Friday, October 25, 2013

RNO: North American college soccer recap: October 22, 2013

Canadian Men's National Team

Posted by Aaron Nielsen,
October 22, 2013
Aaron Nielsen

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The CIS regular season came to an end this weekend, while state side the NCAA is deep into conference play, and in both associations teams have played between 12 to 14 games, which in term evaluating talent you can start coming to some conclusion on this season's performances.
I have had the chance to personally scout a couple of CIS games, including a match between top ranked York and Guelph lead by striker Robert Murphy who I wrote about in my CIS preview. York won the game 2-0 and Murphy showed some talent but did not stand out. Part of the reason is York, talent-wise, has more depth than Guelph. However, to me it seems CIS players know this is most likely the end of their soccer careers, so they don't appear to have the same determination as you witness south of the border. I do feel there is talent at the CIS level and feel the CSA should put more effort in raising the profile of the domestic game and give these players aged 18 to 22 some hope.

For Canadians there is some hope South of the border. The Syracuse duo of Alex Halis and Chris Nanco are proving to be some of the top freshmans in the NCAA this season, to go along with fellow 905'er UCONN's Cyle Larin. TFC should make sure they do anything possible so these players are potential Homegrown players four years down the road. Another Canadian, MacKenzie Pridham, a senior at Cal-Poly has scored 8 goals in 14 games and now should be in the list of potential draft picks in the 2014 MLS Superdraft.

In terms of the top prospects for the 2014 MLS Superdraft my lists remains mostly the same as it has in previous weeks with my current top 10 prospects.
My current 2014 MLS Draft rankings: 

1. Steve Neumann, Georgetown

2. Sebastian Ibeagha, Duke (Houston HGP)

3. Brandon Allen, Georgetown (NYRB HGP)

4. Patrick Mullins, Maryland

5. Andre Blake, UCONN
6. Boyd Okwuonu, UNC

7. Jared Watts, Wake Forest

8. Cristian Mata, Tulsa

9. Kyle Venter, New Mexico

10. Bryan Gallago, Akron
The biggest change in my complete list are probably the underclassman or potential GA's where the team success of Notre Dame and Louisville has put box-to-box midfielders Nick Besler and Marlon Hairston in the list of potential first round picks. The concern for these two though is neither player has outstanding size or athleticism, while St Louis' Robbie Kristo and Indiana's Femi Hollinger-Janzen, who do have some skills that show potential, their own and teams’ performance this season creates some concerns about giving the players a guaranteed MLS contract.

Speaking of Indiana concerns, last year champions have been the biggest disappointment this season already losing nine games and are probably eliminated from post-season, which puts a number of high profile college players going into this season’s draft potentially in jeopardy.
West Coast teams have had a strong early campaign with California and Washington at the top of the polls, with CS-Northridge and UCLA closely behind. I have a few west coast-based players just out of my top 10 MLS draft prospects including California's Steve Birnnaum, UCLA's Victor Chavez, and CS-Northridge's Sagi Lev-Ari. It could be argued there is an east coast bias to my list. One of the reasons is the NCAA Soccer schedule is very regionalised, so many of the west coast teams haven't played the top east teams and vice-versa, so a bias exists because there is a lot more east coast teams then west.

Another reason I would argue the success of the west coast teams has less to do with individual talent but quality of coaching. As I'm a strong believer in college talent I'm also a strong supporter of NCAA coaching and their potential of being quality MLS Coaches. In the past I've debated this topic with people in the game and my main argument is that NCAA college coaches have the greatest awareness of North American soccer talent and their experience makes them more knowledgeable about the position than a recently retired MLS player.

This has been proven as well in the MLS records books with the league’s greatest coaches Bruce Arena, Bob Bradley and Sigi Schmid, and the success this season of new coaches Caleb Porter and John Hackworth, all joined the league from the NCAA ranks.
This being said here is my list of current NCAA Soccer coaches who I think would have the greatest success in the MLS.
Tim Vom Steeg, UC Santa Barbara

Vom Steeg has turned Santa Barbara’s soccer program into a powerhouse both off and on the pitch and has many similarities to what Caleb Porter did at Akron before joining Portland. Vom Steeg has an overall record of 186-72-27 since 1999, and prior coached Santa Barbara City College to a 121-18-4 record.
Vom Steeg won national coach of the year in 2004 and again in 2006 as he led the Gauchos to the national title that season. The 2006 team included MLS players Eric Avila, Chris Pontius, Andy Iro, and Tyler Rosenlund. He also recruited and managed Rob Friend, Dan Kennedy, Sam Garza and Luis Silva. Vom Steeg has also not been afraid of recruiting international players and adapting them into the team despite language and tactical barriers probably one of the biggest transition from the college to the pro game.    

