MLS Combine in Review – Day 2

Dave Clark asked me to put together a review of the action today for SAH since I was able to catch some of the games live. I also went back and re-watched the highlights and the game feed. You can see it all on the MLS site.

Overall, the games were pretty pedestrian. The pace was noticeably slower than in the MLS and it’s clear that many of the players are having a hard time connecting up with their new teammates. Not that I blame them. For most this is the first time playing with any of these players and the stakes are pretty high. There were also frequent substitutions and positional switches making it hard for any player to get in a good rhythm.   

The first game: The defense of AdiPure, lead by Jalil Anibaba, dominated the Jabulani team throughout the game. Both goals came quickly in the 2nd half as a defensive lapse by the Jabulani team led to goals by John Rooney and Jason Herrick. The two goal lead proved too much for a clearly outmatched Jabulani team.

The second game: AdiZero dominated the 1st half of the game with an early goal by Cole Grossman and two goals by Joao Plata. Will Bruin was instrumental in creating opportunities for both Grossman and Plata. AdiPower had a much better 2nd half as both Bruin and Plata were subbed out at the half. The story for AdiPower in the 2nd half was Corey Hertzog who had two quality goals and was threatening for a third.

The Good – These are some of the players that stood out from the crowd today for positive reasons. Today they exceeded expectations and hopefully raised their stock in the draft.   

Joao Plata – Plata has been far and away the most exciting player to watch in the combine. He started high on the left side and combined very well with Bruin on the attack. He was able to break down the AdiPower defense repeatedly with darting runs and crisp passes. Later in the first half he was switched over to the right side where he wasn’t nearly as effective due to the defense of Tetteh and AJ Soares.

Jalil Anibaba – Anibaba was very solid again in the back for AdiPure. His combine performance is helping to take the ‘most MLS ready center-back prospect’ title away from AJ Soares. I like his positioning and passing out of the back. He also made the two other center-backs for AdiPure, Ushedo and Abibio, look very good. AdiPure with Anibaba in the back has been playing as a unit rather than just some guys thrown together for a glorified pick-up game.

Will Bruin – Bruin looked very good in the 1st half combining with both Plata and Grossman. He has a good eye for the game on the attack and was looking to get his teammates involved. He had a nice blast from long-range that was almost a goal. He also looked very strong inside the box against a very tough and skilled defender in Boxall.

Corey Hertzog – Hertzog was one of the few bright spots for AdiPower team today. He had some well timed runs toward the defense one of which he converted for the first goal for AdiPower. He had a nice touch around Josh Ford for the goal. His second goal came off of some good combination play with Ryan Kinne inside the box. Both goals showed good finishing skills from Hertzog.  

John Rooney – Rooney had another good day today. He’s playing with confidence and it’s translating to results on the field. He had a nicely placed shot from just inside the box in the 55th minute to open up a lead in the first game for AdiPure. In this case he was the beneficiary of some bad marking and an average MLS keeper probably would have made the save.

Cole Grossman – Grossman had a goal to start the game off early for the AdiZero team. He made a nice run into the box to collect a cross from Will Bruin and slide the ball into the left corner away from the keeper. He looked much more comfortable this game bringing the ball up and sparking the counter-attack through the mid-field in the first half. He came back into the game late in the 2nd half and had a nice free kick just outside the center of the box. 

Jason Herrick – Herrick made a good run to the left-side of the goal to get open for the tap-in. The run from Herrick was good, but the cross in front of the goal from right-back Demitrius Omphroy was better. Herrick didn’t stand-out too much besides from the goal.

Demitrius Omphroy – Omphroy had a very good day at the RB spot for AdiPure. He had a lot of success coming forward to create plays, had an assist on the Herrick goal and even had a couple good shots on goal himself. He looked good defensively although he wasn’t pressured much by the Jabulani team.  

Greg King – King wasn’t on too many people’s radars coming into the combine, but he looks like he’s playing his way into the 2nd round. He played LB for AdiPure for most of the game and had some good moments coming forward into the attack. He got the better of Sarkodie in one good sequence in the first half. He looked calm and composed on the defensive end.    

Jeb Brovsky – Brovsky, the forward/midfielder from Notre Dame, was very active all game for the AdiPure team. He came on at LB at the start of the 2nd half and did an excellent job of locking down Levi Houapeu. There’s no one play that stands out, but over the course of the game he had a definite impact.  

Paolo Cardozo – Cardozo looked pretty good for the Jabulani team. He was playing the CAM role early in the first half. The rest of the game I saw him alternating between the wings and the center of the pitch. I think he’s much more effective in the center. He has a nice first touch, good vision and plays with a lot of confidence.

