Each winter at 3rd Degree we do a fair amount of content in preparation for the nest season of Major League Soccer. From previewing the off-season plan, to scouting of College players for the SuperDraft, to in-person MLS Combine coverage, and finally our draft day chat room. I’m fairly confident that we do good work on those projects. Part of that process is to evaluate what I got right and what I got wrong.
So here are ten things good and bad from our coverage of last off-season.
Top Ten Things 3rd Degree Got Right Last Off Season
1. Eric Avila – I had Avila as my #1 midfielder on the board and based on his playing time, contributions, and more importantly the electric play he brought off the bench late in the season, that evaluation looks like it’ll be on the mark.
2. Mock Draft – Even though I only had seven names right between my 1st Round Mock Draft and the MLS SuperDraft, in hindsight I think I did better than some of the MLS teams did. I had rookie of the year Sean Franklin in my Mock Darft as well as high playing time picks such as Jon Leathers, Shea Salinas, Eric Avila, and Stephen King. I had two names to their proper teams: Brek Shea to FC Dallas and Sean Franklin to LA Galaxy. I also got the first six picks right in terms of team to position, a.k.a. their need.
3. Nyarko and Allen – What a crap year for forwards, only two of them made it this far: Partick Nyarko and Ely Allen. Nyarko was the clear top talent at forward, Allen I ranked 5th but predicted he’d play mostly as a wide midfielder which turned out to be right on. If Nyarko doesn’t pan out it will mean not a single forward was produced in this class, underscoring how hard it is to break into MLS as a forward.
4. Bumper Defenders Crop – I predicted the defenders was a deep and talented group and that was on the money with 8 of the top 10 still in the league. It would have been 9 if Eric Brunner hadn’t rejected New York’s developmental offer in favor of USL-1. Five players between 11 and 20 stuck with MLS. Not to kick a guy when he’s down, but I also predicted Julian Valentin wouldn’t pan out and despite the fact he’s still in the league I think I was right. He got one charity start in the season final for LA Galaxy, one of the all-time bad defenses in MLS history.
5. Top Mids – Seven of the top ten are still in MLS, the three that aren’t, Micheal Videira, Andrew Jacobson, and Andy Wright, all went to Europe. Four of the next seven also made it, making 14 of 17 right in terms of ranking. My “Chris Rolffe Player Crush Player of the Combine,” Joe Germanese is still with the Revs.
6. Combine Wrap – All three “Can’t-Miss Prospects” are active in MLS. Only five of the twenty-four “Should Do Well” players didn’t pan out, although Eric Brunner is still playing in USL-1 with Miami FC and Pat Healey is with Crystal Palace Baltimore, so I could claim three. Only Balc and Campbell seem not to be playing. Jon Sabbatini was one of the three South American Trialists who used the combine as an open look and wasn’t picked up by anyone in MLS. Looks like Sabbatini might be with someone called Virtus Lanciano. Seven of the twenty-three “Projects with Hope” panned out, which is about right. Three of the twelve “Has a Chance” players are still around: Matt Hatzke, Kai Kasiguran, and Cesar Zambrano.
7. Top 20 – On my final Top 20 overall ranking for ESPN I only missed on two players: Xavier Balc and Yannick Reyering. Balc proved to be too slow and Reyering stayed in school after blowing out his knee. The other 18 are all still playing professionally. Only three of the Top 20 players went in the SuperDradt outside of the first two rounds: Michael Videira (3rd round – reports he would be signing in Europe), Reyering (6th round -knee injury), Balc (5th round – to slow?).
8. Ten Seniors – Right after last year’s SuperDraft I did a Top Ten Seniors to Watch list. On that, last were seven eventual All-Americans (Tracy, White, Bedoya, Grella, Ring, Cronin, and Angus), a player that signed with MLS early (Guarda), a player that just signed in Europe (Bedoya), and our #2 ranked keeper this year (Simmons). The only player who didn’t have a great year as his team didn’t do well was Clements, who I still consider a pro prospect.
9. Supplemental List – Following the four-round SuperDraft I did a Ten Interesting Names for the Supplemental Draft. This wasn’t the top ten players left, but rather just some names that I found interesting, intriguing, or had interesting stories. Off that list, Balc, Issac, Healey, Reyering, Owens, and Cisse were taken. 60% isn’t bad considering some names on that list were on there for reasons other than talent.
