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Jiggly’s Draft Chat: The Hub World

It’s that time again. Here’s your landing spot for the 2017 MLS Draft.

Well, it’s that time of year again. I don’t really plan on doing that much writing on soccer in the future (key word: “plan”), but this is a thing that I feel needs to be done for the good of the people. Over the last couple years, I’ve accidentally fallen into the role of resident MLS Draft expert. How has this happened? Well, how the hell should I know? It was the masses that decided! Anyways, it’s Draft Week now and it’s about time that I say some things.

First thing: I made a little fun Combine list. I took all 66 players and popped them into a nice spreadsheet with as much information as I could find of all the stats I felt I needed. It’s in alphabetical order, but also sectioned out by position as stated by the league media; so although this is a “Big Board” this is not my “Big Board”. Expect that later. Also, I have the 22 players in the Caribbean Combine on a separate sheet, but I have minimal info on those guys. If there’s something in there that you need help with deciphering it because my labeling is weird, just tweet at me.

To go to this list, just click on this Porg of Adventure:

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So, next on the Agenda: Just like last season, this isn’t a real article, this is just a hub for people to get to the articles coming out sometime soon. An easy one-stop shop. Hopefully if I remember to do things, there’ll be some Pre-Combine stuff, a real Big Board, and a Pre-Combine Mock Draft all ready before Thursday. Trust me, I’m going to be spending a lot of time on this mostly because I have nothing else better to do before classes start back up.

Official Hub of Links:

Players To Watch at the Combine

Big Board V1.0

Mock Draft V1.0

Combine Rosters and Schedule

Days 1 & 2 Recaps

Jiggly’s Draft Chat: Combine Recap Days 1 & 2

Jiggly talks about the Combine and who liked in the first couple of days.

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So I’ve been pretty late on this stuff. I could say I did other things the past couple days, but honestly I just kept willfully thinking “No, I’ll get it done later.” But since you’re reading this, I guess I did get it done (or I found this in my drafts a couple months later). So here’s some players that I have thoughts on after watching them play. We’re gonna do a “Stock Up/Stock Down” situation here, so buckle up. Or, you know, do whatever, it’s not a big shake to the system to do this.

Stock Up

Jon Bakero

Bakero was absolutely outstanding on Day One, setting up Albert Ruiz for the first goal of the Combine and just generally controlling the game. He did a bit less in the second game, but I think that this cements him as a Top 3 pick. He still takes up an international slot, but after these performances, teams aren’t going to care about that; especially teams that were bad enough to be that high in the Draft.

Jordan Jones

This is our first big surprise of the Combine. Jones has a massive motor on him and is really impressing me with his work rate at the tip of the spear. Also of note, he’s a big dude and deadly in the air. His goal on Day One was basically him sticking with the ball even after it got saved, just pushing always for that goal. It might get him into trouble with looking for goals in the wrong places, but for now he looks pretty good.

Frandtzy Pierrot and Mamadou Guirassy

I couldn’t decide between the two because they were all over the Team X front-line. Both had great work rates in the box and got back on defense when needed. Really, I half hope they end up on the same team in MLS because they were a great tandem. Pierrot is more of a target man in the box, while Guirassy actually has some moves on him. Just a great one-two punch.

Stock Down

Thomas Hillard-Arce

I don’t expect this to actually change his stock at all, but I don’t think anyone was impressed by Hillard-Arce the past few days. He just hasn’t performed to the level that we all know he can. He was overshadowed by Moutinho in the first game and picked up the first booking of the Combine in the second one. But he might just be resting up because Bradley already told him he’s their golden boy. It just seems kinda stupid that he’s even playing if that’s the case. I just want to see a good performance from him to at least use as a benchmark or something.

Gordon Wild

Already coming into the Combine with questions surrounding him, Wild hasn’t done much to settle them. Being virtually silent in the first game, he finally showed up a bit in the second. Unfortunately, it was through some unnecessary long shots, almost as if he could feel the judging looks and he was getting frustrated. He came close once or twice, but really didn’t show anything encouraging to a team to have them pick him up.

