MLS Combine Day One: Stock Up, Stock Down
The first game-day for the MLS Combine has come and gone. We’ve got you covered with a few players that stood out, for better or worse.
Like in any draft process in any sport, the combine is an ideal place to lay claim to a higher — or lower — draft slot. For young players coming out of college, this is the perfect time to sell their talents to MLS General Managers and push themselves higher up the draft boards.
Day One of the 2019 MLS Combine took place on Sunday, with plenty of players either cementing their value or hurting.
Here are some stock ups and stock downs from the first day of MLS Combine action as preparation for the 2019 MLS SuperDraft intensifies.
Probably the most impressive player of the day, Akeem Ward has certainly shot up on some draft boards. The full-back out of Creighton usually plays on the right side, but played on both sides of the defense for Team Nemeziz. Making plenty of forward runs and finding his attackers on the run from all the way in his own half, Ward proved his worth as an offensive player. On the defensive side, he kept the Team Copa attack quiet and showed a lot of hustle going back and forth in transition from attack to defense and back again. Just an overall great performance.
I don’t think Tucker Bone saw the pitch until the second half of his game, and by the time he did get on the pitch, it was pretty clear how much his team was dominating. How he got the attention of pretty much everyone was an amazing move and pass to create a goal for Nils Bruening. Not only did he show off the skill to create just enough space to get off the pass, but he also showed the technical quality to accurately deliver the pass and the vision to see the open field in front of Bruening. That sort of vision and creativity is something that any team wants out of a guy playing in the attacking-midfielder spot. The problem for him is still the questions over his eligibility and military obligations for the Air Force. Still, he’s showing that he might just be worth the risk.
Prosper Figbe was the single-most impressive defender. In a day with two different blowouts, defense was in short supply; but this Nigerian center-back out of Virginia stepped up. Bossing the box with his physicality, making attackers seemingly scared to come near him, not only did he have a great day in the game but, when they released the physical tests, he had absolutely crushed the 30-yard dash and the vertical jump. There’s always a risk in drafting ‘physical specimens’, but Figbe has the soccer IQ to be in the right spots at the right time to go with his physical freakiness.
While not the only player I liked in the second game of the day, Amir Bashti was probably the most involved player on the pitch. The Stanford attacker scored a goal in the first minutes of the game by just being in the right spot and continues throughout the game to be absolutely dangerous, especially in tandem with Sergio Rivas. The ability for him to instantly connect with a player he’s never played with before shows good things for any team hoping that he’ll mesh well into their own team.
While the entirety of Team Copa may be at fault, I can’t help but feel that Brad Dunwell’s stock has dropped after being so deathly silent in their 4-1 defeat to Team Nemeziz. He had a couple of bright spots in passing and a nice tackle to save a goal near the end of the game, but he was just so quiet for long periods of the match. Maybe that’s supposed to be his style of play, but when you’re a holding midfielder and your defense is leaking goals, there is a responsibility on you to do something about it. The biggest moment I can think of is Logan Gdula’s goal, where both he and Peter-Lee Vassell just stop a couple of yards short of Gdula and just let him shoot and score.
When I talked about Mitchell Osmand in my previous article, I talked about him being a player from a smaller school with something to prove. He was amazing there but the level of competition was far below that of higher profile schools and especially MLS. So how will that translate to the bigger stage of the MLS Combine? Not well, apparently. He was consistently run over and outplayed by the Team Nemeziz attack. The defense as a whole was pretty pitiful. I’d give Abdi Mohammed a dishonorable mention, but Osmand just looked out of his element, which only casts further doubt over his ability to step up to the mark.
Dayne St. Clair
Another person who can probably point at the rest of the Team Copa defense, Dayne St. Clair is really only on this list for one reason (okay, two-ish). He’s a Generation Adidas player, so he should be fairly pro-ready and ahead of the other keepers in this combine, right? Well, that horrible giveaway on his own goal-line is just a lapse in concentration that you do not want to see in a goalkeeper. Yes, he’s a young goalkeeper, but that sort of mistake can move him out of the first round.
On the opposite side of Amir Bashti is Andrew Samuels. Samuels was playing at full-back for Team Predator and, while the rest of the team seemed to recover in the second half, the damage had already been done. He was constantly getting blown past by Bashti and the second goal for Team X was due to him losing a header to Sergio Rivas and then just not recovering. I don’t think his stock will take that big of a hit all things considered, but it was definitely a performance he’ll hope GMs forget.
As the combine continues, expect to see more players rise and fall on draft boards. There is still a long way to go in this process.