2018 MLS Combine Player Profile Crash-Course / by ASA Staff

By A.J. Barnold (Univ. of Virginia) | Aaron Nielsen (Prospect XI) | Bill Reno (Everybody Soccer)

The 2018 MLS Combine started yesterday, with players coming to Orlando from around the world with the hopes that they might be taken in next week’s SuperDraft. Thankfully for SuperFans like us, tomorrow through Thursday the league will be streaming the games live. And because not everyone follows the college game, we've brought together three of the top minds in college scouting to give you reports and profiles of nearly all the players attending the combine. Each author has watched, been present for, and/or tracked data on multiple games involving each player they covered.

Game Schedule

  • Saturday, Jan. 13 - 12:30 pm ET — Video
  • Saturday, Jan. 13 - 2:30 pm ET — Video
  • Monday, Jan. 15 - 12:30 pm ET — Video
  • Monday, Jan. 15 - 2:30 pm ET — Video
  • Wednesday, Jan. 17 - 10 am ET — Video
  • Wednesday, Jan. 17 - 12 pm ET — Video

Players are categorized in the position in which they played most frequently during the 2017 NCAA season (center back, outside back, center mid, outside mid, forward). With regards to the popularity of 3/5 back systems incorporating wingbacks, players who spent most of their time at wingback have been categorized as outside backs. Wide attacking players are most frequently categorized as outside midfielders.

Players are listed in alphabetical order by last name. The author of each profile is denoted with his initials at the end of the paragraph. If you're on mobile, the player's ACC stats will appear above his profile.

Note on Atlantic Coast Conference statistics and rankings:
A.J.’s profiles include player statistics and rankings within the conference, which were done for ACC players only. They refer to the dataset of all games played by ACC teams in the 2017 season as recorded by InStat. This includes 175 games, missing 2 games that were not coded by InStat due to poor video quality.  

Players who did not appear in at least 25% of their team’s matches are excluded from the ACC rankings, so as to reduce possible skewing of “per 90” rankings. This resulted in a total of 206 field players and 14 goalkeepers.

    ACC Stats:
  • 0.68 goals per 90 (6th ACC forwards)
  • 0.68 non-penalty goals + assists per 90 (12th among ACC forwards)
  • 3.29 shots per 90 (4th ACC forwards)
  • Took 40 more shots total than next closest teammate 

Marcelo Acuna | Virginia Tech | F
A huge portion of Tech’s attack came through Acuna, deployed as a target forward with good size. Intelligent movement off the ball, strong on the ball. Does well in the air and combines well with his teammates. Always willing to shoot, scored most of his goals with his left foot or head. – AJB

Acuna played with Saprissa and Belen in his native Costa Rica before being recruited by Houston Baptist as a Sophomore where he scored 10 goals and had four assists. He then moved to Virginia Tech where during his junior and senior seasons he combined for 23 goals and added six assists in 42 games. Acuna is an active shooter, taking 209 shots in 60 NCAA D1 games, and has the ability to create opportunities for himself in multiple areas of the field. As a pro, Acuna looks more to play an attacking midfield role than a forward, playing a role similar to fellow Costa Rican Johan Venegas. The fact he'll require any team that drafts him to use an international roster spot on him may hurt his chances of being chosen, although his attacking talent is as strong as any other player in the draft. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • 3.5 successful tackles per 90 (5th ACC center mids)
  • Won 70.2% of his tackles (3rd ACC center mids)
  • 7.4 ball recoveries per 90 (5th ACC center mids)
  • +84 possession differential (recovered balls minus balls lost) for the season (2nd ACC center mids)
  • +4.5 per 90 (3rd ACC center mids)

Mo Adams | Syracuse | CM
*Generation Adidas*
Often tasked with man-marking the opponent’s most dangerous playmaker, otherwise staying at home to break up play and allow other CMs to move freely. Sits in the same space in possession, acting as a pivot for the CBs to play through. Derby County and Nottingham Forest academy player prior to attending Syracuse for two seasons. – AJB

    ACC Stats:
  • 37 key passes completed (2nd ACC CMs behind Cam Lindley – 48)
  • 1.5 per 90 (6th ACC CMs)
  • 4.7 dribbles attempted per 90 (6th ACC CMs) / 2.5 completed (8th ACC CMs)

Pablo Aguilar | Virginia | CM
From Guatemala, Pablo joined the IMG Academy in Florida for high school where he proved to be one of the top players in the country, playing 72 games in USSDA and scoring 15 goals and a number of assists in the process. After redshirting his freshman season Pablo’s influence on the Cavaliers has grown, from initially playing a holding role to being a main player in the attack. He's been helped on by his ability to score from long range. Aguilar finished his career at UVA playing in 75 games, scoring 16 goals (14 during his junior and senior season) and adding eight assists. As a pro, his work-rate in the center of the midfield will be key. He can potentially follow the footsteps of a player with a similar college career in Julian Gressel. – AN