The Mere Thought of a Central Midfield

This sounds weird, but roll with me on it. I don’t know what it was about this year, maybe it’s the style of play, but there was almost no play in the center of the pitch. At least nothing that looked good. I feel bad for teams that are completely set up on the attack and are looking to fill holes in the middle of their spine because I cannot find anyone who can do that for them. Maybe if they want a #10 or a winger, but I haven’t seen anything below that. I hope it’s because of tactics and not that all the midfielders in this draft are shit, but it isn’t pretty out there at times. Everyone seems to prefer to be further out wide than teams normally play and when the ball moves over, it doesn’t usually get stuck in at the center of the pitch, it stays in a certain end for a certain period of time then gets flung down the side to the other end. While it may be good tactics, this isn’t doing any favors to the midfield players trying to get noticed.

Jiggly on Fire: Lindley Rejects Fire

I have thoughts on a recent development in Chicago Fire news.

I don’t know what to specifically call pieces here where I talk about the Fire. Especially since this is a “personal blog” and not a “Fire-centric” or “soccer-centric” blog. But I felt like it was important to write out my opinion on what just happened and how I think this all happened. So we’re gonna shoot first and ask questions later about the format, I really feel like this needs to be discussed.

So first, Paul Tenorio, while discussing Cyle Larin stuff also mentioned that the Chicago Fire was trading the homegrown rights for star North Carolina midfielder Cam Lindley to Orlando. Later multiple insiders mentioned Cam Lindley having rejected a contract with the Fire.

So if you’re reading this, it means that you care about this topic. If you care, that means you’ve seen this whole thing on Twitter. If not, go check out Dan Santaromita’s write-up on NBC Chicago. You can find as many facts as you need there. What I’m about to do isn’t a report, it’s more of an opinionated analysis piece. So that’s the facts, here’s my thoughts.

This is what happens when you fuck with your academy (forgot to mention, apologies to anyone who’s not a fan of vulgar language).

In high school, I knew a ton of kids who actually had friends in the academy. Hell, there was an academy player in my math class. This was around the time where I was just starting out with writing about the Fire and looking at the team objectively, so I was always asking questions about the feel with the academy, about the players there, about who were the best, who would sign for the Fire. And right in the middle of that time, massive changes hit the academy as Larry Sunderland left for Portland, multiple academy coaches left including Fire legend Gonzalo Segares, and the guy who was holding it all up since the beginning, John Dorn, decided to leave.

I’ve gotten mixed reports on what the players thought of Larry Sunderland. One guy said everyone hated him, other guys said everyone loved him. What can’t be denied is that he built and led some of the best academy teams in the country. The Fire may not have been doing all the things that FC Dallas and Atlanta United are doing, but somehow with someone like Sunderland at the helm, the team won. But I don’t think he had much to do with Lindley’s decision.

When it comes to Sega, he was only a part of the academy for a short time between retiring from his playing career and moving on to FC United (a club academy team). But although that time was short, he really set himself into the culture. And not just the culture of the way these players played, but at every available opportunity he tried to instill in the U-18s what it meant to wear the Chicago badge.

While he didn’t set it up, there was a game in April against the Crew Wolves a couple years ago where a few days before the game, he showed the kids videos of CJ Brown, telling them about his passion for the club and what it meant for him, and Sega himself, to put on a Fire jersey and wear that badge bin front of Section 8. After hearing about this, some leaders in Section 8 decided to show up and attempt to give it at least a little bit of a feel as to what it’s like to have Chicago behind them. Starring in that game for the academy: players like Djordje Mihailovic, Mauricio Pineda, and Cam Lindley.

Then, the coaching license incident happened and Sega was gone.