Sasho Cirovski, Maryland

In my opinion, it’s a shame this Canadian has not been offered either the Toronto FC or Canada National Team job yet. A man who started his playing career in the old Canadian Soccer League, Cirovski is a legend in college soccer with a 314-116-29 record at Maryland, including two champions and five final four appearances. However, his greatest achievement might be the amount of players he coached who turned professional.
Currently there are 17 MLS players who played at Maryland including Omar Gonzalez, Robbie Rogers, and Graham Zusi. Add to this Maurice Edu is a former Terp and in total Cirovski developed 47 current and retired MLS players. He's probably the greatest Canadian soccer coach of all-time, although the only question regarding him coming to the MLS is he might be taking a pay cut to do so.

Jamie Clark, Washington

Only 36 years old, and born in Scotland, Clark played college soccer for North Carolina and Stanford before being selected in the 1999 MLS draft by San Jose. He played 34 games in the MLS from 1999 to 2001 he then played some games in Scotland, as well as the US minor division A-League.
He tried his hand in coaching in 2002, first as an assistant with New Mexico then Notre Dame. He was offered the head coach position at Harvard in 2008 and lead the team to a 26-10-1 record and NCAA tournament spots. He then became Creighton’s head coach in 2010 and finished the season 13-5-2 before joining Washington in 2011. Each season he's coached he had players drafted in the MLS drafts, so he has shown an ability to recruit but his specialty is motivating teams to success which is also key in the professional game.

Ken Lolla, Louisville

Caught up in the non professional days of American Soccer, Ken Lolla never really got a shot as a professional player despite a number of awards in college. The 47 year old started coaching in his twenties, although made a name for himself as head coach of Akron where he coached from 1993 to 2005 having a record of 160-68-25 and building the framework that later allowed Caleb Porter to be so successful.
He joined Louisville in 2006 and has posted an 88-42-19 record, including runner-up in the 2010 National Championship Game. He has developed 15 MLS players via Louisville including recent highly touted players Austin Berry, Nick DeLeon and Andrew Farrell, and many expected a fall from grace this season but the Cardinals remain as one of the top teams in the country.

Kevin Grimes, California

Kevin Grimes might have the greatest playing pedigree amongst NCAA coaches. The former defender was capped by the US National Team five times and was part of the inaugural MLS player draft in 1996. Although already 30, he retired soon after and joined SMU as an assistant coach in 1997 and then became head coach of the University of California in 2000 and since has won PAC 12 coach of the season five time and three conference titles.
His career record as a coach 131-80-31 isn't as good as the others but he has proven he can develop MLS talent including having six players drafted in the 2010 MLS draft. This year California has surprised many and if Grimes was to lead the Bears to a National Championship a transition to the MLS might be the perfect next step.
Other potential MLS coaching prospects include Carlos Somoano, North Carolina, Brian Wiese, Georgetown and despite Indiana’s struggles this season their coach Todd Yeagley has former MLS experience. Meanwhile veteran coaches Jay Vidovich, Wake Forest and Ray Reid, Connecticut have great experience winning games and developing MLS talent, although like Cirovski they might be happier where they are than in the MLS.

As I've said many times before we need to respect the MLS as a North American product and this should include the promotion of North American talent be it player or coaches.

RNO: North American college soccer recap: October 3, 2013

Canadian Men's National Team

Posted by Aaron Nielsen,
October 3, 2013
Aaron Nielsen

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The college soccer season continues to be in full stride, with most schools in America starting their conference schedule where the games have an added value. The NCAA Division 1 soccer championship is similar to basketball and teams who win their conferences advance automatically to the big dance in November.

