Lahoud
Rodney Wallace——Omar Gonzalez—-Yohance Marshall———Kevin Alston
Keep in mind, the above Best XI is not based just on the Combine performance, but also on their draft values according to my conversations with more than a dozen MLS coaches and GMs/technical directors. That is why Yohance Marshall is in there despite making mistakes on both Combine days. The tools are there and Marshall is certainly showing first-round talent, but he's made too many sloppy mistakes that have scouts wondering what the problem is.
Don't fret about the formation please, there just haven't been any true and impressive attacking midfielders so I used the above formation. Baggio Husidic has skill and maybe he gets in shape and becomes a good playmaker, but right now his stick is down. Graham Zusi is looking like a solid attacking midfield prospect but I'm not sure he's done enough to move into the first round. And yes, Lahoud looks much better in central midfield, so humor with me on his placement here.
Best XI- Draft Sleepers
—————Jordan Seabrook—————Kwame Adjeman-Pamboe———-
Josh Boateng———————————————————–Ryan Maxwell
——————–Jokull Elisabetarso——-Jean Alexandre———————-
David Hertel——–George John———–Darrius Barnes————–Evan Brown
Consider this the group of players who weren't considered first-rounders before the Combine but who I see having shown some things that will make scouts take a look at them when the draft rolls around. I was very impressed with John and Barnes, who along with Gonzalez, Marshall, Besler and Ogunbiyi give this draft a very solid top six central defenders.
Best XI-MLS Combine performance
———————-Chris Pontius———-Peri Marosevic—————————
Josh Boateng————————————————————-Ryan Maxwell
————————-Sam Cronin——–Michael Lahoud—————————-
David Hertel—–Babajide Ogunbiyi—–A.J. De La Garza————Oscar Castillo
Jordan Seabrook was tough to keep off this list because he has been very good. Same goes for Matt Besler, who just might be the No. 2 center back on some draft boards now. Ogunbiyi has definitely impressed but I'm still not sure if he's a first rounder. He could be this year's Yomby William. You might recall William as the big central defender who was arguably the best center back in last year's Combine. He wound up being the No. 23 pick in the draft by KC, but was waived early in the season and now plays for the Puerto Rico Islanders. To be fair to Ogunbiyi, he looks like a much better prospect than William and I can't help think some teams have moved him past Marshall on their draft boards.
I will offer my full Combine observations on Wednesday as well as the final Mock Draft, Version 5.0 so stay tuned for that. Also, be sure to check out the MLS Combine observations of MLS Draft guru Buzz Carrick over at 3rd Degree, as well as the in-depth analysis of college soccer expert Joe Mauceri over at Pro Player Pipeline.
For now, feel free to share your thoughts, observations AND QUESTIONS on the MLS Combine in the comments section below.