So to bring this back around to Lindley, he was a product of a wonderful academy, that was taken down in such an unnecessary way. When I talked to one of the players while this was happening, he told me that most players were planning on just going to college. No one was really interested in signing with the Fire. I thought this was about getting an education, but you can very well see how these kids could feel betrayed by such stupid actions from the Fire’s head office.

Where does that leave us here? Should Fire fans feel betrayed? I guess maybe if you want to, but I don’t blame Lindley. I think that it’s entirely okay to not want to sign with a team that threw away a man who loved it so much. And one thing I realized when looking at where he was being traded. When it comes to the Fire, we’ve produced a ton of players turned coaches, especially the way older players. And there’s one man who embodied a love of the Fire so much, but couldn’t stay around here: Orlando City assistant coach, CJ Brown.

I might be reading too far into this, but this is something to think about with all of what happened. This didn’t just come out of nowhere. How can you expect young players to “be loyal” to a club that can’t even be loyal to those who love it? Good luck with your career, Cam. Please fake an injury before each game against the Fire.

Edit: This deal was made official on January 18th.

 

Jiggly’s Draft Chat: Let The Games Begin

The MLS Combine teams have been announced so let’s talk about it!

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Yesterday while I wasn’t paying attention, MLS announced its official Combine rosters and their schedules. While the NFL Combine is mostly based on skill workouts to get raw data out of the players, the MLS Combine is more based in just playing the game. They also do workouts, but APPARENTLY they’re not visible to the public! Still fairly angry about that, but we’ll move on. Here comes my overview of the teams and the one game to watch. But before that, here’s the full schedule:

Saturday, Jan. 13: 11:30 PM CT: Nemeziz vs. Predator || 2:30 PM CT: X vs. Tango

Monday, Jan. 15: 11:30 PM CT: Nemeziz vs. X || 1:30 PM CT: Predator vs. Tango

Wednesday, Jan. 17: 9 AM CT: X vs. Predator || 11 PM CT: Tango vs. Nemeziz

All Games Will Be On MLS’ YouTube Page

I’m not going to waste space here listing out every team’s entire lineup, so here’s a mini Porg of Adventure so you can go to my spreadsheet where I’ve got everyone’s names color-coded to the team they’re on.

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Team Tango

This is definitely the team to watch for defensive purposes. With the two best defensive prospects in Tom Hillard-Arce and Joao Moutinho, this team was built to test the other teams’ attackers. While that’s the defense, it’ll be interesting to see how the recently added Jose Carrera-Garcia and Edward Opoku (newly minted GA player) work together, with Schaumburg native Chris Mueller working somewhere around there. The tip of the spear is going to be provided by Alan Winn and Afonso Pinheiro. As I said, this team isn’t built to score, it’s built to be a brick wall for the other prospects to face up against. The difficulty in scoring is going to be added by Eric Dick’s presence in goal. They’ll be an interesting group to watch, mostly to see how Hillard-Arce and Moutinho perform.

Team Predator

If Team Tango was built for defense, this one was built for the attack. The record-breaking Albert Ruiz and MAC Hermann Award winning Jon Bakero are going to be up top for this team, along with defender/forward hybrid Mark Segbers. Holding down the midfield will be GA Mo Adams and NCAA DII Player of the Year Thomas Vancaeyezeele (I’m not even going to attempt to pronounce that). In the back, they’ve got Kentucky stand-out Alex Bumpus and All-ACC defender Markus Fjortoft. Standing behind them all will be Jeff Caldwell.

Team X

This is the lucky team with TWO goalkeepers. Paul Christensen and Ben Lundgaard will have to find a way to split time evenly so both get a good look from the scouts. My money’s on Lundgaard getting the most time out there. On defense, there’s Maryland defender George Campbell and All-WCC Ben White. In the middle, the two to watch are Brian Iloski out of UCLA and Georgetown All-American Chris Lema. The interesting thing to really watch for on this team is how GA Gordon Wild performs after a  very unimpressive Junior year. Next to him will be fellow GA Francis Atuahene and Guinea U20 prospect Mamadou Guirassy.

