While the excitement behind the MLS SuperDraft as a method of club-building is waning, for some players it is their biggest shot to catch on with a club and prove they can make it in professional soccer. Most make or break it at the combine; Tesho Akindele went from relative unknown to a high pick based on his performance, landing at the sixth spot in 2014. Some players play poorly and fall, like Cristian Roldan falling from a projected second pick selection to Seattle at number 16. Here’s a breakdown of where players are looking at the combine.
All mock draft picks referenced are from SB Nation’s 2017 Mock Draft.
Joseph Holland - The winger out of Hofstra has been one of, if not the, best player at combine, especially in comparison to the expectations Holland had going in. The winger’s biggest issue is requiring an international spot and, combined with being a bit unknown coming out of Hofstra, he wasn’t expected to go in the first two rounds. After this combine performance, however, he might slide into round one.
Hofstra's Joe Holland looking like a man amongst boys. Hard-working MF with creativity, speed and some size. Turns 24 in April. #ESPNFC— Marc Connolly (@mconnolly10) January 10, 2017
Daniel Johnson - Speaking of wingers who’ve shown up at the combine, Johnson, who projects to be a central player who could slide out wide, has been the top offensive player on Team Control (with Zeiko Lewis). Originally projected to fall to Seattle at 16, it is unlikely he’s still on the board there now with his performances.
Louisville's Daniel Johnson, who has shown so well on both days now, reminds me of a young Bobby Convey. #ESPNFC— Marc Connolly (@mconnolly10) January 11, 2017
Zeiko Lewis - Joining Joseph Holland as a top performer, the winger out of Boston College is having himself a combine to remember. Zeiko went as the second pick in round two in the mock, and has likely moved up a good five to ten spots with his performance. The draft is winger heavy and with Niko Hansen having a middle of the road combine and only Daniel Johnson and Jacori Hayes being good choices ahead of him, Lewis could move into the middle of the first.
Moving up the MLS SuperDraft list as we speak: Boston College MF Zeiko Lewis. Not just because he's scored goals here, either. #ESPNFC— Marc Connolly (@mconnolly10) January 11, 2017
Jakob Nerwinski - In the mock the defender fell to 36, but after a strong combine so far, he’s seen as cracking the late first round and should be gone well before Houston picks at 36.
Anywhere from 15-30. His athleticism is impossible to ignore & his attacking instincts better than expected.https://t.co/RovVpHbw46— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) January 11, 2017
Colton Storm - Storm played CB in college, but is seen as a RB in MLS. With Reagan Dunk having a poor combine, Storm’s consistent play at RB has cemented his draft spot. Most mocks already had him going in the mid-to-late first round 15-25 range (went 18th in SBNation’s) so this isn’t necessarily a surge up the overall boards, rather a rise up the RB boards. He even showed versatility, playing at LB well enough.
Most impressive defender at @MLS combine on Tuesday was Colton Storm. Brandon Aubrey looked really slow. Not sure why he's so highly rated.— Doug Roberson (@DougRobersonAJC) January 11, 2017
Colton Storm playing left back in the 2nd half. Guessing some MLS coaches requested to see him there. #ESPNFC— Marc Connolly (@mconnolly10) January 10, 2017
Kwame Awuah, Chris Nanco, Brian Wright - All three have had middle of the road combines, none standing out or falling on their face. The big thing that pushes them up the draft board is the change in their status to be domestic for all 22 sides. With a potential international spot required, their draft spots have ranged from mid-first to late-second, but with the guarantee of being domestic all three have solid first-round potential. Brian Wright is by far the best of the trio, landing at 15 in our mock with the Int’l designation.
Source: In addition to Canadian GAs, Canadians Kwame Uwuah, Chris Nanco and Brian Wright will count as domestic players for all MLS teams.— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) January 12, 2017
Reagan Dunk - At one point, Dunk was the first RB taken off the board, but after a good performance by Colton Storm and a poor one himself, he’s falling. Dunk had slipped to 13 in the SBNation mock, while Doyle originally put him at nine in his own. Dunk being the 4th or 5th RB means he very likely could slip into round two. Now he’s likely available at 16, but potentially even at 22 when the Sounders close the first round.
Yes. I think he's the 4th or 5th RB off the board at this point.https://t.co/hkpqcab6lY— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) January 11, 2017
Odoi-Atsem will be the first RB off the board. Dunk has struggled to keep high-end wingers in front of him.https://t.co/fTjI5LRLHP— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) January 11, 2017
Walker Hume- The North Carolina CB was a mid-to-late first round pick going into the combine. Taken at 17 by the Red Bulls and about the same spot in every other mock, he was expected to be an MLS ready prospect that lacked some of the athleticism of the other available CBs. We expected Hume to be available at 16 and with his ability to read runs, he could mask his lower physical grade, but after getting beat multiple times each day he might slip to early round two. Good news for Hume, his lack of speed was already known.
Looked composed, but sloooooow on the turn. Got skinned by Reid Day 1, a step behind on Day 2.https://t.co/BPFKPvzu70— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) January 11, 2017
Austin Ledbetter - The big unknown with Ledbetter is going to be his health. He wasn’t known going into the combine as a player that clubs were watching for injuries and had a second round grade. The mock had him going 39 to the Red Bulls. He was sent home for blood pressure issues, and will miss the combine entirely. Missing the chance to show off, combined with the health scare, likely drops him to the 3rd or 4th round.
Ledbetter has missed the combine. Blood pressure tested high so had to fly home & get checked out again.https://t.co/BwKuZJ9E6B— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) January 11, 2017
Shamit Shome - One of the few players with professional experience. Add on that he counts as a domestic player and a GA thanks to his Canadian GA deal, he has tremendous value on paper. He had a serviceable NASL season with FC Edmonton and was expected to dominate the combine. While maybe those expectations were too high to begin with for the 19 year old, he definitely has missed the mark at the combine. Instead of going at seven to Vancouver, I expect Shome to be this year’s Roldan; a GA that slides to the end of round one.
Hasn't helped himself. No clear spot & doesn't seem comfy on the ball under pressure.https://t.co/ObvthXSGw3— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) January 11, 2017
The players still have some time with games today (the 12th), the last day before the draft, to prove their value, it’ll take a massive day to undo what some of the players have done.