Player of The Combine
There were a number of players who made positive statements with their play, but my personal favorite was Kyle Bekker of Boston College. His two-way midfield play was influential in all three games contributing two goals and two assists and generally managing the flow of play for the AdiZero team. His passing is smooth and smart, and he makes good decisions with the ball. He is also tenacious and determined without it. His upper corner free kick goal in the final game was the icing on a great weekend of play. Bekker has already been called in to the full Canadian National Team pool for the upcoming game with the USA and is likely to be a high first round pick in the MLS SuperDraft.
This was a better group than the previous year and one or two of them could be valuable assets to MLS clubs in reserve or developmental roles.
Luis Soffner – Indiana. An absolute giant in the goal: big, talented, and agile. Made one of the saves of the Combine going low to his left to tip a bending free kick around the post in the second game. Playing with a lot of confidence following Indiana's NCAA College Cup win.
James Belshaw - Duke. May be a little undersized for the top level but has good instincts and a big vocal presence.
Scott Goodwin – UNC. Another relatively small keeper, but tremendously quick and athletic. Made some important saves and impressed with his presence and leadership.
The defender pool was not particularly deep compared to midfield and forward, but there were a few notable players.
Andrew Farrell – Louisville. Probably the most vaunted defender in the group. Athletic, tenacious, and spirited. Reads situations well and has the quickness to intercept passes before they become a problem. He has a tendency to gamble and dive in at times, but he has the versatility to play anywhere in the back or in a holding midfield role. He is being touted as a possible number one pick in the draft.
Greg Cochrane – Louisville. Speedy and tenacious outside back who can play on either side of the field. Great drive and competitiveness.
Drew Beckie – Denver. Big central defender whose confidence and presence grew with each game. May not be ready to make the next level, but could be a surprise.
Bekker was the class of a group that included star names like Mikey Lopez (UNC), Dillon Powers (Notre Dame), Jose Gomez (Creighton) and Carlos Alvarez (Connecticut). Though they all had good moments (Powers's free kick goal in the first game was a thunderous drive) they were rarely dominant and perhaps even performed below expectations. I was impressed by a few other players:
Lebogang Moloto – Lindsey Wilson. His work rate, savvy passing, and combination play with Bekker and Powers made them the best midfield axis in the Combine. Although he lacks physical power, Moloto may be a sleeper in the draft.
Ian Christianson – Georgetown. Played well in the NCAA College Cup and showed tremendous passing range at the Combine. His play can be a little indirect, but he solves problems well in the middle of the field and got better every game in Florida.
Andrew Ribeiro – Creighton. Split time as a center back and holding midfielder, but really came alive in the middle of the field. Tenacious ball-winner on the ground and in the air.
There was a large group of forwards in the the Combine and a few did not perform up to their hype. JJ Johnson (VCU), Deshorn Brown (UCF), Will Bates (Virginia), Chris Thomas (Elon), and Ryan Finley (Notre Dame) all struggled to get untracked and display the form that got them invited. The ones that took my attention were:
Emery Welshman – Oregon State. Tall, mobile and fast with a lot of tricks up his sleeve on the dribble. MLS scouts were awakened to his talents in the second match where he was almost unstoppable. His stock rose considerably during the Combine.
Ashton Bennett – Coastal Carolina. Played with Welshman and Hurtado on the AdiZero team and had the benefit of playing with the Bekker-Powers-Moloto midfield. Bennett is a small, speedy striker with a sneaky-smart nose for goal and the ability to pounce on half-chances.
Kekuta Manneh - The 18 year old Gambian is a handful. Fast, clever, and skillful he loves to run at defenders and score goals. Showed understandable signs of being a little naïve in his play at times but he has a lot of potential at the next level.
Eriq Zavaleta – Indiana. Big and powerful physical presence on the field. Played up front and as a center back in the Combine. Probably best suited as a defender at the next level of play.
Don Anding – Northeastern. An unknown quantity before the Combine, but he impressed with his play up front where his speed and tenacity make him difficult to contain. Also played in the back and his versatility my serve him well in MLS.