Team Nemeziz

Finally we get to the Midfield team, with Alex Roldan, Ema Twumasi, and Ken Krolicki leading the way. The defense looks slightly better than the other teams, with Louisville fullback Tim Kubel and Dartmouth centerback Wyatt Omsberg. A bit further back is SMU goalkeeper Michael Nelson, who’s also an All-American. Rounding it out on top is the player who’s the most statistically impressive striker, Danny Musovski, along with Louisville’s Mo Thiaw and GA Mason Toye. This team’s also notable because they get the one Youth International, Ghanaian attacker Issaka Nyemewero, who’s been incredible for Danbort FC in Division 1.

The One Game to Watch:

Team Predator vs. Team Tango; Monday, January 15th, 1:30 CT

Offense vs. Defense. Tale as old as time. While Hillard-Arce met up with both Moutinho and Bakero in the NCAA Tourney, I don’t think he’s ever seen Ruiz before. Speaking of which, the rest of MLS continues to sleep on Albert Ruiz, but I refuse to. After missing out on a ton of games this past season, it’s only fair to continue to look to his Junior season. If he performs in the way that FGCU fans know he can, he’s going to do just fine in MLS. Taking on both TopDrawerSoccer #1’s at once (Hillard-Arce for upperclassmen, Moutinho for underclassmen) is going to prove it. Also, Bakero won the MAC Hermann and is known for being a good distributor, so the stage is set for Ruiz as long as he takes the chance.

Jiggly’s Draft Chat: Mock Draft V1.0

Here comes more Draft stuff. This time, it’s a mock draft.

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1. Los Angeles FC

Tom Hillard-Arce, Defender, Stanford

No surprise here. He’s the best player in a long time and helps Bob Bradley build up that spine some more. With Vela up top, Feilhaber in the middle of the pitch, and now Hillard-Arce in the back, I think we’ve got another Atlanta United situation here. Or should I say, a potential ’98 Fire situation. Has the potential to be a franchise player, as much as a defender can be a franchise player.

2. LA Galaxy

Alex Roldan, Midfielder, Seattle

Where I think the Galaxy really suffered was their inability to hold the midfield. Sure, they can pick up one of the GA forwards, but that doesn’t make sense for their situation. They’ve got Dos Santos and two young forwards (well, one not as young anymore). I think they take Roldan as a #10, which is something they drastically need to help out players like Alessandrini and Dos Santos.

3. DC United

Jon Bakero, Forward, Wake Forest

The MAC Hermann Trophy winner joins last year’s winner in Ian Harkes. I think that this would be a great move for the team to bring these two back together. If DC wants to improve they need to work with what they’ve got and if they want to help Harkes get more comfortable, bring in his old partner. And it’s especially better when that old partner is someone as decorated as Bakero.

4. Montreal Impact

Joao Moutinho, Defender, Akron

Montreal’s defense is kinda pitiful, so they should get a defender. Best defender available by far here is Moutinho, who’s also a GA player. This adds even more incentive for Montreal to pick him up because he’s not going against the cap. It’s a pretty simple pick.

5. Minnesota United

George Campbell, Defender, Maryland

5-1. 6-1. 5-2. 4-1. Yeah, Minnesota needs defenders.

6. Orlando City

Tim Kubel, Defender, Louisville

Orlando needs a nice attacking fullback. Kubel is a good one.

Et cetera, et cetera.

7. Montreal impact

Chris Mueller, Forward, Wisconsin

They already picked up a defender, so why not give them one of the best attackers in the draft. Simple, simple stuff.

8. New England Revolution

Oliver Shannon, Midfielder, Clemson

New England needs some help in the central midfield. I’ve also mentioned his leadership skills and I think that New England is also in need of that as well. Just a smart move.

