The 10 MLS SuperDraft prospects that kicked the hype machine into overdrive
CARSON, Calif. -- MLS is now in its 20s, yet the relevance of the MLS SuperDraft continues to be a matter of debate. Yes, the advent of homegrown signings from a team's academy has robbed the draft of depth. The increase in foreign slots over the league's history, as well as the emphasis on those players acquiring green cards, has lessened the draft's impact as well.
But those predicting the draft's demise overlook one overarching fact: Teams love acquiring players for free. If said players have zero impact on a team's salary budget, even better.
For that reason, Friday's SuperDraft in Los Angeles will once again see teams maneuvering to extract the maximum from this particular player pipeline. After six days of physical testing, games and interviews at this year's MLS player combine, the hype machine has centered on a few performers. Here are 10 prospects who have received the most attention heading into Friday's festivities.
1. Jeremy Ebobisse | F | Duke University, Charleston Battery
Ebobisse is the latest example of how missing a big chunk of the combine hasn't hurt a player's stock. Last year Jack Harrison missed the entire combine due to injury, and he was chosen No. 1. In Ebobisse's case, he missed the first two days in part due to commitments with the U.S. U20 national team, yet could be the first player taken. He didn't look sharp in the first half of his lone combine appearance on Thursday, but improved in the second, and scored with a powerful finish. His size, movement and finishing make him a top prospect.
2. Abu Danladi | F | UCLA
Danladi largely backed up his reputation at the combine, where he has shown off his ability to play with his back to goal, had excellent mobility and could link up with teammates. He's got a heavy shot as well. There are questions about his propensity for injury, however. That isn't doing much to scare off teams, and Danladi's physical attributes have more than one MLS coach willing to trade up to nab him.
3. Miles Robinson | D | Syracuse
Robinson is another player whom clubs are willing to part with assets for in order to get him on their roster, and along with Ebobisse and Danladi, he is a candidate to be chosen first overall in the draft. Robinson has size and mobility, and at age 19 he has plenty of upside. Robinson had a bit of a quiet combine, but he has also been played mostly as a left-sided center-back, when he has normally played on the right. That could mitigate concerns about his distribution, and his status as a Generation Adidas player -- meaning he won't count against the salary cap this year -- should see him go in the top three.
4. Jackson Yueill | M | UCLA
Opinions varied about Yueill's combine performance. One coach thought the UCLA product's play was too quiet and that he didn't do enough to put his stamp on games. Another thought Yueill was tidy on the ball and adapted to what the games dictated. The latter characterization seems set to carry the day, as Yueill will likely be a top-five pick.
5. Chris Odoi-Atsem | D | Maryland
Odoi-Atsem spent some time as a center-back, but at 5-foot-10, projects to be an outside-back in MLS. At the combine, he's shown good instincts in terms of when to commit to tackles and when to delay, and the way he chews up ground is borderline freakish. He'll need to sharpen his game in terms of being effective in the attacking half, but Odoi-Atsem remains one of the more desirable players available.
6. Jonathan Lewis | M | Akron
Lewis was a late addition to this year's Generation Adidas class, but his performances at the combine have justified his inclusion. Lewis' quickness, movement off the ball and sharpness while on it have seen him impress numerous teams at the combine, and his GA status will make him even more attractive on draft day.
7. Zeiko Lewis | M | Boston College
Opinions vary as to who was the best Lewis at the combine, but Zeiko Lewis did plenty to impress those in attendance at StubHub Center. He scored high in the speed and agility tests held prior to the first day of matches, and his movement showed a solid soccer IQ. Perhaps even more important, his ability to threaten defenses with his one-on-one ability was impressive as well.
8. Daniel Johnson | M | Louisville
No player did more to boost his stock at the combine than Johnson. The Louisville midfielder arrived in Carson flying completely under the radar. Some teams who had scouted Johnson during the collegiate season had hoped he would stay that way. It didn't happen, as Johnson's trickery on the ball, ability to run at defenses and clever off-the-ball movement have many comparing him to Justin Mapp. Whether Johnson cracks the top 10 on draft day remains to be seen, but he has certainly generated plenty of buzz this week.
9. Joseph Holland | M | Hofstra
Holland is another player who made the most of his chance to play in front of MLS coaches and GMs. The second day of matches saw him reveal exceptional close control in tight spaces and deceptive speed that allowed him to maneuver out of trouble. The gossip around the gathering is that he has no shortage of self-belief either. The one caveat is that Holland is 23 -- soon to be 24 -- making him several years older than the combine players he's competing against. But he has the kind of tools that will make him an attractive option come Friday.
10. Brandon Aubrey | D | Notre Dame
Aubrey will be the latest test case in terms of how much stock to put in a combine performance. On the first day, Aubrey suffered through a brutal match, especially in terms of his mobility and passing. He rebounded with a solid performance in the second game. Players such as Omar Gonzalez and Jonathan Campbell experienced difficult combines and still bounced back to turn in excellent rookie seasons. Aubrey, who is a massive threat on set pieces, will be hoping to do the same, and should still be chosen in the top 10.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.