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Draft Preview: Andre Akpan

In the first of my series looking at draft prospects that are likely to be in the 8-14 range, and generally on offense, I start with Andre Akpan. Not because he was Mike Fucito's teammate for a few years, nor because his coach played with Taylor Graham at Stanford, but because in one of the first mock drafts of the year Soccer by Ives had him listed 11th.

Ives said the following about Akpan

An experienced and polished forward who has been linked with moves to MLS for years, Akpan could be the victim of a slide in the draft if MLS succeeds in signing all the Generation Adidas targets it has in mind. That won't stop Akpan from being a first round pick, or from potentially being this class' Chris Pontius.

But let's look deeper at the man who turned down at least one Generation Adidas contract and who has a call-up with the US U-20 team back in 2007, earning caps in both qualifying (with a hat trick) and in the U-20 World Cup.

First, take a step back from the typical American sports fan that would think that the Ivy League isn't where good players play. This year, four Ivy Leaguers have been invited to the combine. Two of those are from Harvard, which has had 3 players drafted in the last 2 seasons.  This is a league that gets respect in soccer circles, sure it isn't the SEC  ACC, or the PAC10, but belongs in the next rung of soccer conferences in the USA.

While with the Crimson he led the team in goals scored, points, and to four straight NCAA appearences and 2 Ivy League titles. He is also a Hermann Award finalist (read the list of Award winners from an MLS perspective). His accolades are just too numerous to list. He started 19 games, scored 12 goals and tallied 6 assists.

Beyond the numbers and accolades, why would Sounders, or another MLS team want Akpan? He is 6'0" and 190 pounds, which for the Sounders would put him just after Jaqua and Levesque's size amongst their offensive players. But he offers more than decent size, according to Coach Clark (no known relation, via email)

He's big, strong but has really soft feet. He's decently fast but doesn't have breakaway speed. He has great balance and can get by guys in the MF. Very good in the air and combine with the MF very well. Should be one of the most exciting players coming out this year.

This isn't to mistake that he's a complete player. When asked whether Andre might have to make the change that Pontius, Le Toux and Fucito all made last year from pure forward to attacking wing, Clark pointed out that if Akpan went to midfield it would take a brave coach to make him a very good Defensive Mid, but that Andre would have to be much more aggressive defensively.

If Akpan is available and the Sounders want a player who is ready to contribute in Open Cup and lower level CCL play immediately there is no reason that they should pass him over. He'd be the 3rd New Englander, and 2nd Crimson on that roster. His overall draft position depends entirely on the number of players signed to a Generation Adidas contract, but is likely the best Senior Forward available this eyar.

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