9. New England Revolution

Lucas Stauffer, Defender, Creighton

They also need some extra help in the middle of the defense. Simple and smart.

10. Real Salt Lake

Francis Atuahene, Forward, Michigan

RSL should be looking at an attacking player, so of course they should go after a guy like Atuahene. GA contracts FTW!

11. FC Dallas

Ema Twumasi, Midfielder, Wake Forest

I really don’t know what went wrong with Dallas this season. So, best player available. GA, too. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

12. San Jose Earthquakes

Danny Musovski, Forward, UNLV

Wondo is good, but he’s getting old. Very old. They need a new goalscorer. Musovski has 47 goals in 71 starts. They also don’t have a really good striker available, so this guy should help them out.

13. Sporting Kansas City

Mo Adams, Midfielder, Syracuse

Although the team likes the 4-2-3-1 formation, they’re a bit weak at the “2” part. I suggest Mo Adams, a GA player who was applauded for his ability to play at the holding midfield position. I think he’ll be very happy there.

14. Atlanta United

Rafael Andrade Santos, Midfielder, VCU

What do you get the girl who has everything? Atlanta has been doing almost everything right. Last year they took a flyer on a Combine stand-out, Julien Gressel, and he showed up big for them. I expect them to do something similar here, although this is pre-combine so I’ll just pop this Brazilian #10 here since he seems like the sort of player they’d get.

15. Chicago Fire

Albert Ruiz, Forward, FGCU

For the past few years, the Fire have taken curveballs at their pick and I think this year will be no different. Mostly, I expect them to deal around in the first round so this may not even be their pick. But if it is, I think N-Rod and Pauno might just take my suggestion of Albert Ruiz. Yes, it’s an international slot, but we might have a couple spots opening up. We are also in dire need of a backup striker. Basically any sort of depth on the attacking end, especially with De Leuuw out at the beginning of the season. Seriously, if this happens, I won’t question the process ever again (okay, maybe I will, but whatever; It’d be a good move). The last time they drafted someone I liked in the draft, he was a solid rock on the backline for almost the entire season.

16. New York Red Bulls

Brian Iloski, Midfielder, UCLA

The Red Bulls are kind of imploding, trading away their midfield captain two off-seasons in a row. They need to fill that space back up and I think they’ll find a good good scoring threat in him. I think he can find a spot on their line-up in a supportive role.

17. Vancouver Whitecaps

Ben Ludgaard, Goalkeeper, Virginia Tech

Why a goalkeeper? Why not? Honestly, I think that the Whitecaps take a chance with getting a first round GK, since I don’t really see any specific holes or any player that could really help them. So screw it, you can never have too many punters.

18. Sporting Kansas City

Gordon Wild, Forward, Maryland

How did this guy fall so far? This is what happens when you have a bad season. If he was given a GA a year earlier, I think he’s going Top 10. But now, there are doubts, such terrible doubts. KC just recently traded away Dom Dwyer. I think they need to find a new guy to take that spot on the tip of their spear and they might be the ones to take a chance on Wild.

19. New York City FC

Tristan Blackmon, Defender, Pacific

I think that Sean Johnson deserves a better defense behind him. Blackmon should help.

20. Houston Dynamo

Mason Toye, Forward, Indiana

Best player available. He’s a good striker. Also, a GA. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

21. Austin Columbus Crew

Ben White, Defender, Gonzaga

MOAR DEFENDERS!!!! Seriously, almost every team in the league is pretty set on the attacking end. It’s really the defense that needs help in MLS. The Crew are going to take the best defender available.

22. Seattle Sounders

Mark Segbers, Defender, Wisconsin

Take the best player available. If you can’t bring the Roldan brothers together, why not pick up a nice attacking fullback?

23. Toronto FC

Eric Dick, Goalkeeper, Butler

Similar questions as with Atlanta. How you can you improve this team further? Well, with Clint Irwin seemingly gone after the revelation that is Alex Bono, they might need a new backup GK. I like this guy and I think he is much better than the GK I said the Whitecaps would get.