Rafael Andrade Santos | VCU | F
Santos played for Flamengo and Boa Vista in Brazil prior to coming to Montverde Academy to finish high school. In college, Santos was often the start and/or end of VCU’s attack. This sometimes came in sustained possession or often by breaking teams open on the counter via his dribbling ability. He's a technical player who rides tackles well and finds dangerous spots to receive passes. He was named All-Atlantic-10 in each of his four seasons, but really broke out his senior year as A10 Offensive Player of the Year after leading the conference with 12 goals and 29 points. – AJB

    ACC Stats:
  • 0.70 non-pen goals + assists per 90 (6th ACC outside mids)
  • 50.3 passes completed per 90 (2nd ACC outside mids)
  • 4.4 successful dribbles per 90 (8th ACC outside mids)

Luis Argudo | Wake Forest | OM
Provided a nice complement for Ema Twumasi (profile below) on the opposite side, combining a bit earlier rather than dribbling as frequently. Still dangerous on the ball 1v1, but more willing to be part of the buildup, play quickly, and move off to get it again. Very effective getting in on the back post for crosses, cutbacks, and slips that led to most of his goals and assists. – AJB

Francis Atuahene | Michigan | OM
*Generation Adidas*
The ultimate highlight package, Francis has great confidence is his skill set especially with the ball at his feet, keeping up the reputation of other Right-to-Dream alumni Emmauel Boateng and Abu Danladi. Atuahene came to the United States in 2011 to play at the Hotchkiss School, the Dover Dreamers and Beachside SC. Unlike Danladi, Francis wasn't a dominating a performer in NCAA soccer. He did score 24 goals and added 11 assists in 49 games, but Michigan struggled to establish themselves as a successful program. He's been criticized for selfish play and not involving teammates. Questions remain on the impact Atuahene could have on a MLS club, and something to watch at the combine is how he combines with his teammates. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • 1.54 non-pen goals + assists per 90 (2nd in ACC)
  • 1st among players over 500 minutes by nearly half a goal
  • 1.94 shots on target per 90 (2nd in ACC behind Jon Gallagher – 2.15)
  • 2.1 key passes completed per 90 (3rd ACC forwards)
  • 1st among forwards over 500 minutes by 0.7

Jon Bakero | Wake Forest | F
Bakero won the MAC Hermann Trophy (the Heisman Trophy of NCAA soccer) and was the nation’s leading scorer with 16 goals and 14 assists. He showcased very good finishing ability while also setting up his teammates. He was most dangerous when coming off the backs to receive the ball between lines and slip runners through, then getting on the end of balls into the box. He attacks well in the air and is strong with his back to goal. He was able to score consistently over his first three years before piling it on as a senior – the biggest question for the draft might be his international status and whether he can continue to put it all together at the next level. – AJB

Pau Belana | Akron | CM
Pau is a technically gifted central midfielder who played with both Barcelona and Espanyol youth teams and was also called in the Spanish U-16 National Team. Belana was playing with UA Horta in the Spanish lower leagues before making the move to Akron. With the Zips, Pau has filled more of a holding midfield role, playing in 64 games in his career while recording six assists. He also passed the ball at a nearly 90% rate and is one of the best players in this draft in terms of maintaining possession of the ball. Pau doesn't have any huge athletic potential, and as a 22-year-old foreigner might have difficulty making the MLS grade, although if a club needs a player who could fit right now he could fill that role. – AN     

Tristan Blackmon | Pacific | OB
Originally a forward as a youth player, Blackmon moved to a winger position in college. He scored eight goals during his freshman season at Pacific before transitioning into a right back role (the position best fitting him as a professional) during his junior season. At 6'2" and 180 pounds, Blackmon has good size and speed while in full stride with the ball or chasing on defense. His instinct once he receives the ball through a pass or interception is to attack either cutting in or remaining wide trying to cross the ball. At Pacific he has not faced the 1v1 match-ups he will come across at the next level. As a pro, he will be asked to slow his tempo down and there is concern about his ability to maintain possession and distribute smartly. – AN

Arthur Bosua | Columbia | F
One of the top goal scorers with an independent USSDA club prior to college scoring 42 goals in 52 games with Albertson, Arthur took a while to establish himself as an attacking presence in college, but he broke out in his senior season. Bosua scored 12 goals and added five assists in 18 games, helping Columbia reach the NCAA Tournament and gaining more attention as a potential MLS draftee. Bosua is big (6'4" and 195 pounds) and uses his size as a dominating forward in the box. As a senior he showed good technique in finishing off his chances. He can also play with his back to goal to set up his teammates on offensive breaks. He showed the ability to maintain possession by being strong in the air and has more technical skills than one would expect, although his overall speed is a concern. – AN

