Photo courtesy of MLS/Andy Mead
By VINCE MADURI
J.J. Johnson and Deshorn Brown entered the first day of the Combine as perhaps the two highest rated forwards in the Draft. Neither played like it on Friday.
“I think what most coaches are looking for is of course physicality, how well you move off the ball, you’re work rate, so I tried to build my game around that. But today wasn’t so good,” Johnson told SBI following the first game.
“I can say personally, it’s hard sometimes when [I'm] training in the cold weather and coming back to play a game in this type of weather. It has some disadvantages but at the end of the day, it’s no excuse. You just have to work hard, play your game, be confident and show the coaches what you can do.”
There were times Johnson looked lost on Friday. He seemed to be trying to do too much and never really looked comfortable in his spots. This was magnified even more than usual because other players on his team, notably John Stertzer, Mikey Lopez and Alex Icern, looked very comfortable on the ball playing back and forth between themselves.
Moments came where the Generations adidas forward had an opportunity to make a play and his first touch consistently let him down.
“My touches were off most the time and maybe communication with my teammates [could improve],” he said. “You learn from experience. So after playing in this game today, it’s easier to see what you’ve done wrong, I can reflect on the game, focus on those details and get ready for Sunday.”
As for Deshorn Brown, he was matched up against the consensus No. 1 player in the draft, Andrew Farrell. His team also struggled to find him: a byproduct of both his inability to lose his marker and the opponent’s strong midfield.
“I was trying to gel with the guys at first,” Brown said afterwards. “I was trying to do my best and show the scouts that I can play. We had a bad start to be honest and we weren’t going forward enough. We sat back in our own half and played like a defensive team.”
“I was up there by myself, fighting and trying to impress the coaches so they can see what I can do.”
The first day is always a bit choppy because it’s hard to play a very impromptu sport with teammates you’ve never trained with. Chemistry can be difficult to come by in the first go of things and it really showed in these two in particular. The good news: both of these players, along with the others that didn’t show too well today, have a second and third chance Sunday and Tuesday.
But as both seemed to indicate, they had better seize that opportunity when they return to Combine action on Sunday.
FIVE WHO STRUGGLED ON COMBINE DAY ONE
He never looked comfortable in a team that largely played with each other very well. First touch constantly let him down and looked lost in the run of play.
Brown never shook Andrew Farrell effectively enough to get the space he requires to run at or behind defenders. Struggled without quality service from midfield.
He was largely invisible most of his time on the field. The opponent midfield trio largely dominated the ball so he didn’t get many opportunities to show what he could do.
Christianson and the rest of his team’s midfield got heavily dominated by the opposing midfield. He needs to show he can be comfortable in possession of the ball for larger portions.
Much of the first half was spent with his team trying to play the ball direct to Zavaleta. He didn’t do a good enough job holding the play up to allow his attackers to get forward. This is his best asset to bring to a team, so he needs to show that skill better if he wants to be a forward at the next level.