Jiggly’s Draft Chat: Big Board V1.0

Back to the Hub World

It’d take way too long to explain why people are where they are, so I’ll just make a list. Take in mind, this has nothing to do with the teams at those spots in the draft nor does it take into account the Generation Adidas contracts and the effect of international slots. Just: Who’s the best (Fire).

  1. Tom Hillard-Arce, Defender, Stanford
  2. Jon Bakero, Forward, Wake Forest
  3. Alex Roldan, Midfielder, Seattle
  4. Chris Mueller, Forward, Wisconsin
  5. Joao Moutinho, Defender, Akron
  6. Danny Musovski, Forward, UNLV
  7. Ema Twumasi, Midfielder, Wake Forest
  8. Rafael Andrade Santos, Midfielder, VCU
  9. Chris Lema, Midfielder, Georgetown
  10. Tim Kubel, Defender, Louisville
  11. Gordon Wild, Forward, Maryland
  12. Francis Atuahene, Forward, Michigan
  13. Mason Toye, Forward, Indiana
  14. George Campbell, Defender, Maryland
  15. Oliver Shannon, Midfielder, Clemson
  16. Sam Gainford, Forward, Akron
  17. Albert Ruiz, Forward, FGCU
  18. Mo Adams, Midfielder, Syracuse
  19. Jon Gallagher, Forward, Notre Dame
  20. Brian Iloski, Midfielder, UCLA
  21. Eric Dick, Goalkeeper, Butler
  22. Tristan Blackmon, Defender, Pacific
  23. Arthur Bosua, Forward, Columbia
  24. Pau Belana, Midfielder, Akron
  25. Marcelo Acuna, Forward, Virginia Tech
  26. Drew Skundrich, Midfielder, Stanford
  27. Ben Ludgaard, Goalkeeper, Virginia Tech
  28. Markus Fjortoft, Defender, Duke
  29. Brian White, Midfield, Duke
  30. Afonso Pinheiro, Forward, Albany
  31. Lucas Stauffer, Defender, Creighton
  32. Ben White, Defender, Gonzaga
  33. Nate Schultz, Defender, Akron
  34. Will Bagrou, Forward, Mercer
  35. Jeff Caldwell, Goalkeeper, Virginia
  36. Mamadou Guirassy, Forward, New Jersey Tech
  37. Cory Brown, Defender, Xavier
  38. Ken Krolicki, Midfielder, Michigan St.
  39. Wyatt Omsberg, Defender, Dartmouth
  40. Andre Morrison, Defender, Hartford
  41. Mac Steeves, Forward, Providence
  42. Alan Winn, Forward, UNC Chapel Hill
  43. Giovanni Godoy, Forward, UC Irvine
  44. Ricky Lopez-Espin, Forward, Creighton
  45. Mohamed Thiaw, Forward, Louisville
  46. Jake Rozhansky, Midfielder, Maryland
  47. Leon Schwarzer, Midfielder, San Francisco
  48. Harry Cooksley, Midfielder, St. John’s
  49. Frantzdy Pierrot, Forward, Coastal Carolina
  50. Jason Wright, Forward, Clemson
  51. Paul Marie, Defender, Florida International
  52. Paul Christensen, Goalkeeper, Portland
  53. Niko DeVera, Defender, Akron
  54. Mark Segbers, Defender, Wisconsin
  55. Pablo Aguilar, Midfielder, Virginia
  56. Graham Smith, Midfielder, Denver
  57. Brandon Bye, Forward, Western Michigan
  58. Matias Pyysalo, Forward, UCF (The true 2017-18 NCAA Football Champions)
  59. Justin Fiddes, Defender, Washington
  60. AJ Paterson, Midfielder, Wright St.
  61. Pol Calvet Planellas, Defender, Pitt
  62. Jordan Jones, Forward, Oregon St.
  63. Carter Manley, Defender, Duke
  64. Michael Nelson, Goalkeeper, Southern Methodist
  65. Rafael Sanchez, Defender, St. Mary’s
  66. Manuel Cordeiro, Midfielder, Akron

Jiggly’s Draft Chat: Who Dat?