It also means most schools have played between eight to ten games, which allows for better evaluation of expectations for this season, both at a team level and at individual level. Team-wise, traditional soccer powers Notre Dame, Creighton, Akron, Washington, Georgetown and Maryland seem to be early championship favorites. California, CS Northridge, UMBC and Dayton might not have the same reputation, but early season success has them equally high up in the polls. Strength of schedule does play a major role, especially during conference play, so the key is not to evaluate teams purely on win-loss record. That being said, six or more losses could see any school eliminated from post-season play.

In terms of prospects for the 2014 MLS Draft an interesting trend has happened where highly rated offensive players such as Mark Sherrod, Mamadou Diouf and Steve Neumann have a high number of shots but are scoring goals at much lower rate than they have in previous seasons. One reason for this is these players would be fully aware that the MLS is interested in them so they might be trying too hard to impress scouts and increase their statistics instead of playing naturally like did earlier in their career.
This can be a concern - in analyzing past drafts, players who had poor seasons as seniors compared to the rest of their career have struggled to make an impact at a MLS level. A great example is Toronto FC Midfielder Kyle Bekker where after a very good junior season for him and his school Boston College, he had a very poor season last year when he was a senior.

Since the season still at the halfway mark I will give the benefit of the doubt, however, I do have concerns for UCONN's Mamadou Diouf who has failed to score, and because he would take up international spot, despite his athletic ability he has fallen significantly on my list. Alternatively, California's Steve Birnnaum who I profiled in my last college article has continued to impress and has moved up, in my opinion, to a first round pick.
My current 2014 MLS Draft rankings: 

1. Steve Neumann, Georgetown

2. Sebastian Ibeagha, Duke (Houston HGP)

3. Brandon Allen, Georgetown (NYRB HGP)

4. Patrick Mullins, Maryland

5. Andre Blake, UCONN
6. Boyd Okwuonu, UNC

7. Jared Watts, Wake Forest

8. Kyle Venter, New Mexico

9. Mamadou Diouf, UCONN

10. Mark Sherrod, Memphis
Since my top ten has remained mostly the same I thought I would profile the next group of seniors who I haven't written about in my previous articles. These players have a good college reputation, although have not stood out, so there is still questions remaining regarding their MLS potential. I could see MLS inviting all these players to the combine, although in the draft they could fall to the later rounds.
Victor Chavez, UCLA

On the positive side Victor Chavez is a 5'11 forward has played both for the United States under-17 and under-18 national teams and he also plays at very high profile school in UCLA. Although this also creates an issue, since UCLA are one of the top recruiters Chavez has had to wait is turn for his opportunities and prior to this season half his games he came on as a substitute where he scored 19 goals in 59 games going into this season. Another issue is the failure of high profile UCLA alumni forwards in previous drafts and part of the reason is they play more on the wing, which doesn't necessarily translate to the pro game.    

Harrison Shipp, Notre Dame

Harrison Shipp is another forward who has had to wait his turn at a high profile school. Shipp is the go to offense that Ryan Finaly was last season so he's only started four of his 60 college games going into this season, scoring 11 goals and 12 assists. Shipp has improved those numbers this season averaging a goal or an assist per game and Notre Dame has performed better than expected. If Shipp is drafted by an MLS club, he might be used more in the midfield which works much better for his size of 5'9/145.

Andy Lubahn, Wake Forest

Andy Lubahn is an interesting story. He had a very successful Freshman and Sophomore season scoring 18 goals in 43 games and going into his Junior season there was talk about him being a GA. He performed adequately in his Junior year, although his goal total fell and he was hurt last season with a knee injury after playing just two games. He's come this year as a fifth year senior and has done well on a team that is expected to challenge for a championship. The 22-year old has good size 6'1/170 and has played on multiple US National teams, however we still have to see if his past injuries will have an effect on his value in the draft.

Zach Barnes, Creighton

Barnes transferred to Creighton from SMU last season and was a key player in the midfield as Creighton advanced to the Soccer Championship Final Four. Barnes is your typical box-to-box hard working midfielder with decent size at  5'10/160 and has shown some ability to create offense. Barnes also represented the US youth national teams and might fit the pro mold better because he's used to being an asset both on offense and defense. Because Barnes doesn't have the statistics of others his value in the draft will be partly based on the success of Creighton this season.