10. Ruiz and Rocha – This winter I predicted that Carlos Ruiz was going to be all but done and the trade was a great move. I was dead on about that. LA got rid of him as fast as they could and TFC just waived him. I was also gaga over Andre Rocha from the T&T trip and predicted he was going to be a fantastic signings. That also turned out to be on the money.
Top Ten Things 3rd Degree Got Wrong Last Off Season
1. Missed 3 on Ga’s – Here’s our 08 Generation adidas Tracking list. Chance Myers, Ciaran O’Brien, and Rob Valentino were the three names signed that weren’t on my list. Myers and O’Brien, I think almost everyone missed. Valentino got injured in his senior year and was given a medical red-shirt then signed with the league as an “underclassman” so I’m not sure it’s fair to count that one. One name that we had as coming that didn’t, Alejandro Bedoya, was sought by MLS but stayed in school and has now signed a pro contract in Europe. The 2009 version is here if you want to follow along.
2. Mock Draft – Seven players in my 1st Round Mock Draft didn’t make the real MLS SuperDraft 1st Round, that’s not very good. Although six of the seven did go in the second round. I didn’t do well with my accuracy at all. So I guess as always who will take who is a crap shoot, but on the bright side at least I can spot the talent.
3. Luke Sassano – A great many people will say I missed on him at 29th on the midfielder list. I had him as one of the worst players at the combine, but it came out much later that maybe he had been playing hurt there. Why do these players not tell media or the PR people that kind of stuff? To be honest, like I felt with Brandon Moss, I still don’t think he’s good enough. I just think he’s on a team that was desperate for some effort and work rate with zero cap room to move. Like Moss, Sassano started a bunch of games, but like Moss, I bet he’s out of MLS soon.
4. Jeff Cameron – I had him 17th among midfielders, that was too low. I did predict him being successful as a wide player, which was true, but I didn’t give my own assessment of that move enough value when ranking him. He should have been at least top 15 on my list, maybe just outside the top ten. I’m not going to go so far as to claim I should have had him top 5 or anything cause I just didn’t think that highly of him. Heck, I still wouldn’t put him top 5.
5. Dominic Cervi – It was a terrible year for keepers across the board, but the one good one… at least judging by his interest from Europe… was Dominic Cervi who I had to low at #4. Obviously, he should have been #1. I did say he was the best keeper at the combine, starting from day one. Honorable mention for Mike Graczyk from New Mexico, who despite being ranked #10 is still around as a MLS pool keeper. When he was in Dallas camp I called him the best pool keeper I had seen.
6. Xavier Balc – As the #2 ranked forward and #10 overall prospect, I thought he had enough game for MLS, but he was just a bit to slow I think. The amount of talent he had and still didn’t pan out just shows how hard it is to break into MLS as a forward. Blac was my biggest over-evaluation of the year.
7. Brandon McDonald – As the #69 ranked midfielder I was either completely out of my mind or Ruud Gullit was. I was shocked enough when this role player from a mid-tier program got picked in the 4th round, but then to go on and become a first-choice midfielder for a large part of the season is mind-boggling. I’m sticking with Gullit being out of his mind.
8. Stacked Midfield – I blew this one, as I thought it wasn’t a good year for midfielders and a whole bunch of them made it (See above). Notably, some late-ranked guys are making me look bad. #23 Brian Grazier and #25 Cesar Zambrano are both with Colorado, #28 Kraig Chiles (a player I quite like) with Chivas USA, the aforementioned #29 Sassano with NYRB, #30 Kai Kasiguran with Chicago, and #69 Brandon McDonald (are you kidding me?) with LA Galaxy.
9. Morrow Misread – Just prior to the SuperDraft I did a Top Ten Player Morrow Might Like… and boy howdy did I misfire. The only name on the list that Morrow drafted was Brek Shea. Now it’s possible that he did like some of them and just didn’t draft any of them, but that would be hard to prove. What the heck, it was a flat-out guess anyway. I’m surprised I got one.
10. Adrian Chevannes – My #8 defender. I’m not sure what happened to this guy, is he just that much a flake? A former U17 who went to Clemson then SMU, took some time off to spend a year training with RSL, then came to the combine injured, and finally crapped out of MLS. He was so dangerous at SMU. How does a player with such bright prospects, who plays all over the field in college, come to nothing so fast? Lifestyle I guess.
Up next we’ll begin the annual SuperDraft Rankings with the preliminary ranks leading up to our coverage of the MLS Combine in January. We’ll also have our 8th Annual Draft Day Chat Room from the MLS SuperDraft.
My Top Ten Goalkeepers hit ESPNsoccer.net today.