Cory Brown | Xavier | CB
Brown is a left-sided center back who earned All-Big East honors in all four of his seasons at Xavier, including as 2016 Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Mobile and strong in the tackle to help make up for what some teams may consider a lack of size for a typical CB (5’9"). He played left back in the U17 World Cup for New Zealand in 2013, so it’s conceivable that he could shift outside at the next level, though his passing percentage may need to improve depending on the system. He looked for longer driven balls more often than not, which may contribute to this stat. Against Virginia in 2016 he did well to shut down a speedy attacker Edward Opoku (profile below). – AJB 

Brandon Bye | Western Michigan | OM
Brandon had a tremendous senior season, scoring 13 goals and adding seven assists in 21 games and leading Western Michigan to the NCAA Tournament. An attacking winger, Bye has been influential his entire career with the Broncos, scoring 22 goals and adding 19 assists in 66 games. A local product, Bye was an All-State player for Portage Northern High School, although it wasn't until his exploits earlier this season – including a 13-shot performance in one game – that he was considered an MLS candidate. Still a longshot, Bye will have to prove in the combine that he can both play with and beat the country’s top talent. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • Conceded 1 goal per 13.06 shots (2nd in ACC)
  • 0.73 goals conceded per 90 and 0.65 non-pen goals (both 4th in ACC)
  • 2nd highest save percentage (71.4%) of GKs with fewer than 3 shots on goal per 90 (7 GKs)
  • Completed 26.2 passes per 90 (4th ACC goalkeepers)
  • Received 16.1 passes per 90 from teammates (1st ACC goalkeepers)
  • Attempted long balls (25yd+) 26.5% of the time (2nd lowest ACC goalkeepers)

Jeff Caldwell | Virginia | GK
Caldwell's success lies in his ability to handle unfamiliar situations. Uncommon to most US youth national goalkeepers, Caldwell has a certain scrappiness that makes it difficult for strikers to beat him (for Sporting KC fans, think of Tim Melia). He's probably a little undersized for what most MLS coaches want, but he's light enough on his feet and knows how to throw his body around in almost any setting. He's bound to succeed in MLS and could be bound for Europe. – BR

    ACC Stats:
  • 3.7 successful dribbles per 90 (2nd ACC center mids)
  • 1.3 key passes completed per 90 (8th ACC center mids)
  • 3.5 “extra attacking” passes attempted (2nd ACC center mids)
  • 3.2 fouls suffered per 90 (2nd ACC center mids, 5th ACC overall)

Pol Calvet Planellas | Pittsburgh | CM
The former Barca B player came over for only one season of college soccer, but contributed to a turnaround year for Pittsburgh in which they won an ACC game for the first time and flirted with NCAA Tournament eligibility all year. He plays as a traditional #10-style playmaker, sometimes looking like a second forward while looking to find space to turn and set up teammates. His ability on the ball and ambition to find a key pass should stand out at the combine. College #10s often end up switching positions in MLS, so the right fit might depend heavily on his international status and finding a team willing to take a chance on him as a playmaker. – AJB

    ACC Stats:
  • 3.96 shots per 90 (1st ACC outside mids, 2nd most overall)
  • 0.65 goals per 90 (1st ACC outside mids)
  • 1.04 non-pen goals + assists per 90 (3rd ACC outside mids)

Diego Campos | Clemson | OM
He's a versatile attacker who sometimes played as a #9 but more frequently out wide. Campos shoots early and often – he took more shots than any other OM in the ACC. He's less of a dribbler than other wide guys in the conference, but may try to make something happen on his own rather than play available passes. He likes to make dangerous runs off the shoulder of defenders to get slipped behind, or can drift wide to get it at his feet. – AJB

Paul Christensen | Portland | GK
He's the smallest goalkeeper of the bunch but I’d say he’s also the quickest. He’s extremely mobile with his feet while his upper body reactions turn sure goals into wonder saves. For my money, he’s a little reckless and flies by the seat of his pants a tad too much, which can get him into trouble occasionally. The brashness worked fine in college but the question now is if it’ll translate at the next level. For someone who is as confident as Christensen, it’s hard not to see him fight his way into a starting position, wherever he lands. – BR 

Harry Cooksley | St. John’s | CM
Before coming to America, Harry played with both Reading and QPR youth academies while being offered lower league contracts by Aldershot Town and AFC Wimbledon. Cooksley joined Limestone College in NCAA Division II and scored 17 goals and 12 assists in 37 games while making the NCAA Division II All-America team. He transferred to St. John's for his junior and senior seasons, scoring nine goals and adding 14 assists in 31 games. A large presence in the midfield at 6'3" and 200 pounds, his vision and passing ability are quite strong. He also has an ability to shoot from many areas of the pitch. Concerns are his overall work rate, partly due to issues with stamina, and not having a defined role on the pitch. Cooksley looks to be more of potential impact sub than a starter, especially in an attacking midfield role. – AN