Michael Calderon, New Mexico

The Costa Rican transferred from a small northeastern school Fairleigh Dickenson to give New Mexico a bit of flair in the midfield. The 24-year old attacking midfielder fit in well on a team that included current MLS players Devon Sandoval and Blake Smith. This season Calderon has lot more responsibilities and could become a true attacking midfielder, a position not normally found at US colleges. Calderon has no fear in taking shots, although these shots will have to lead to goals and assists this season if he is going to make a presence on draft day.
Kevin Cope, Michigan State

Like California's Steve Birnnaum, Kevin Cope is a 22-year old red shirt senior with great experience as a central defender. He also added to his reputation for having successful seasons in the PDL including Defender of the Year in 2012. A team captain, his success has almost mirrored the success of Michigan State and these leadership skills may relate well at the pro level. One concern has been his ability to deal with injuries missing most of the 2011 season and so far already missing a few games this season.
Rafeal Diaz, St John's

So far this season other, than the reputation of Andre Blake, the list of top goalkeeping prospects has remained quite open. Other highly touted keepers, Washington’s Spencer Richey has been injured, while SMU’s  Jaime Ibarra has struggled. This means St. John's Rafeal Diaz looks to be the second best goalkeeper in the draft. After red shirting his Freshman year Diaz has been the starting keeper for the Red Storm the last four seasons. Small for a keeper at 6'0/160, he is known as a shot stopper and is very athletic compared to other keepers.
Chris Ritter, Northwestern

Ritter is a leader in the midfield and  what you expect from the American prototype soccer player: Hard working, great Size at 6'2 190, and has contributed both with goals and assists through effort more than finesse. Ritter is also a fifth year senior who is the captain of his side, playing over 70 games with all but two as a starter. He is the type of player who could potentially be molded in to an MLS pro and once he establishes a greater awareness of the game could use his size to his advantage.

Eric Stevenson, Akron

Despite being overshadowed by his teammates this season and in the past, the 23-year old, 5th year senior has been a useful part in the Zips overall success. The 5'8/145 midfielder had a breakout season last year scoring seven goals and four assists well starting 22 games, many times being the top performer in one of the nation’s best midfield. Stevenson is expected to do the same this season and has already improved his assists ratio from previous seasons. Akron players historically have done well in the draft and although Stevenson might not have the flair as his teammates, his results will make him a commodity on draft day.

Joey Dillon, Georgetown

With the success of Georgetown last season and current Hoyas Steve Neumann and Brandon Allen being two of the most high profile players in college, it has brought many people to the attention of defensive midfielder Joey Dillon. Dillon is certainly more defensive than box-to-box, although he plays a vital role allowing the others to concentrate on offense while he protects the back line. Dillon has decent size at  6'0/160, so he could also be converted into a defender although a defensive specialist in the midfield can be useful especially if a team wishes to play a 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 formation. Dillon understanding his role could provide additional value for the team who takes him in the draft.

CIS Soccer

Meanwhile, in Canada teams are entering the midpoint of the season and UBC and Montreal continue to show they are dominant teams in their conference this season. Continuing on the MLS theme the two top clubs in Ontario this season are Toronto based York and Ryerson University, but unfortunately because of divisions the Lions and Rams will not potentially play each other until the playoffs. 

Both teams are very well balanced, although York might be the deepest team in the country lead by the goal scoring of Mark Kaye, Jonathan Leo, Joseph Cicchillo and Dylan Sacramento, but  the top prospect on the team arguably could be 6'3 defender Daniel Fabrizi. 

Ryerson has been lead by the goal scoring of Alexander Braletic, but the team has also played great defense going undefeated at 7-0-1 and allowing only five goals in the process. Ryerson looks like it has clinched Ontario East while York still has to hold off Guelph and McMaster. 

St Mary's leads things in the East which is interesting since all Canadian Conferences are lead by schools located in the regions largest city.

