With the MLS SuperDraft set to take place Jan. 12 in Indianapolis, MLS teams are hard at work trying to identify the best talent coming out of college that will fill the four rounds of the SuperDraft and the four subsequent rounds of the Supplemental Draft. The bulk of the draft pool will be college seniors, but MLS also will sign around 10-20 underclassmen to the Generation adidas program and enter them into the SuperDraft pool.
So who should we expect to see in the SuperDraft and who are the talented players coming through? We'll start by taking a look at the goalkeepers.
For the purpose of this discussion, since MLS has not announced any Generation adidas signings, I'll include underclassmen if it seems they will be leaving school to pursue a pro contract.
Top 10 Goalkeeper Prospects
1. Chris Seitz, Maryland - There are a large number of people who think the list really begins and ends with Seitz. The sophomore netminder is the name in this goalkeeper pool. Seitz has announced he is leaving the Terps to turn pro, but it is unclear if he has, or will, sign with MLS or if he is going to explore opportunities overseas. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Seitz is a current member of the U.S. U-20 team and has earned numerous accolades this year including ACC Defensive Player of the Year and third team NSCAA/adidas All-American. Seitz won a national title with Maryland in his freshman year. Beyond the paper résumé it is the huge presence in the net that gets Seitz mentioned as the next in the line of great U.S. keepers descending from Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel.
2. Nick Noble, West Virginia - A stunning senior year capped off Noble's impressive career, during which he broke his own goals against record (0.62) from his sophomore year and landed Noble the NSCAA First Team All-American nod as well Big East Defender of the Year. The 6-4 Noble will leave WVU with career records in goals against average (.88) and shutouts (37), both highly impressive career numbers topped by a staggering 292 saves. Noble has been invited to the MLS Combine.
3. Luis Robles, Portland - He's slightly undersized to be a true top tier prospect at 6-1, yet Robles is blessed with superior athleticism. A career GAA in the region of 1.18 is not wonderful, but his mind-blowing 346 career saves at Portland means he's getting it done behind a fairly porous defense. Robles has been on the fringes of the national team program for years, being named to both U-14 and U-20 pools. With 93 saves this season, Robles picked up the West Coast Conference Defender of the Year award in 2006 as well as his third straight first team conference nod.
4. Josh Lambo, U.S. U-17 - The former Chicago Magic and current U.S. U-17 residency No. 1 just turned 16 in November but already has trained twice with Everton. Eligible for a Greek passport, Lambo already has set his sights on a pro career but is looking to stay in residency through the U-17 World Cup next August. If MLS doesn't snap up the young keeper now, it will almost certainly miss out on him as Euro clubs will snap him up fast when that passport comes through. Already 6-1 at the age of 16 with immense physical tools, the sky's the limit for this young prospect.
5. Phil Marfuggi, Clemson - Marfuggi's best season was his junior year when he led the Tigers to the College Cup and was named second team All-American and ACC first team. Named to the Herman Trophy watch list prior to this season, Marfuggi was unfortunate to play in the same conference as Seitz and thus ended up only being named second team in the ACC. A respectable 237 career saves at Clemson and former U.S. U-17 residency status make top a pretty solid résumé. Marfuggi is also a MLS Combine Invitee.
6. Chris Konopka, Providence - Only two years as a starter for the Friars, but impressed both years with a 0.94 goals against average. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, Konopka has size to play at the next level, and more importantly for him he can get a Polish passport making him EU eligible. His 12 shutouts in 2006 earned him the second team All-Big East nod behind Noble. Has played in the PDL with the Jersey Shore Falcons and has been invited to the MLS Combine.
7. Talley Hall, San Diego State - The only keeper on the Herman semifinalist list and a second team All-American, Hall has returned from a trial with Hammerby in Sweden and is on the MLS Combine roster. A third team All-American in '05, the 6-4 Hall has the size and game for the next level. Hall had 80 saves and a 1.04 GAA his senior year, earning him his second straight Pac 10 first team award and serves to underline the obvious talent.
8. Justin Hughes, UNC - Another slightly undersized keeper at 6-0 and 165 pounds, Hughes has nonetheless been involved with numerous youth national teams from U-14 all the way to the U-20s, including the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championships. Unfortunately for Hughes he had to split much of his time at UNC with Ford Williams and that has hampered his development somewhat and prevented him from receiving the accolades the others on this list have garnered. Finally given the bulk of the playing time in his senior year, Hughes put up a solid 0.85 goals against average.
9. Andrew Kartunen, Stanford - One hopes this isn't going to be a story of lost potential. Long on the top level of soccer with numerous U.S. youth national team appearances and high school awards, the strong career Kartunen was building at Stanford was cut short by a shoulder injury prior to his senior year. He might opt to medical redshirt and return to Stanford for one more go. Along with Hughes, Kartunen was a member of the U.S. U-20s that went to the '05 Worlds.
10. Kyle Reynish, UCSB - The 6-3 senior spent a couple years backing up UCSB's former All-American goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, but in the last two seasons has emerged in his own right, culminating in this year's NCAA Championship for the Gauchos. Backstopping the champs with a notable 102 saves, 12 shutouts, and 0.86 goals against average through their run earned Reynish the co-Big West Goal Keeper of the Year award.
10 others to keep an eye on
Rowan Anders, Dartmouth
Ryan Burke, Virginia
Daniel Cepero, Penn
Brad Knighton, UNC Willmington
Brian Levy, New Hampshire
Eric Reed, UCLA
Jake Settle, Wisconsin
Geremy Uhl, San Francisco
Matt Wideman, SMU
Zach Varga, Duquesne
Buzz Carrick is the publisher of 3rd Degree, the FC Dallas News Source. He also works in the freelance sports television business and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.