Manuel Cordeiro | Akron | CM
Manuel played close to 100 senior games in the Portuguese lower divisions with Padroense, Limianos, Fafe, and Tirsense before joining Akron for the 2016 NCAA D1 season. A Boavista youth product, Cordeiro is a technical midfielder whose main asset is maintaining possession of the ball. In two seasons with Akron, Cordeiro played in 40 games, with 35 starts where he scored three goals and added five assists on the way to helping Akron reach the NCAA Final Four in 2017. He makes quick decisions on the ball and his experience means he reads the game better than a lot of players in the draft. As a 23 year old foreign player, the question is if he offers enough to a MLS club. – AN

Niko De Vera | Akron | OB
A Portland Timbers Academy player, De Vera took some time to establish himself as a key player for Akron, although in his senior season showed his ability helping the Zips reach the NCAA Final Four. De Vera is only 5'5" and like 2017 MLS SuperDraft pick Kwame Awuah, uses his quickness and ability on the ball to create opportunities from the wing either from a full back or wing back position. During his career at Akron, he played in 60 games, starting 41 games scoring one goal and adding seven assists. He also completed more than 80% of his passes with strong crossing numbers, and showed an ability to tackle an opponent in 1v1 duels. Niko will have to show at the combine that despite his size he can outperform a good depth of fullbacks in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. – AN

Eric Dick | Butler | GK
For all you oldie fans, Dick is a wonderful example of the classic American goalkeeper that ruled the 90s. He uses his monster sized frame (he's 6'5" and 205 pounds) to play closer to his line and have strikers try to beat him there, but isn’t afraid to barrel down on a 1v1. He has a little bit a of Friedel-vibe with how he gets so much power behind his lanky frame. He’s confident, looks the part, and is rated by a number of people as the top goalkeeper in this draft. – BR

Justin Fiddes | Washington | OB
Fiddes is a left back with excellent speed, who ran a 4.37 second 40 yard dash. Coming from the San Diego Surf USSDA program, he quickly established himself as Washington's starting left back and finished his college career playing in 70 games, starting 62 of them, scoring one goal, and adding 10 assists. Justin's speed allows him to offer width both on offense while being able to track back on defense. He has decent size at 5'11" although probably needs to add weight to compete defensively in his own box. He also needs to improve his ability on the ball and his passing in general, although has potential to provide a decent cross when asked. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • 8.8 interceptions per 90 (2nd ACC center backs – leader played only 400 minutes)
  • 12.2 ball recoveries per 90 (2nd ACC center backs)
  • 8.0 aerial challenges per 90 (2nd ACC center backs)
  • 5.6 aerial challenges won per 90 (1st ACC center backs)
  • Won 70.1% of aerial challenges (7th ACC center backs)
  • 87.5% pass completion rate (11th ACC center backs)

Markus Fjortoft | Duke | CB
A big Norwegian center back in a similar mold to some other recent ACC draft picks (Brandon Aubrey, Walker Hume, Jonathan Campbell), Fjortoft attacks the ball very well in the air and led ACC CBs in aerial challenges won. This also makes him a constant threat on set pieces. He was never asked to do a huge amount of passing, as his attempts and completions rank in the bottom half of ACC CBs, but he did complete them at a respectable rate. Depending on the team or system, he will need to show his reliability in this area at the combine. – AJB

Sam Gainford | Akron | F
An English forward, Sam comes from the Liverpool Academy where he played more of a winger role as a youth player. Gainford, who joined Liverpool as 10-year-old, made it all the way to the Liverpool Reserve team before deciding to attend Akron. He played 81 games with the Zips, starting 69 while scoring 25 goals and adding 17 assists in the process. Gainford scored 10 goals and added five assists during his senior year and improved his overall shot selection, which was a concern going into the season. Technically gifted, as a professional he seems more fitted to a winger or attacking midfield role, although there are concerns regarding his overall speed. – AN 

    ACC Stats:
  • 0.61 goals per 90 (8th ACC forwards)
  • 0.56 non-pen goals (7th ACC forwards)
  • 4.62 shots / 2.15 on target per 90 (1st ACC forwards)

Jon Gallagher | Notre Dame | F
Notre Dame’s leading scorer for the past three seasons, Gallagher is a dangerous finisher who gets into great spots, especially in the area 6 to 12 yards from goal. He wasn't quite as clinical this season, as he was relied upon to take a greater percentage of his team’s shots. He makes intelligent runs to get himself free off the shoulder of defenders, and has a unique ability to find the ball in the box. This season Gallagher showed an increased ability to drift back and wide to receive the ball and create more on his own. – AJB

Mamadou Guirassy | NJIT | F
Outside of maybe Rafael Santos and Francis Atuahene, Guirassy might be the most exciting player in this draft with the ball at his feet. Guirassy scored 16 goals his senior season, tied for second most in the country. The issue in evaluating Guirassy is he also played on a weak team and played mostly against weaker schools. He comes from Paris, where he played with FC Issy and has been called into the Guinea U23 national team. With NJIT he scored 26 goals and added eight assists in 70 games, and had a reputation of beating players 1v1 both with his speed and fancy footwork. If given time on the ball at the combine, Guirasey could gain enough interest that a MLS team will take a shot at his potential. – AN 