RNO: North American college soccer recap: September 18, 2013

Canadian Men's National Team

Posted by Aaron Nielsen,
September 18, 2013
Aaron Nielsen

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Despite classes only starting a couple of weeks ago, the US College Soccer season is already a 1/5th complete with some schools already playing as many as six games. There has been a few upsets to start the season with probably the most significant being last season’s champions Indiana falling out of most polls after starting the season 2-3-1.
Some rankings had the Hoosiers as preseason favorites this season, although I felt they had a few questions to answer, including: can 2014 MLS draft prospect Nikita Kotlov replace the goals scored last season by Seattle Sounders GA player Eriq Zavaleta, who scored 18 goals during the 2012 season?
Other teams with early seasons upsets include Georgetown and Maryland, who have already lost two games.  However, top MLS prospects for the Hoyas  Steve Neumann and Brandon Allen and Terps Patrick Mullins have continued to show the offensive skills that have them rated so highly. Some individual highlights from 2014 MLS draft prospects includes UCONN keeper Andre Blake not allowing a goal in his first 3 games and Coastal Carolina Pedro Ribeiro scoring 4 goals in his first 5 games despite his club having also lost two of their first five games. 
One of Coastal Carolina losses was a 4-0 loss to North Carolina. The Tar Heels are currently ranked 2nd behind Creighton in the polls and despite being a traditional soccer powerhouse, this season might be more of a struggle than expected as the they have lost seniors, and 2014 MLS draft prospects, Rob Lovejoy and Andy Craven to injury for the entire season. I spoke about Lovejoy as a player to watch in my last NCAA article, however, for him and Craven this season is lost but now may return to college next year as 5th year Seniors.
My 2014 MLS draft rankings remains relatively unchanged: 

1. Mamadou Diouf UCONN
2. Steve Neumann Georgetown
3. Sebastian Ibeagha, Duke
4. Brandon Allen, Georgetown

5. Andre Blake UCONN
6. Patrick Mullins Maryland
7. Boyd Okwuonu UNC
8. Kyle Venter, New Mexico
9. Mark Sherrod, Memphis

10. Jared Watts, Wake Forest
I thought I’d profile some of the lesser known players but as the season develops they could see themselves on the 2014 MLS draft radar.
Tomislav Zadro, Wisconsin
I will be honest Zardo hasn't been on my radar in over two years. The Canadian midfielder, who was born in Bosnia, had made a name for himself when he first transferred to Wisconsin in 2011 after being named Midfielder of the Year in the NJCAA at Illinois Central College. In 2011, Zadro scored 6 goals and had 8 assists but missed the entire 2012 season with an ACL Injury. Tomislav has great size at 6'3/175, is naturally left footed, has been healthy this season and has already scored two goals and four assists in five games. If he continues at this pace he will be of interest to all and should be a high priority for the Canadian teams.    

Pete Caringi, UMBC

Caringi is your classic college player who excels for his school as well as his PDL team, but because he plays for a small school the jury is still out if he will be worth a shot for a MLS club. The 6'1 forward had already scored 24 goals in 60 college games before joining PDL club Baltimore this summer and winning leagues top young player as leading goalscorer with 16 goals in 12 games. He has also started the 2013 college season scoring a further eight goals in five wins. Caringi is the son of UMBC head coach so you can understand him playing there oppose to a bigger name school nd despite his goal totals this decision, ultimately may hurt his potential for a pro career.

Matt Walker, Xavier
Walker also had a strong PDL season this summer and was one of the league’s top creative players with six assists and has continued this form in the early season with three goals and four assists in five games. Walker plays for Xavier who have proven to be a good soccer program and have developed some players who have been drafted. However, the biggest concern regarding Walker’s pro potential is his size listed at 5'6/150. Smaller players don't have the greatest track record in establishing themselves as MLS pros, although Walker has shown a skill set to succeed at every level and maybe this type of offensive awareness is something MLS clubs should explore.

Steven Birnbaum, California

During his Freshman season with the Golden Bears, Steven Birnbaum’s defensive partners included AJ Soares and Demitrius Omphroy. Both players would be drafted into MLS with Soares being far more successful than Omphroy. One of the attributes that was noticeable in both players’ college stats was Soares additional skill set, including the ability to score goals. Birnbaum has taken this to heart as the 6'2 5th-year senior has already scored three goals in the first four game this season helping California regain national attention after struggling the last two years. Birnbaum would be classified as a typical centre back, but the showcasing of additional skills and success on the field should raise Birnbaum’s draft profile.

Omar and Cristian Mata, Tulsa

The Mata brothers might be one of the most interesting stories developing this 2013 NCAA season. Omar, the older brother, is a 5'9 senior midfielder playing a very active central midfield role that has seen him score both goals and set up plays. However, the last year and this season he has been in the shadow of his younger brother Cristian, a 5'9 sophomore forward who has so far scored 19 goals in 26 games, including five goals in six games this season. The question now isn't if Omar is going to get drafted but instead is Cristian going to get a GA contract and if both are available will the same MLS club choose to draft them as a partnership?

