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Jan 5, 2007

Forward pool lacks impact player without Davies

As with all of our discussions of draft prospects, the forward list will be affected a great deal by the Generation adidas signings. There are a few names to keep an eye on, like Rodrigo Hidalgo of South Florida, Kyle Nakazawa of UCLA, or U.S. U-17 national team stars like Ellis McLoughlin and Abdusalam Ibrahim. However, one prospect not on this list is Charlie Davies of Boston College, who has signed with Hammarby in Sweden.

Davies would have been the prize of this year's crop with explosive pace, athleticism and top-notch soccer skills. He is exactly the kind of young, talented American player MLS really needs, and probably would have commanded one of the better Generation adidas salaries since Freddy Adu signed with the league.

Top 10 Forward Prospects

1. Robbie Findley, Oregon State -- Findley is the first Oregon State player to be named to the Pac-10 first team three times, an impressive feat in such a talented conference. Findley has dual U.S. and Trinidad and Tobago citizenship, and has been in some U-23 camps for T&T. After starting out in 2003 being named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, Findley put up some nice, balanced career numbers with 28 goals and 15 assists. Not real big at 5-foot-9, Findley gets it done with athleticism and pace as well as some good soccer savvy.

2. Randi Patterson, UNC Greensboro -- If numbers are your thing, then the 5-10 Patterson is your guy. Blessed with tremendous pace and playing against lower-level competition in the Southern Conference, he notched an astounding 61 career goals (with 18 assists) and led his school in scoring all four seasons. Patterson won back-to-back Southern Conference Player of the Year honors his sophomore and junior seasons, making him the first player to achieve that feat in 20 years. Although he had a somewhat disappointing senior season with only 13 goals, this was probably because he was a marked man.

3. Jeffrey Gonsalves, Rhode Island -- A two-time captain for URI, Gonsalves broke out with an impressive senior season. His 18 goals (along with five assists) tied for second in the nation behind Hermann Trophy winner Joe Lapira of Notre Dame (22). This season's Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, Gonsalves led the A10 in scoring his last two seasons and finished his career with 42 goals and 23 assists. A Canadian by birth, Gonsalves should attract the attention of Toronto FC.

4. Jarrod Smith, West Virginia -- The 6-2, 185-pound New Zealander has represented his country at numerous levels, including a recent appearance for the senior side against Brazil. A member of the New Zealand '04 Olympic and U-20 teams, Smith came into his own as a senior, being named a second team All-American and a Hermann semifinalist for his 14 goals and four assists. Smith set Big East single-season records in goals (12) and points (28) in '06. By MLS rules, Smith should have two seasons as a youth international, which gives him a buffer before the dreaded senior international status kicks in.

5. Brad Evans, UC Irvine -- While not blessed with the impressive stats of some of those above him, Evans does have one key thing going for him that the others may not: Columbus Crew coach Sigi Schmid likes him. Schmid included Evans on his 2005 U.S. U-20 World Championship team. The two-time Big West Offensive Player of the Year, Evans has the physique (6-1, 160 pounds) to survive the physical nature of MLS, although he could use some upper body strength. In '06 Evans scored eight goals and added three assists (31 goals and 11 assists for his career). Prior to his move to the front line, Evans was named Big West Midfielder of the Year in his sophomore season (2004), an indicator of his all-around game.

6. Dane Richards, Clemson -- Richards was a Hermann semifinalist and second team All-American in 2006 and is another small (5-7) but lightning-quick forward. Richards transferred to Clemson from San Jacinto Junior College (where he was National Junior College Player of the Year in '04) prior to the 2005 season and helped get the Tigers to the College Cup that year. Richards scored an impressive 45 goals his two years in junior college and followed it with double-digit goal seasons at Clemson. Richards has been capped by the Jamaican national team and will have one season as a youth international in MLS.

7. Omar Cummings, Cincinnati -- Another juco transfer, Cummings is a two-time unanimous Big East first team player and a 2006 first team All-American. Cummings is a more balanced player than some of the direct speedsters on this list, being a player who can both score and assist. He compiled 13 goals and 16 assists in his two years at Cincinnati. Unfortunately for Cummings, he will turn 25 in 2007, making him a senior international by MLS rules in his rookie year, a fact which may drastically hurt his draft value and his chances to make an MLS roster.

MLS SuperDraft Preview
Buzz Carrick provides 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
• Part 3: Midfielders

8. Riley O'Neill, Kentucky -- O'Neill is arguably the best target forward on our list. In 2006 he scored 17 goals (a school record) with seven game winners and earned first team Conference USA status. Slowed his junior year with a bunch of minor injuries, O'Neill had 28 goals and 16 assists in his career. He also showed his versatility by playing in the midfield during his sophomore year.

9. Tonci Skroce, Illinois-Chicago -- This Croatian U-21 international capped off his career at Illinois-Chicago with a second team All-American nod and the Horizon League Player of the Year award. The 6-1, 177-pound Skroce scored seven goals and seven assists in his senior year to total 19 goals and 10 assists for his career. A gritty and tough competitor, five of Skroce's seven goals this season were game winners. A two-time All-Horizon League first teamer, Skroce captained UIC to the 2006 Horizon League regular-season title and the school's first ever at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Skroce is the only player in my top 10 forwards list not invited to the MLS combine, but should have two years as a youth international if selected by a MLS side.

10. Adam Cristman, Virginia -- Cristman had an outstanding youth career with multiple high school All-American nods and caps at U-17 and U-18 levels for the U.S., but has never dominated at the college level like he was expected to. Unfortunately for Cristman it probably means he was bigger and faster than his peers coming up and he no longer stands out physically compared to other players. Cristman had a solid career at Virginia but has been overshadowed the last few years by teammate Yannick Reyering. A couple of second team All-ACC nods and an ACC Freshman of the Year marked a solid but unspectacular career for Cristman, who had 34 career goals and 15 assists.

10 Senior Forwards to Watch

Charles Altchek, Harvard
John Cunliffe, Fort Lewis College
Edson Elcock, Old Dominion
Willy Guadarrama, Campbell
Anthony Hamilton, UC Irvine
Steven Holloway, Monmouth
Jerson Monteiro, Alabama Birmingham
Frederico Moojen, Clemson
Simon Omekanda, Penn State
Michael Todd, Hofstra

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.