By IVES GALARCEP
With the NCAA Tournament in full swing, and players boosting and hurting their stock with each passing round, there is plenty to catch up on regarding the 2013 MLS Draft class.
From the growing likelihood that the Generation adidas class will be a small one, to the increasing sentiment that this year’s draft will be weak compared to previous year’s draft, the onus will be on teams to uncover the diamonds in the rough in a relatively shallow pool.
Does this mean the college talent pool is ready to take a long-term hit because of MLS academies? No, that isn’t what this year’s relatively weak class is about. The talent pool for the 2014 draft actually looks like it will be stronger than this year’s, but with MLS unlikely to hand out as many GA deals this year, that means more young talents will have to stay in school and have another year to develop, which will only help the 2014 draft pool.
Later today SBI will offer up the latest version of the MLS Draft Big Board (which will include several major changes because of the GA information we have received), but for now it is time to catch up on the latest on the Generation adidas and the draft pool.
GENERATION ADIDAS UPDATE
So just how small could the 2013 Generation adidas class be? As few as six, with eight being the likely cap this year. If it winds up being that many, it will mark the third straight year the GA class has been smaller than the previous year’s. From 13 in 2010, to 11 in 2011, and nine last year, the GA class is getting smaller as MLS looks to direct more resources toward signing Homegrown Players (academy products).
So who are the GA locks? Right now only Andrew Farrell, Walker Zimmerman and Mikey Lopez can be considered locks to secure contracts if they want to sign deals. Beyond that though, there are no sure things, which comes as a surprise when you consider a player like Patrick Mullins, who has had an outstanding season.
That doesn’t mean Mullins won’t get a GA offer, but he isn’t as much of a sure thing as most would expect. He can fix that with a strong tournament run.
Two forwards who are very good bets to secure GA deals are VCU forward J.J. Johnson and Central Florida striker Deshorn Brown. Johnson is a physical striker in the C.J. Sapong mold while Brown is a pure speedster. Both have MLS scouts buzzing and both should be part of the GA class if they accept offers.
Two players who look more likely to stay in school are UConn goalkeeper Andre Blake and Indiana star Eriq Zavaleta. Blake is only a sophomore and the consensus is that since he isn’t really ready to play on the pro level that another year of development in college can only help. Zavaleta, another sophomore, has apparently been freed from any Homegrown Player claims but the sentiment in league circles is that another year in college would serve him better. Does that mean a strong finish in the NCAA tournament couldn’t earn him an offer? No, but it seems more likely at the moment that he won’t be offered a GA deal.
Ema Boateng is generating GA interest, but concerns about whether the UCSB freshman is ready for the jump has him on the fringes of the GA conversation right now. Coastal Carolina midfielder Pedro Ribeiro was thought to be a strong GA option, but I’m told he is on the fringes and far from a lock.
The big surprise regarding the current GA class is word that MLS is strongly considering signing youth prospect Kekuta Manneh. The Texas-based forward and native of Gambia has been turning heads on the youth soccer front for some time, and spent last summer with the Austin Aztex. For a glimpse of his skills, you can watch him tearing it up for Austin in this video.
Louisville’s Dylan Mares and Creighton’s Eric Miller are two sophomores who appear more likely to be part of next year’s Generation adidas class, while Wake Forest midfielder Jared Watts has garnered some attention, though he’s on the outside looking in, as is UConn’s Mamadou Diouf.
So what does the draft class look like at the moment? Here is the group we could see getting the nod:
PROJECTED 2013 GENERATION ADIDAS CLASS
Andrew Farrell, Walker Zimmerman, Mikey Lopez, J.J. Johnson, Deshorn Brown, Patrick Mullins, Kekuta Manneh
What do you think of this group? Surprised to hear which players aren’t being considered? Disappointed to hear the GA class will be smaller, or think it’s inevitable given the increased quality of Homegrown Players?
Share your thoughts below.