CIS Soccer

The CIS (Canadian University) is also in full flight with some teams playing close to half of their 2013 regular season schedule. The polls expect teams who were successful last season to do well this season, including UBC, who won the championship as part of an undefeated season. They lost a few players including CIS MVP Gagandeep Dosanjh, but still have some interesting players including Navid Mashinchi, who has already played professionally with the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2009.
The player who I'm most interested in is Robert Murphy of Guelph who has scored 34 goals in 46 games going into this season, and according OUA statistics is averaging 4 shots a game. Murphy is an Ottawa native in his last season of eligibility, so expect him to get a tryout with the Fury but he might also be worth a look from a MLS club.
The top player in Quebec is probably France native Maxime Laurey, who plays for the University of Montreal and might be worth a look from the Impact.
Finally, out East it is pretty open with Cape Breton not expecting to repeat as AUS Champions. Early favorites seem to be St Mary's and I think their British born keeper Adam Miller might be one to watch as he has proven to be a team leader with the Huskies over the past three seasons.

RNO: NCAA Soccer's 2013 Top Players to Watch

Canadian Men's National Team

Posted by Aaron Nielsen,
August 26, 2013
Aaron Nielsen

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For the past five years I've put together a top 100 MLS draft prospect list. Of all the projects I do, this one grabs the most interest from the average fan. I believe this is partly because as North American sports fans we expect this type of analysis, and other than a few independent outlets, and a small effort by the official MLS website, not much work is being done in this capacity. As a writer I don't produce material to attract readers, but rather try to give insight that I feel is being ignored and in the case of the MLS draft, in my opinion, is not only ignored by the media but also the MLS and individual scouting departments as well.
Last season I did some writing regarding the 2013 MLS draft prospect listright before the combine, where I talked highly regarding players such as Carlos Alvarez, DeShorn Brown, Andrew Farrell, Dillion Powers and Walker Zimmerman. I also expressed concerns towards Erik Hurtado, and of course the Toronto FC duo of Kyler Bekker and Emery Welshman. With the American college and Canadian CIS soccer seasons beginning this week I put together my preseason top 100 list. I update this 3 or 4 times throughout the College as certain players excel and other fall off and I hope to write articles in the future as the this season develops.
Here, in my view, are the profiles of the top ten seniors to watch, five underclassmen who would have to qualify for a GA or Homegrown spot to be eligible, and five interesting stories including two Canadian players. The complete list I produce comes with analysis on each player including exclusive statistics and ranking from 1 to 100. If you want more information regarding the complete you can email or tweet me.
Top 10 Seniors to Watch

Mamadiou Diouf, Forward, UCONN
The 6'1 forward was heavily rumored to be a GA player last season after scoring 15 goals in 21 games for one of the top schools in the United States. Diouf has so far scored 31 goals in 58 games, including goals via his head and outside the box. The only concern from an MLS perspective is the Senegalese striker should count as an import player, so unless he scores a large amount of goals this college season his draftability could be hurt
Steve Neumann, Midfielder/Forward, Georgetown

Neumann's statistics are incredible, scoring 31 goals and 20 assists in 64 college games. Regarded as an attacking midfielder, although he may play winger in MLS, and is known for his goals from outside the box with 12, including 3 direct free kicks. The statistic that impresses me the most was his ability to get 42 shots on target last season from the midfield. If Neumann can repeat the same statistical output this season he would be my number one pick. 

Sebastien Ibeagha, Defender/Midfielder, Duke

If it wasn't for a disappointing season last year for Duke, Sebastien Ibeagha would have been a GA or joined the Houston Dynamo as a Homegrown player. Ibeagha is an athletic defender either playing Centre Back or Defencive Midfield. Coming in at 6'1/179 should allow him to play CB, although MLS teams might want to take advantage of his athleticism in the midfield. Statistically, Ibeagha scored 6 goals, 5 via headers in 44 career games and knowing Duke tradition of allowing players to play different positions, I wouldn't be surprised if the offensive numbers improve this season. 