Tomas Hilliard-Arce | Stanford | CB
He was captain of the three-time defending national champions and filled the role of a prototypical leading-from-the-back CB. Hilliard-Arce uses his big frame and physicality to boss forwards and contribute points from set pieces. He always seems to pop up in the right spot for a last-ditch block or to fly through the box for a header. He possesses all of the physical traits, tactical understanding, and intangibles to be a pro. The biggest question for some clubs may be his ability with the ball at his feet, but he projects to be a solid CB in the league. – AJB

Ken Krolicki | Michigan State | CM
Japanese born and raised, Krolicki moved to Michigan as a Freshman in high school and played with Canton as well as Crew Academy Wolves in the USSDA. Krolicki is very exciting on the ball with great balance and quickness. At Michigan State, Krolicki played mostly central midfield in his 81 games with the Spartans, scoring seven goals and adding 14 assists while also playing 25 games for KW-United in PDL during the summer. Skill-wise Krolicki could be one of the more exciting players at the combine –  the question in terms of being a pro is if he has ennough strength to impact the game on the defensive side of the ball to fill the role of a proper number eight. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • 0.57 non-pen goals + assists per 90 (1st ACC outside backs)
  • 57.6 passes completed per 90 (6th ACC outside backs)
  • 78.9% dribble success rate (3rd ACC outside backs – 1st/2nd played less than 200 minutes)
  • Won 64.5% of his tackles (17th ACC outside backs)

Tim Kubel | Louisville | OB
Kubel’s right-footed service has been some of the best in the ACC for the last few seasons, and he garnered repeated GA interest prior to his senior season. He gets forward well and whips dangerous balls in both from the run of play and set pieces. This season Kubel added a more consistent ability to cut back onto his left foot and play a more unexpected ball. The biggest question from MLS teams will likely be his defending ability – attack has certainly been his greatest contribution throughout his college career. – AJB

Christopher Lema | Georgetown | CM
Any club looking for a deep lying distributor with impressive passing range will want to take a hard look at Lema. He's capable of picking out teammates between the lines with a wide variety of techniques, particularly on his left foot. Lema's also shifty enough on the ball to get out of trouble when necessary. His career numbers are not overly impressive (five goals, 12 assists), but it was often his passing which started the build towards chance creation for the Hoyas.  Lema played for RBNY’s academy prior to college, but has not signed as a Homegrown and might make another club very happy with this draft. – AJB  

Ricky Lopez-Espin | Creighton | F
Ricky was a highly touted USSDA player scoring 21 goals in his final season with Shattuck-St. Mary’s Academy and was invited into the U20 USMNT training camp. At 6'3"/200lbs Lopez-Espin is a center forward with good strength and a number of good tools including overall speed and ability on the ball. He finished his career at Creighton playing in 74 games, scoring 30 goals, including 22 in his last two seasons. Like Creighton in 2017, he was a bit unlucky not to make it to the NCAA Tournament, which may have his draft status. Lopez-Espin is competitive with other center forwards in the draft and the fact he is also American could help his overall likelihood of being drafted. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • Conceded a goal once every 8.13 shots (9th best in ACC) despite facing the most shots by large margin:
  • 12.88 shots per 90 / 5.93 on target (46.0%) – all the highest in ACC
  • 4.34 saves per 90 (1st in ACC)
  • 1.58 goals conceded per 90 (2nd most in ACC)
  • Attempted and completed the most passes per 90 of any GK (based on having the ball most frequently?)
  • Played long balls 66.9% of the time (4th highest in ACC)

Ben Lundgaard | Virginia Tech | GK
Lundgaard has the save in his repertoire that can keep his teams in games when they absolutely should have conceded. He’s had some streaky moments throughout the season and any veteran goalkeeper will tell you it’s all about consistency at the next level. Oddly enough, Lundgaard seems much more confident when he has to throw his body out into traffic but when he’s sitting on his line, the excess time can make it hard for him to find his rhythm. As an added bonus, Lundgaard probably has the best long distribution of the five goalkeepers.  – BR

    ACC Stats:
  • 4.1 dribbles attempted per 90 / 3.0 successful (1st ACC center backs)
  • 0.22 assists per 90 (2nd ACC center backs)
  • 3.0 tackles won per 90 (7th ACC center backs)
  • 82.5% pass completion rate (24th ACC center backs)

Carter Manley | Duke | CB
Often played as an OB in previous seasons before becoming a CB in a three-back system this year, he would likely move to the outside again at the pro level. He was the most comfortable on the ball out of Duke’s three CBs, but still ranked in the bottom half of the ACC in passing numbers like the others. He found himself on the ball more than the other two, but takes more chances with his passing, resulting in a lower percentage and more turnovers. Manley is more than willing to bring the ball forward on his own, either in the run of play or via quick free kicks tapped to him. – AJB

