Ten Seniors to Watch for the 2010 SuperDraft

Just as we did last year, I thought a quick look at ten seniors to watch for next year would be worth a gander. As I predicted a year ago, 2009 was about strikers.  2010 looks at this stage to be the year of the midfielder.  Early signs are some nice attacking-mid talent might be available, something that was missing from the 2009 class.

Most of the players I mentioned last panned out: a couple are heading to Europe, one signed with MLS last year, one got hurt, one looks like he’s not interested in playing, and one slid down the ranks and wasn’t drafted.

The 2010 SuperDraft is a long time from now and my ten won’t be the same as your ten.  So make your case on who I missed.

Ten Seniors to Watch for the 2010 SuperDraft

1. Michael Stephens, UCLA, Midfielder – Stephens came very close to signing Generation adidas with MLS this year but didn’t get a deal in place before he draft.  The 2008 Pac-10 Player of the Year with seven goals and 9 assists, Stephens is a former US U20, U18, U17, U16, and U15.  If he had signed Stephens would arguably have been the best attacking midfielder in this year’s draft.

2. Barry Rice, Kentucky, Defender – The first player in Conference USA history to win back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards.  Can he do it again in his senior campaign?  The 5-11 Rice is a tremendous athlete and a physical defender with an immense vertical.  In his three year career, Rice has ten goals, mostly with his head, six of which are game-winners.

3. Cody Arnoux, Wake Forest, Forward – The “other” Wake Forest forward, Arnoux has scored as many goals in three years as Marcus Tracy did in four, but doesn’t have the pure physical tools that make Tracy the coveted prospect.  A two time All-American, Arnoux is a smart and savvy player with a pure soccer mind, quick touch, and terrific awareness.  How he fares in his pro career will be an interesting comparison to Tracy in terms of an athletic specimen to a pure soccer player.  Arnoux has scored 33 goals with 18 assists through three seasons at Wake.

4. Toni Stahl, Connecticut, Midfield – Stahl is a terrific midfielder for the Big East powerhouse UConn.  A Big East First Team in 2007 and 2008 (Unanimous), Big East rookie of the Year and Third Team in 2006.  A native of Finland, Stahl played for HJK’s youth teams before coming to the states.  A deep-lying holding midfielder, Stahl can also link play in the transition game.

5. Chris Schuler, Creighton, Defender – After red-shirting at Indiana in 2005, the 6-4 Schuler transferred to Creighton and earned a couple of MVC conference nods before grabbing the MVC Defensive Player of the Year award in 2008.  Schuler captained the Bluejays to a school record 13 shutouts as a junior to earn a Second Team All-American nod form the NSCAA.

6. Ofori Sarkodie, Indiana, Defender – The former US U17 captain for the 2005 Worlds and more recently a US U20, Sarkodie is an exceptionally gifted athlete who usually plays center back despite being only 5-10.  He negotiated with MLS after his U17 career but went to college on advise from some pro coaches, notably Sigi Schmid.  Fast and strong, with a big vertical; Sarkodie can shut down larger strikers with his athleticism and great tactical defensive smarts.

7. Jovan Bubonja, UIC, Goalkeeper – A top-tier goalkeeper prospect, Bubonja was reportedly considered for a Generation adidas deal this year, but looks to have lost out to the perceived one Ga keeper a year concept from MLS (true or not).  Budonja graduated this December but has a year of eligibility left and will likely be playing that final campaign as some kind of grad student.  A 6-2 Serbian, Bubonja was a First Team All-American in 2008 and Horizon League Goalkeeper of the Year in 2006 and 2008.

8. Kyle Nakazawa, UCLA, Midfielder –  A former US U17 & U20, and a once very highly regarded prospect, I was of the opinion he was the best player on the US team at the 2005 Youth Worlds.  He negotiated with MLS before going to UCLA but never came to terms.  For some reason, he has a bit of a reputation for taking it easy the last few years at UCLA, but he’s undoubtedly a talented player with tremendous potential.

9. Andre Akpan, Harvard, Forward – Harvard’s prolific goal scorer and honor winner, Akpan is a former US U20 and is a three-time unanimous All-Ivy First Teamer.  Akpan was also Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2006, a Second Team All-American in 2007, and a First Team All-American in 2008.  Questions remain about the level of play in the Ivy and his progression as a result, but Akpan has scored 34 goals with 27 assists in three seasons.

10. Nelson Becerra, St John’s, Midfielder – The St John’s wide midfielder and game changer is the Big East Midfielder of the Year in 2008.  Becera led the defensive-minded St John’s squad in scoring with 8 goals and 7 assists to help carry them to the NCAA College Cup.  Becerra played his freshman year at Centenary where he was Skyline Conference Rookie of the Year before his transfer to St John’s.

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