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Jan 2, 2007

Edu heads deep midfield pool

Midfield appears to be a real area of strength for the 2007 SuperDraft. With the midfield pool likely to be bolstered by some Generation adidas signings, there will be some real talent available, and not just at the top end of the list.

Top 10 Midfield Prospects

1. Maurice Edu, Maryland -- A player I have admired since he became a starter late in his freshman year (after returning from a torn meniscus) and helped the Terps reach the Final Four. Blessed with top-notch dribbling and passing skills far better than other defensive midfielders, Edu has been compared favorably to Shalrie Joseph. All-ACC second team in 2005, Edu broke through in terms national recognition in 2006 with a first-team All-American honor and a Hermann semifinalist nod to go with his spot on the ACC first team. Edu has the ability to rise to the big occasion and excel under pressure; of his five goals in 2006, four were game winners. Edu is one of the few 6-footers in the midfield list and will be only 21 this coming April. He is a prospect with immense upside and potential.

2. Scott Jones, UNC Greensboro -- Although Jones sometimes is taken down a notch as a prospect for playing at a smaller program, his accomplishments are undoubtedly impressive. The first player in school history to be named to the Southern Conference first team all four years, Jones is a three-time NSCAA All-American. He was also SoCon Freshman of the Year ('03), was on the Hermann watch list twice ('05 and '06) and twice was a College Soccer News All-American. Perhaps even more important than his awards or his equally impressive 25 goals scored out of midfield, is his staggering career total of 41 assists. At 23, Jones is one of the older players on this list and is perhaps the most ready to play in MLS right now.

3. Mike Sambursky, South Carolina -- Although never earning the national accolades of others, Sambursky has quietly built an impressive reputation among scouts and media for his tenacity, will, grit and desire to win. The two-time C-USA and All South Region first-teamer is the kind of player who can take over a game and win it single-handedly. Although he can be streaky, hard-nosed Sambursky will break someone in half to get to a ball when he's in the mood. Fantastic feet, top-notch long-range shooting and a real nose for the ball make the Gamecocks leader a sought after asset. The Texas native played both forward and midfield for SC, but we're putting him at midfield because that's where he's more likely to start his career. His career totals of 20 goals and 22 assists show his balanced attacking skills but don't begin to demonstrate his ability and willingness to play defense.

4. Nico Colaluca, Virginia -- An underclassmen who is likely to land a Generation adidas contract, Colaluca is an offensive threat who plays mostly wide in midfield. Not blessed with an instinct for defense, Colaluca worked hard at UVa the past two years to improve that aspect of his game, resulting in his jump to second-team All-American status in 2005. His seven goals and 10 assists in 2006 helped lead Virginia to the College Cup. In the right system, Colaluca could have an impact in his rookie year similar to the one Jacob Peterson had in Colorado.

5. Greg Dalby, Notre Dame -- Dalby is a two-time All-American and Hermann semifinalist whose real strength is his leadership. The 2006 Big East Midfielder of the Year and two-year Irish captain doesn't contribute much on the offensive end, but his phenomenal work rate, tremendous heart and fantastic leadership skills make him a valuable player on and off the field. Captain of the U.S. U-20s at the last World Championship over numerous more skilled players, Dalby should have a fine career as a holding midfielder for an MLS team. Dalby tackles well, is composed in possession and is a solid passer. A four-year starter for the Irish, 6-foot, 175-pound Dalby is also bigger than most of his midfield compatriots in the draft pool.

MLS SuperDraft Preview
Buzz Carrick will provide a four-part analysis of the top prospects for the 2007 MLS SuperDraft, to be held Jan. 12 in Indianapolis.

• Part 1: Goalkeepers
• Part 2: Defenders

6. John DiRaimondo, Saint Louis -- At a perhaps generous 5-8 and 150 pounds, DiRaimando is one of the smallest players in the top 10, something that might hurt him in the rough-and-tumble MLS and might have kept him out of the Generation adidas program. DiRaimondo is a longtime member of the U.S. system, with appearances at the U-17, U-18, and U-20 levels, who can play both wide and centrally in the midfield. A solid 22 goals and 28 career assists earned him Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Year in 2005. Numerous academic awards underline his intelligence for teams that consider brains in their scouting equations.

7. Ryan Solle, Wake Forest -- Solle's 13 assists in 2005 broke the Wake Forest single-season record and led the ACC. Although Solle took a step back statistically as a senior with only four assists (27 for his career), he did add five goals to lead Wake to the College Cup. Solle is a former U.S. U-18 and finishes his Wake career just two assists short of the school record. Known as a player with good work rate, Solle also has a good head for the game and is one of the better passers in college, skills that should translate well to the next level.

8. Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Akron -- The redshirt senior out of Akron is a native of Serbia and would be a Youth International for only one season in MLS, except that he has a green card. A tweener with attacking flair, Ubiparipovic played midfield and forward in college and netted an attention-grabbing 34 goals in his career, including seven in '06 (with seven assists) and 17 in '05. A key piece of the recent emergence of the Zips program, Ubiparipovic is a two-time second-team All-American and was named the 2006 MAC Player of the Year. Before his redshirt year in '03 for injury, Ubiparipovic played at University of Illinois-Chicago, and he also has played with the Chicago Fire Premier in the PDL.

9. Josh Tudela, Indiana -- The redshirt senior was a four-year starter at Indiana, a noteworthy feat at such an illustrious program. The 2006 Big Ten Player of the Year and a third-team All-American with three goals and two assists in his senior campaign, Tudela boasts a solid career set of numbers with 11 goals and 17 assists. Although perhaps not the most talented member of the team that won two national championships, Tedula was still a key part of those squads. A solid, well-rounded, two-way player and good leader, Tedula should prove capable of the transition to the MLS level.

10. Corey Ashe, North Carolina -- Perhaps the least recognized on this list in terms of accolades, Ashe possesses two rare characteristics many of the others do not: blistering pace and a left foot. Although Ashe played forward for the Tar Heels and defense for the U.S., his position at the next level most likely will be wide left in midfield, a position teams in MLS are in desperate need of. Ashe is a longtime member of the U.S. program, including the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championships, U-17 residency, U-16 and U-14 teams. Most recently, he was a member of the U.S. U-20 pool. Ashe was a Generation adidas target in years past but stayed in school to get his degree. The smallest player on the list (5-6) but with a solid 22 career goals in college, Ashe could yet end up one of the highest impact players in the draft pool.

10 senior midfielders to watch

Bryan Byrne, UCSB
Taylor Canel, Cal State Northridge
Steven Curfman, Wake Forest
Eric Ebert, California
John Michael Hayden, Indiana
Tyler Hemming, Hartwick
Nick LaBrocca, Rutgers
Kurt Morsink, James Madison
Wells Thompson, Wake Forest
Chase Wileman, Southern Methodist

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 e-mail at buzz@3rddegree.net.