Paul Marie | Florida International | CM
A long-time youth player for SM Caen in France, Marie was called into the French U16 National Team camp while playing games in the French 4th Division with the SM Caen reserve team. He came to the US through Newberry College in NCAA Division 2, where he scored four goals and added an assist in 16 games before transferring to Florida International. In three years at Florida International, Marie played in 52 games, scored 14 goals, and had 14 assists playing mostly in a central midfield role. He's versatile and has the ability to play wide, including right back. Marie was also a key contributor with Reading United in PDL where he played 26 games, scoring 13 goals over three seasons. He would have stood out in past MLS drafts, although will be another player who will have to prove his MLS worth in the combine. – AN

Joao Moutinho | Akron | CB (played CB most of 2017 season, projects as OB)
*Generation Adidas*
No, not that Joao Moutinho. The freshman impressed NCAA observers early in the season, gaining the reputation of a MLS prospect and potential GA candidate. Joao, a left back from Lisbon, Portugal played in the Sporting Lisbon youth academy since seven years old. He was not a significant player in that side in his later teenage years, mostly used as a reserve for the U17 to U19 teams. Moutinho does have great awareness of the game and knows his role defensively, but is also capable of attacking, which was evident in him scoring three goals and adding five assists in 24 games. He has the capabilities to start in MLS as a rookie, although he probably doesn't has the long-term growth potential that some are projecting. – AN

Christopher Mueller | Wisconsin | F
Mueller provided Wisconsin a true number 10 during his junior and senior year in college scoring 17 goals and adding 20 assists. He completed his college career with 75 games played, 22 goals, 35 assists, and 46% of his 182 shots on target. Mueller is a strong shooter especially from distance and is also good at free kicks, with an ability to swing the ball in to the box or take a shot at net from up to 25 yards from goal. Coming from the Sockers FC USSDA program, Mueller has good technique and awareness of the game. As a professional, the concern is that he will not have the scoring opportunities he had in college, so he'll have to show the scouts at the combine that he has the athletic ability to compete in MLS. – AN  

Danny Musovski | UNLV | F
Musovski has been goal scorer throughout his history in the game, and is a prime example of the progression of the game in the Las Vegas region. The former Nevada Gatorade High School Player of the Year scored 128 goals during his high school career, including 58 in a single season. He leaves UNLV as their all-time leading scorer and has more goals than any active NCAA player with 47. The question is will this translate into a pro career? Musovski reads the game very well and can get behind the defensive lines well, but the concern is he doesn't have the athletic ability to compete with other top level center forwards. – AN

Michael Nelson | Southern Methodist | GK
Perhaps Nelson’s strongest quality is that he shows up in big games. He had a wonderful performance against Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA tournament and a quality showing against UNC in the sweet sixteen. The 6’4” goalkeeper has the frame MLS coaches are looking for, a winning track record, and a decorated collegiate career. He could be the last goalkeeper drafted of the five, but one lucky team will surely be thankful Nelson fell to them. – BR

Wyatt Omsberg | Dartmouth | CB
Wyatt has been recognized as the best player in Maine since early in his youth career, when he won the state’s Gatorade player of the year. The center back quickly transitioned himself as key player for Dartmouth and ended his college career playing 73 games, scoring 10 goals and adding three assists. Offensively Omsberg is a target in the box on set plays, but also has a strong free kick. Defensively he's a traditional center back who matches up well against strong forwards and is the last line of defense within the 18-yard box. One concern is if he has the athletic ability as well as on-the-ball and distribution capabilities expected of a modern-day center back. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • 3.3 successful dribbles per 90 (4th ACC forwards)
  • 55.4% dribble success rate (5th ACC forwards – top 2 played less than 300 minutes)
  • 0.55 non-pen goals + assists per 90 (17th ACC forwards)

Edward Opoku | Virginia | F
*Generation Adidas*
Another product of Ghana's Right to Dream program, Opoku came to the United States at 15 years old and attended Millbrook School in New York, where he scored a school record 85 goals and was named to the High School All-America game. He joined Virginia for college and started 15 out of 18 games as freshman; after that he started every game, finishing his three-year college career playing 56 games, scoring 16 goals and adding nine assists. Opoku is a speedy striker or winger with an added step to outpace most defenders in NCAA soccer. His balance is also strong which is reflected in his successful dribbling statistics. He's small, so MLS scounts may be concerned with his size and strength. – AN

Frantzdy Pierrot | Coastal Carolina | F
Need a huge target forward with a good touch who also moves well? Pierrot is your guy. The Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, tallied 10 goals and four assists. He's a handful for defenders to deal with and capable of holding play up to bring his teammates into the attack. Pierrot performed well with Reading United in the PDL and has been called into the Haitian national team, though he is a US citizen, which could help his stock in the draft. – AJB 