Mark Sherrod, Forward, Memphis

It's hard to imagine labeling a player scoring 12 goals in 18 games as a disappointment, but after scoring 19 goals in 18 games the previous season, Mark Sherrod's draft value went down especially in gaining himself a GA contract. Although the 6'3/185 forward has great size, has scored 35 goals in 53 college games and has also scored a number of goals over the summers in PDL play with the Portland U23 team. Expect Sherrod to score double digit goals this season and potentially be a high draft pick or a Timbers homegrown player.

Patrick Mullins, Forward, Maryland

Patirck Mullins had a sensational season in 2012 scoring 17 goals and adding 8 assists in 24 games, surprising many that he didn't get a GA contract last year. Overall the 6'1/172 forward has scored 28 goals in 66 games scoring both with his head and outside the box. However, personally I have some concerns over his MLS capabilities since Mullins fits the classic college winger position that has failed to be effective or find a role in the professional game. If Mullins has a season comparable to last he will be highly touted in the 2014 draft.

Kyle Venter, Defender, New Mexico

Highly regarded during his entire college career, Kyle Venter might be the best defending prospect in the upcoming draft. The classic 6'3/190 Centre Back has had a very successful career with New Mexico scoring 7 goals in 64 games, admittedly against weaker opposition than other potential draft picks. Venter, who redshirted his first season, will be 23 by the time next season begins and is expected to be one of the most pro-ready players in the draft. 

Jared Watts, Midfielder, Wake Forest

At midseason last year Jared Watts was perceived to be a potential GA pick and someone who I mentioned Toronto FC could draft with one of their picks. The 6'1 box-to-box player influences the midfield, including performing some hard tackles, which led to two red cards in 2011. Wake Forest had a disappointing end to the season in 2012, including a 1st round exit in the tournament, so Watts returns back for his senior season. Wake Forest seems like a contender this year and if they do go far Watts style of play will make him stand out, which could lead to a high pick.

AJ Corrodo, Midfielder, Indiana

Corrodo is ranked by many as the top returning player from an Indiana team who won the national championship last season. He is a speedy midfield/winger who is also known for his crossing and corner kicks. However, he has not been a standout his whole college career. In 2010, Corrodo failed to impress at SMU and after transferring to Indiana spent most of 2011 coming off the bench. Indiana seem to be weaker this season, and without the extra profile of a championship run or achieving huge assist numbers Corrodo's ranking could drop. 

Aodhan Quinn, Midfielder, Akron

After a successful season in 2009 with Bradley, Aodhan Quinn transferred to the soccer powerhouse of Akron in 2010. In his first season with Akron, the 6'0 Midfielder played a useful role starting all 23 games scoring 3 goals and 7 assists. 2012 could be regarded as a disappointment being overshadowed by fellow midfielder Scott Caldwell. Caldwell is now in MLS, so expect Quinn numbers to improve especially being in charge of many set play opportunities. However, like Kyle Bekker's issues this season, the jury is still out regarding college attacking midfielders and their ability to perform at an MLS level.

Rob Lovejoy, Forward, North Carolina

I'm quite high on Lovejoy after being a key contributer to UNC 2011 national championship. He also had successful PDL campaign before getting injured at the start of last season. He did manage to make a return scoring five goals in 11 games. Now fully fit, I could see him scoring in the high teens or even 20 goals this season, which will put him on the national radar once again. That being said, there are still some concerns how a forward who weighs only 150 pounds will do at a pro level. I would also like to see him dominate teams at the college level including high shots on goal numbers before I consider him a top pick.

Top 5 Underclassman


Brandon Allen, Forward, Georgetown

Lined up as a New York Red Bulls homegrown player, the question regarding Allen is how long he will remain in College? In his first season at Georgetown his 16 goals in 26 games helped lead the Hoyas to the National Championship game. Allen was a dominating figure, firing 45 shots on target and scoring the game winner in 10 games. Allen also scored a large number of goals in the Red Bulls academy program and was called up by the US national program for the U20 qualifiers playing in the 4-2 win over Canada.

Andre Blake, Goalkeeper, UCONN
Regarded as the best Goalkeeping prospect in College soccer over the last two seasons, it's a bit of a surprise that the 6'4 Jamaican is still in College. Blake played in 47 career games, winning 35, allowing only 22 goals and shutting out his opponents 26 times. That being said, this season's goalkeeping prospects are much weaker than last years, so don't be surprised that Blake gets his GA contract before his senior season, if not a European club could take him away from MLS. 