Where I explain who you should watch for in the upcoming MLS Combine.

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So the first question to get answered is, “Who are these people?” Those people are college soccer players and were selected by the league to be brought in for closer inspection. 60 are seniors who’ve graduated, 6 are underclassmen selected to be Generation Adidas players. Of the 66 of them, over 85% were All-Conference/All-Region this past season and 20% were All-American selections. But you all probably at least know those basics, so I’ll get into it.

For anyone who calls this a crap-shoot: Yes, it basically is, but only if you don’t look at it properly. So I’ll go down the list a bit and give my picks for the players to watch for in each position. Teams haven’t been announced yet (probably later today), but when they do, I’ll definitely have things to say then. For now, we go by positions! Three each!

Goalkeepers

Ben Lundgaard, Virginia Tech

This guy’s a PR major, but I don’t think he has to do any talking to sell himself in the draft. While not the best stats-wise of the net-minders in the combine, he comes in with the most accolades. Ranked at #22 by TopDrawerSoccer, head and shoulders above his competition here, he also has a spot on the the All-ACC First Team. As I said, his numbers aren’t really impressive, picking up a career 1.28 ERA (or goals against average, whatever); but you can also put that aside when you realize that he’s at Virginia Tech, who’s a bit of an underachiever in one of the best conferences in the nation for soccer. Lundgaard led that conference in saves with 108. He might not seem like much, but he might do something. Keep an eye on him in the combine and we’ll see where it goes.

Eric Dick, Butler

Here’s the First Team All-American. While TDS likes Lundgaard, it seems like the United Soccer Coaches love this guy. And the stats check out. An 0.92 ERA, .801 Save%, and 28 career Shutouts puts Dick square on the map. When it comes to the situation around him, Butler is usually seen as a really solid program, this year getting ranked at #15. THe only real reason why they didn’t get too far in the NCAA Cup is because they had to go up against Wake Forest, the #1. If I had to make my pick of the best player of these three, it’d be Dick, so check him out.

Jeff Caldwell, Virginia

With a career record of 34-14-13 with 23 of those wins being shutouts, Jeff Caldwell packs a massive case. Coming from, let’s face it, the better of the Virginia universities, he definitely had some help along the way. And with only 61 games under his belt compared to the others’ 70-71, his 0.85 ERA seems somewhat diminished. Not to mention, he has one of the worst Save% of all the keepers with just a .776. With that sort of miss rate, it’s a wonder how he doesn’t have a higher ERA. So this guy isn’t used to being challenged. I want to see how he does when he is challenged, so I’ll be keeping close tabs on him when he’s out there.

Defenders

Tom Hillard-Arce, Stanford

Hillard-Arce has been a draft favorite for the past couple of years. Honestly, everyone’s been waiting for him to show up in the draft and I think it’s an absolute shock that he didn’t win the MAC Hermann. Instead he was a runner-up this season and a semi-finalist last season. Topping the TDS lists for a loooong time, I’d say it’s almost a certainty that he doesn’t drop out of the Top 3. Just make sure you pay attention to him in the combine games because he’s going to put on a display of what a good young defender should look like.

Joao Moutinho, Akron

Here’s another guy who’s topping TDS lists. Only a freshman, Moutinho made an instant impact, starting every game for Akron while picking up 3 goals and 5 assists. That doesn’t sound impressive, but come on! He’s a defender. What sort of stats do you expect? Coming out of the Sporting Lisbon academy straight to Akron, he is clearly ready for MLS and MLS agreed by giving him a Generation Adidas contract. Not only is he getting in early, but he won’t take up an international slot, as well as being a much smaller cap hit. But that’s for after the combine. For now, watch him.