Afonso Pinheiro | Albany | F
Afonso made a name for himself and the Albany soccer team during their 2016 NCAA Tournament run, including a dominating performance against Boston College. With more expected of Pinheiro and the club in 2017, they struggled a bit although still had a NCAA run including beating Maryland in the first round. Individually Pinheiro has the ability to make an impact in any game, but he lacks consistency and failed to score in his last nine games with Albany. He finished with 38 goals and added 15 assists in 81 college games and has good size and strength as well as a quick step to get by defenders. Pinheiro has the ability to be the most dominating player at the combine, although questions still might be raised of his overall impact on a MLS club. – AN

Matias Pyysalo | Central Florida | CM
Pyysalo was regarded as one of the top youth players in Finland playing with HJK Helsinki as well as the Finnish U16 and U19 national teams. He moved to Klubi-04 before deciding to continue his career in the United States at Central Florida. A four-year starter with UCF, Matias played and started all 64 games, scoring 32 goals and adding 18 assists playing both in an attacking midfield and forward role. Pyysalo gained a reputation for scoring spectacular goals, including a goal directly in from a corner kick. He has great technique, especially when given time on the ball, although concerns are if he has the athletic ability to compete at the MLS level – something he will have to prove at the combine. – AN

Alex Roldan | Seattle | OM
The younger brother to Seattle Sounders’ Cristian Roldan, Alex followed his brother moving up from high school and club soccer in California to Washington to play college soccer at Seattle University. Alex is more attacking than his brother, taking a nation-leading 101 shots during his senior season and finishing his college career with 18 goals and 17 assists in 82 games. He hasn't yet shown the same work-rate or defensive awareness which made his brother so successful with Washington. Cristian fell to 16th overall in the 2015 draft and I wouldn't be surprised if Alex is also underestimated but he could be the sleeper pick in the draft. – AN

Albert Ruiz | Florida Gulf Coast | F
Injuries saw the Barcelona native only play nine games during his senior season, hurting his MLS chances, although he seems healthy now and could be the dark horse at the MLS combine. Ruiz might have had the most impressive season in 2016, leading the country with 22 goals in 20 games and adding five assists, which made him a GA target for last year's draft. Ruiz chose to return to school, although his season was delayed by the hurricane and then he got injured. He still finished his college career with 34 goals in 60 games and added eight assists while having an incredible .632 Shot on Goal percentage. A classic poacher, Ruiz has the ability to beat defenders 1v1 as well as find space for opportunities. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • 35.0 passes completed per 90 (30th ACC center mids, out of 58 total)
  • 65.5% of completed passes were forward (5th ACC center mids)

Oliver Shannon | Clemson | CM
An interesting prospect to fit in various midfield configurations, over the past two seasons Shannon has moved between a more attacking role behind the forward and a classic side-by-side midfield set up. He has a good sense of moving against the grain to find gaps as the defense moves and passing lanes open late.  He interacts well with teammates around him, either deeper in midfield or more advanced near the forward. None of his numbers are overly impressive, but he is a steady and reliable presence in the midfield. – AJB

Drew Skundrich | Stanford | CM
(UPDATE: Skundrich has withdrawn from the combine due to injury, but is still eligible for the draft.)
Skundrich won’t get as much attention as Hilliard-Arce, but he's another Stanford captain who leads by example. Not many players cover more ground as tirelessly as Skundrich. His impact is not huge on the stat sheet, but his work rate combined with just enough savviness on the ball allows him to contribute to the attack (nine goals, eight assists in the last two seasons). If nothing else, his determination will land him on an MLS roster somewhere. – AJB

Lucas Stauffer | Creighton | OB
Lucas has played across the United States and in Europe. His greatest reputation is in futsal, winning national and regional championships, as well as 16 national caps with the US Futsal National Team where he's scored eight goals. Stauffer also played USSDA soccer with Shattuck-St Mary's as well as in both Denmark with Club Vejle and Dutch club FC Twente. In four years at Creighton Stauffer played in 86 games, scoring nine goals and adding 12 assists while playing a further 26 games in PDL. His biggest obstacle is his size and a lack of athleticism compared with other players in the draft, although he might be the most determined player to prove he deserves a shot in MLS. – AN

Mac Steeves | Providence | F
Much was expected from Steeves coming into the 2016 season, although after scoring 27 goals his first three seasons an early knee injury saw him miss the 2016 season and return to Providence as a redshirt senior. Steeves looked healthy during his senior season, scoring eight goals and taking 77 shots. With MLS Rookie of Year winner Julian Gressel no longer on the team, Providence struggled, which may have taken eyes away from Steeves. He has great size (6'4", 200 pounds) and is a target man up front with a strong header, but also has the ability to shoot from distance. With a number of large forwards at the combine it will be interesting if Steeves can separate himself from the pack. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • 3.24 shots per 90 (5th ACC forwards)
  • 2.4 successful dribbles per 90 (12th ACC forwards)

Mohamed Thiaw | Louisville | F
Thiaw is big and athletic target forward who does well to create on his own even when isolated up front. He's strong and tricky enough on the ball to get by you or draw a foul, and capable of inventive finishes with his feet or head. It will be interesting to see him at the combine, as consistency issues seemed to plague him at times. Although many forwards can be streaky, Thiaw seemed to score (or not) in bunches a bit more than some others at this level. – AJB