Boyd Okwounu, Defender, North Carolina
The junior full-back has as much hype as anyone in college soccer. The fact he plays for a top college and also participated on youth US national teams means he's on everybody's radar, including MLS teams. I'll be honest, compared to others I don't rank him as highly. Okwounu does have great speed but is only 5'8, so isn't very versatile. He also hasn't shown any offensive ability with zero goals, assists or shots on target, but has played and started in every 47 game for UNC. 

Robbie Kristo, Forward, Saint Louis
Robbie Kristo is the type of prospect who I feel will produce in the MLS. Kristo is a 6'4/200 poward forward, so you basically know what you are going to get from him, although he's also performed. The Junior started his career on the bench but was a key player last season and has scored 17 goals in 35 career games with 49 shots on target. I expect his numbers to improve and wouldn't be surprised if he scores 15 to 20 goals this season. The question regarding GA is there might not be much European interest in him so the MLS might allow him to play his Senior season before offering a contract. 

Brody Huitema, Forward, Duke
Huitema should be the highest profile Canadian in NCAA soccer right now. The freshman is a Vancouver Whitecaps Homegrown player and should join the 1st team when the Whitecaps thinks he's ready. The 6'1/180 forward has scored almost a goal a game with the Whitecaps U16 and U18 development teams. Joining Duke will give Huitema an even higher profile and should be called up by the Canadian U20 team in the near future. He would have to have an exceptional season this college campaign to be in the MLS next year.

Interesting Players to Watch


Jordan Ongaro, Forward, San Diego State

According to my top 100 list, Jordan Ongaro is my top Canadian Senior in College soccer this season, although I don't have much hope in him making an impact at the pro-level. The 21 year old striker/winger has played for the Canadian U-17 team and was part of the players pool for the Canadian U-20 team. During his college career, Ongaro has scored 12 goals in 57 games and has shown a steady progress, although not comparable to other players in draft especially at his position. Ongaro will need to improve greatly to be highly drafted, but should get a tryout by a Canadian MLS side just because the lack of Canadian talent. 

Chase Wickham, Midfielder, Alabama-Birmingham
Wickham is in my view the second best Canadian senior, and actually transferred from a Canadian University Trinity Western to NCAA D1 school in UAB. It is interesting to see that his stats from the transition has been seamless and he has made a greater impact on his team at UAB than he did at Trinity Western, which raises the question of quality levels between each system. That being said, like Ongaro, Wickham isn't ranked high in my list and other than being Canadian would have a difficult time being noticed, drafted and eventually playing in the MLS.

Reinaldo Brenes, Defender/Midfielder, Akron
NCAA Soccer does recruit many foreign players from around the World and as you can imagine, based on the development system they grew up in, they tend to shine at the NCAA level. Behind Mamadiou Diouf, Ricardo Brenes might be the second highest profile foreign player in the draft. The Costa Rican Senior scored 11 goals with Akron last season, and in some ways is replacing the graduated Darren Mattocks as the Zips scoring threat. With a good season this year he could go high in the draft especially if his former coach Caleb Porter has a say when Portland is on the clock.
Pedro Ribeiro, Midfielder, Coastal Carolina
To me Pedro Ribeiro is a very interesting prospect. The Brazilian midfielder has 20 goals and 17 assists in 63 career games, although the most impressive stat to me is his size. The attacking midfielder is listed at 6'3 and weighing 208 pounds, and if you watch him play you see him dominating his opponents with his size. As soccer develops in America I believe athleticism, including size, is what will give the American based player their competitive advantage in the game. Ribeiro does lack speed and will cost MLS teams a foreign slot, but it be interesting to see what he can do in the pro game.
Alex Martinez, Midfielder, NC State
Alex Martinez is the younger brother to former GA pick and MLS disappointment Enzo Martinez. Enzo was the key offensive contributor to UNC national title win which lead to much hype in the 2012 MLS draft. A lack of size and being listed as foreign player has meant Enzo has yet to play in his first MLS game. Alex didn't start off with the same hype as his brother, but after two successful seasons at High Point has transferred to NC State and is expected to be one the top players offensively in college this season. It will be interesting to see how Alex is tracked this season in terms of the draft with the history of his brother.