Tim Kubel, Louisville

Last year I jumped the gun a bit early on calling for the Fire to draft this guy. Now that he’s officially in the draft, I want to make sure that I re-state that he is one of the best right backs around. Clearly the best attack-minded defender with a career total of 21 goals and 25 assists, I think he should be contending for a starting spot wherever he goes. With TDS putting him at #11, he’s got the credibility; but that international tag might sink his stock a bit. This is his shot to show that he’s more than worth the international slot.

Midfielders

Ema Twumasi, Wake Forest

Coming out of the “Right To Dream” program in Ghana, Twumasi worked quickly putting his mark on Wake Forest soccer, biking in his first career goal there. Now after a solid sophomore season, He’s been picked up on a Generation Adidas contract. If I could compare him to another MLS player I’d say he’ll be fairly similar to fellow “Right To Dream” graduate David Accam, except it seems Twumasi has a bit more ability getting back on defense. Also, he’s not as fast as Accam because basically no one is faster than Accam except for Usain Bolt and Dominic Oduro. Still, look out for him on the wings banging in assists.

Alex Roldan, Seattle

Roldan gets on my list solely from him being statistically the best midfielder at the combine. 18 goals, 17 assists, and clearly the highest volume shooter. This looks to me like someone who might be able to slide in to a #10 role, or at least an attack minded midfielder. He’s the brother of Christian, another midfielder who had a breakout season this year with the Sounders. Unlike his brother, Alex isn’t a homegrown player which means he’s available in the draft. He’s definitely someone to watch in the combine.

Oliver Shannon, Clemson

Here’s someone I like from a pure leadership standpoint. While not the most impressive player, Shannon has been an important captain for Clemson since his Junior year. Coming out of Liverpool, his experience in the Everton Youth academy seems to prove vital for him. I think to compare him to an MLS player, I’d take Dax McCarty. He’s not a pure attacking player, he’s not a pure defender, but he is all heart. I think whatever team picks him up will be very lucky to have him. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles walking into a group of guys he’s never played with before, so the combine will really test his adaptability.

Forwards

Jon Bakero, Wake Forest

You only need four words: MAC Hermann Trophy Winner. But since I have more space than that, Bakero has picked up exactly 100 points in his total time at Wake Forest becoming the third Deacon to do so. He bagged 16 goals and 14 assists this past season and was the spearhead of a #1 ranked team. The only drawback is again that international slot. Some teams are more willing to take chances on young players than others and I think that with the combine he should show that he’s worth it.

Chris Mueller, Wisconsin

Straight outta Schaumburg, even his bio page on the Wisconsin website touts him as “one of the most highly-decorated players to ever walk the McClimon turf.” While not a goalscorer, Mueller makes sure to spread the love around, with 35 career assists to his name, 20 of which came just this past season. Even though he received honors for Offensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten, the USC decided that he wasn’t good enough for an All-American mention. TDS disagrees, ranking him at #3 in the country. Why isn’t he a Fire homegrown? Because he joined the Chicago Soccers instead of the Fire’s academy. But that’s a rant for another time.

Albert Ruiz, Florida Gulf Coast

Albert Ruiz has been my man since I first saw his 22 FREAKING GOALS LAST SEASON!!! I don’t care what he did last season, that is just a massive amount of goals and should’ve earned him a Generation Adidas contract on the spot. That is just 2 goals behind Niko’s record breaking amount in just HALF THE AMOUNT OF GAMES! So what, FGCU doesn’t really have much competition in A-SUN. That doesn’t change anything about the quality this player possesses. Unfortunately, I think a lot of teams are going to sleep on him because of his lackluster 2017. He holds onto an international tag, so that might sink him even further. All he needs to know however, is just play his natural game at the combine. He actually holds the NCAA record for the fastest hat-trick in D-I history at 9 minutes and 2 seconds. That all the time he needs to get going.