Mason Toye | Indiana | F
*Generation Adidas*
Toye been a sought-after talent in American youth soccer for a couple of years with NY Red Bulls, Philadelphia, and Orlando all seeking the New Jersey native to be a Homegrown player. Toye concentrated on the high school game, winning most awards available to him including USA Today All-American, TeamSnap All-American and New Jersey Gatorade player of the year while also being called into the USMNT U19 and U20 teams. He signed with Indiana, scoring 10 goals and adding two assists in 25 games during his freshman season. He provided the main attacking outlet for the Hoosiers Big Ten and NCAA playoff runs, going undefeated until losing the final to Stanford. Toye has many attributes required in a modern attacker including size (he's 6'3" and 180 pounds), speed, and dribbling ability, making him one of the top prospects in the draft. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • 0.98 non-pen goals + assists per 90 (4th ACC outside mids)   
  • 1.44 shots on target per 90 (3rd ACC outside mids)
  • 9.0 dribbles attempted per 90 / 5.0 successful (both 4th ACC outside mids)
  • 1.5 key passes completed per 90 (2nd ACC outside mids)

Ema Twumasi | Wake Forest | OM
*Generation Adidas*
Another member of the GA class to come through Ghana’s Right to Dream program, Twumasi loves to get the ball wide and run 1v1. He combines well on the move, and can beat one or two defenders then pass it and keep running. He is physically strong and difficult to knock off the ball, and can be a sneaky good finisher. He will be a very interesting one to watch make the jump in terms of beating defenders at the next level. – AJB

Ben White | Gonzaga | OB
White is another Timbers youth player who was not offered a Homegrown contract, yet has the potential of being a sleeper pick in the combine. A left back, Ben choose to attend Gonzaga University, playing in 66 games and scoring nine goals with 10 assists. Gonzaga also uses a performance analysis tool called MSA Football which shows other qualities in White's game, including 85% passing overall, 24 key passes, 172 passes in the box, 64% success in the air, and 148 ball recoveries. White will need to show both this passing ability and work rate at the combine to impress scouts, although if he can duplicate his performance with the Bulldogs he could be on both MLS and USL radars after the combine. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • 0.60 non-pen goals + assists per 90 (16th ACC forwards)
  • 2.70 shots per 90 (10th ACC forwards)
  • Won 41.1% of aerial challenges (9th ACC forwards)

Brian White | Duke | F
A good finisher who does well to create shooting space for himself, after a prolific season as the PDL MVP White continued his production into senior year. He led the Blue Devils back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 by playing in pretty much any sort of attacking role over his college career – a #9, a second forward, a #10, or a wider role. He showed a knack for scoring big (game-winning) goals. – AJB

Gordon Wild | Maryland | F
*Generation Adidas*
A German Bundesliga FSV Mainz 05 youth player, Gordon moved to SV Wehen scoring 12 goals in 17 games with the youth team, Wild played a handful of games with the reserves. He attended USC Upstate as a freshman and quickly made a name for himself by winning the NCAA D1 Golden Boot, scoring 16 goals and adding two assists in 15 games – including a five-game scoring streak where he scored 12 goals. Gordon transferred in his sophomore year to Maryland where his value continued to rise, as he followed it with a 17 goal and five assist season. His junior year was more of a struggle, when he scored only five goals and none in Big Ten play, so it is somewhat surprising that MLS offered him a GA contract. Wild does have a good skillset and an ability to create opportunities for himself, although I could see him used more as an attacking midfielder as rather than a center forward. – AN

    ACC Stats:
  • 0.95 non-pen goals + assists per 90 (6th ACC forwards)  
  • 6.4 dribbles attempted per 90 (7th ACC forwards) / 3.1 successful (6th ACC forwards)
  • 1.9 fouls suffered per 90 (10th ACC forwards)

Alan Winn | North Carolina | F
Winn is an attacker who is very dangerous on the ball and loves to dribble 1v1. He has pace to get behind and was Carolina’s best chance at finding an equalizer in the College Cup against Indiana. Winn's best position at the next level might be a question mark – he played positions throughout the attack in college, and would much rather get a ball in space than hold off a physical defender. – AJB    

    ACC Stats:
  • 0.66 non-pen goals + assists per 90 (14th ACC forwards)
  • Won 70.8% of tackles (1st ACC forwards)
  • 1.6 fouls suffered per 90 (13th ACC forwards)

Jason Wright | Clemson | F
At 5’8" / 175lbs, the Rutgers transfer is a wrecking ball of a forward and a proven goal scorer. He had 29 goals in three seasons prior to his arrival at Clemson, where he added eight more. He's another player who may be hurt by requiring an international roster slot, but goals are goals and if he can bag a few at the combine, his stock could rise. – AJB