Bobby Warshaw – Warshaw was in the central defense today for the Jabulani team. He was involved in breaking up a number of plays in the defending third of the field and had some nice passes out of the back. Unfortunately, in the 2nd half, he was part of the defensive breakdown that allowed the Jason Herrick goal. I’d really like to see him play in a defensive midfield role tomorrow.

Josue Soto – Soto played a lot of minutes generally played well. He missed a clear chance in front of goal early in the first half. He managed to come back and play well. He had some great passes to free up teammates and showed that he has a powerful shot off his left foot.  

Tyler Lassiter – Lassiter played much better today than he did yesterday. He started the 1st half in center-back before moving to left-back in the 2nd half. He showed great foot skills, good positioning and ball control.    

Stephen McCarthy – The big CDM played a pretty solid game for the AdiZero team. He did a good job of supporting the defense. He had some great long and short passes to spark the AdiZero counter-attack. As expected, he looked very strong in the air.  

Steven Beattie – Beattie, the 2nd division striker from Northern Kentucky, came in at central midfield for the AdiPower team.  He was very active on both ends of the pitch and helped set-up Hertzog for his first goal with a long pass from midfield.

The Bad – There are those players that many have expected to shine who didn't really shine today. Not to say they’re bad players, but they certainly weren't meeting expectations today.

Kofi Sarkodie – I think most people were expecting more from the kid many consider ‘the best attacking fullback in a generation’. I expected him to use his speed to come forward much, much more than he did. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes, but he didn’t leave much of a mark either.

Michael Tetteh – Tetteh played well defensively, especially to control Plata when he was on the right side of the pitch. However, like Sarkodie, he played a very conservative game rarely using his speed to come forward into the attack.  

Anthony Ampaipitakwong – Ampai started the game playing more as a withdrawn forward where he had no impact on the game. He moved back into his preferred CAM role in the 2nd half and generally played better. Ampai had a couple of nice passes, a couple of good looks he couldn’t convert on and some lackluster corner kicks. Overall it was a very forgettable game for someone projected to go in the first round.

Justin Meram – Meram was pretty quiet when he was on the pitch for Jabulani. He had a hard time finding space to work against a very solid Adipure backline. He had a good corner late in the 2nd half. I don’t think he was getting much in the way of service which could account for the lack of impact he had today.

Levi Houapeu – Houapeu was placed on both the left and right wings in the 2nd half for the Jabulani team. He didn’t look comfortable and had a hard time getting past defenders. I think he might have done marginally better on the left wing, but not enough so you’d notice. Houapeu needs to make more of an impact in this combine if he wants to stick in the 2nd round.  

Josh Ford – Ford had a couple of amazingly good reaction saves, but everything else was lackluster. His distribution was poor and he was almost caught out twice by opposing forwards putting pressure on him. He made some questionable decisions and was tentative coming off his line. A more decisive keeper probably would have stopped the Hertzog goal.    

The Ugly – The last group of players stood out for all the wrong reasons today.

CJ Sapong – Sapong missed an absolutely golden chance within minutes of coming onto the field. Anibaba and Ababio pretty much shut him down the rest of the game.    

Joe Willis – Willis didn’t look very confident in goal for the Jabulani team today. He committed a cardinal sin for a goal keeper by allowing a cross from Demitrius Omphroy to go right past him in the six yard box. Willis appeared out of position a couple other times throughout the match.

Jon Okafor – I was not very impressed with Okafor when I noticed him on the pitch. He looked slow and out of place on the right flank for the Jabulani team. He committed a pretty nasty foul on Eliason and made a couple questionable decisions.  

Michael Boxall – Boxall will probably go to sleep tonight with nightmares of Joao Plata and Will Bruin. Plata had a number of darting runs and passes inside that challenged Boxall’s quickness while Bruin was able to overpower Boxall on a couple of occasions. He also committed an ugly turnover and a couple dangerous fouls in and around the box. He looked much better in the 2nd half after both Plata and Bruin left.

Karl Reddick – Reddick was most visible in his absence. The only reason I knew he was on the pitch is because I went back to the opening lineups to find out who was supposed to be helping Boxall contain Plata on the right side. Yeap, the RB was Karl Reddick. Rich Balchan subbed in for him at the RB spot in the second half which immediately improved the defense of the AdiPower team.

Indy Smith – He’s big, he’s slow and he plays center-back. He look like he has a good awareness of the game, but I don’t think he has the athleticism to play in the MLS.

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