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Jan 10, 2007

Edu and Dalby the cream of the crop

With the end of the MLS combine, zero hour approaches for the prospective draftees. The Generation adidas list still has not been officially announced, but it's expected to comprise the eight players I've included below in my rankings.

Here's who I believe the top 25 prospects are, regardless of position:

Top 25 MLS 2007 SuperDraft Prospects

(*denotes Generation adidas signing)

1. Maurice Edu, midfielder, Maryland* -- Without a must-have player at the top of the pool, Edu has become the probable No. 1 almost by default. Most MLS coaches have him as the top player in the pool, but this is by no means a dead solid lock. Greg Dalby is a classy midfielder who can control and dominate a game from deep in the midfielder.

2. Greg Dalby, midfielder/defender, Notre Dame -- The best senior in the draft pool. Dalby was already considered one of the best midfielders available and his combine performance showed he might be the best center back available too.

3. Bryan Arguez, midfielder/forward, U.S. U-20* -- Arguez is the player with the most promise and upside of the young Generation adidas players. He moved straight from the U-17 residency program right onto the U.S. U-20 team. The closest thing to a Josmer Altidore-type star in the pool, Arguez will turn 18 the day after the MLS SuperDraft and would be a college freshman in the fall.

4. Bakary Soumare, defender, Virginia* -- Incredibly raw, Soumare has vast upside and could become one of the true great defenders in MLS ... someday. Right now he still makes mistakes but has the speed and strength to recover. The immense physical tools will make him a high pick.

5. Chris Seitz, goalkeeper, Maryland* -- Far and away the best goalkeeper in the pool, in the right situation he might even start from day one in MLS (Columbus?). He has all the ability to be a truly great goalkeeper and is the current starter for the U-20s. It will not be shocking if he is the only keeper selected in the SuperDraft (first four rounds).

6. Anthony Wallace, defender/midfielder, South Florida* -- A flying outside midfielder or outside back who plays destroyer midfield for the U.S. U-20s because of his speed and range. An outstanding player going forward and only a freshman in college, he may need a season in the reserves before he is ready for the first team.

7. Robbie Findley, forward, Oregon State -- The best forward on the boards proved he was capable of scoring on his own at the combine. Most coaches think he has more to offer than what he showed at the combine and Findley has big upside with his pace, athleticism and technique. He could go much higher than I listed him here if someone is in real need of an impact forward to play now.

8. Andrew Boyens, defender, New Mexico -- Previously ranked the best defender on the board and is now dropping down because he skipped the combine and is said to be "considering playing at home" in Australia. Is this some kind of agent-suggested negotiating tactic or does he really want to go play at home? Will someone take him anyway and try and talk him into staying?

9. Jeffrey Gonsalves, forward, Rhode Island -- Missed the combine due to his recovery from mononucleosis. The Canadian may be a target for Toronto, possibly even at No. 1, although I don't expect him to go that high. His absence from the combine didn't really hurt him because the forward group was not great.

10. Nico Colaluca, midfielder, Virginia* -- The highly regarded, creative midfielder who can play wide or centrally in several systems had a slightly disappointing combine mainly for his failure to dominate it. Still held in high opinion, most observers expect the Revolution to grab him at No. 12 as a Clint Dempsey replacement in midfield, if he lasts that long.

11. Amaechi Igwe, defender/midfielder, Santa Clara* -- Left-sided players are worth a tremendous amount and that alone makes Igwe valuable. A tough, versatile midfielder or defender for the left flank, Igwe is flexible enough to even play left wing in the 4-3-3 for the U.S. U-20s. The fast-climbing prospect could move higher as the draft approaches.

12. Ryan Solle, midfielder, Wake Forest -- Solle is s classy holding midfielder who covers good ground in midfield but doesn't make many tackles. His lack of physical play hurts him in some eyes, but he has a great touch and a good soccer brain. With his passing ability and ball control he has the makings of a terrific linking midfielder in MLS.

13. Jay Needham, defender, Southern Methodist -- One of the only defenders to make a strong, positive impression at the combine, Jay cemented his status as one of the four best defenders available. He's probably more ready today to play in MLS than Soumare and showed he can make a serviceable holding midfielder if needed in his short combine stint in that spot.

14. Michael Harrington, defender/midfielder, North Carolina -- The best left back on the boards, and like all truly skilled lefties, he's going to be coveted. He's a great athlete with above-average ball skills for his position because of his career start as a midfielder/forward. Some people consider him a future U.S. national team player. Harrington showed versatility at the combine by also playing left midfielder and right back.

15. Abdus Ibrahim, forward, U.S. U-17* -- Ibrahim is the youngest prospect in the pool at only 15. A lanky young forward/midfielder, he sill needs to grow into his body and put on some muscle mass or he will get pushed around in MLS, as he did at the combine. He may need a few years to mature and has been compared to Quavas Kirk, currently with the L.A. Galaxy. Ibrahim could fall to the second round.

16. Dane Richards, forward/midfielder, Clemson -- A somewhat lightly regarded forward prospect, Richards saw the writing on the wall and mostly played wide midfielder at the combine. What we saw was a player with fantastic pace, good ball skills, and the ability to take even the fastest defender like Corey Ashe to the end line and beat him to the corner to cross or carry into the box.

17. Mike Sambursky, defender/midfielder, South Carolina -- A tough player with real soccer skill who I had highly ranked at midfielder, Sambursky volunteered to play the entire combine at right back. That move shows what kind of team player he is, and his good performance there raised some eyebrows. He could make an impact right away in midfield or continue the transition and become a really great outside back within a season or two.

18. Edson Elcock, forward, Old Dominion -- One of the better forwards at the combine, Elcock used his serious pace to better effect than most, getting into the box and creating opportunities. His diminutive size may cost him a few spots in the draft, but he looks to be tough enough to survive defenders in MLS. He would perhaps be a bit of a risky pick with big potential payoff.

19. John Cunliffe, forward/midfielder, Fort Lewis College -- The breakout Division II player at the combine, Cunliffe proved more than capable of playing at the Division I level. Arguably one of the best players at the combine, he's a lefty who can play both centrally and wide in the midfield as well as up top. I see him as a second-round pick. Cunliffe has a fantastic head for the game, silky touch and great vision.

20. Scott Jones, midfielder, UNC Greensboro -- Some observers don't like Jones because he doesn't take on defenders off the dribble. I envision him as a classic two-way midfielder from the same genre as Richard Mulrooney: willing to play defense, a good passer, tenacious tackler and a strong linking player who plays with his head.

21. Sinisa Ubiparipovic, midfielder, Akron -- May have helped himself more than any other player from his poor first day performance by improving every day at the combine. He's a player that compares favorably to Brian Plotkin, so if that's your cup of tea you should hope your team grabs him. His combine moved him up on my draft boards, and likely many others.

22. Ryan Guy, forward/midfielder, San Diego -- An off-the-radar player who used the combine to show he loves to run at defenders. He was able to beat two or three players on the run with the ball at his feet. The final pass or shot is a bit lacking, but the potential is there to be a truly dynamic wing player.

23. Bryan Byrne, midfielder, UCSB -- Byrne has the unfortunate circumstance of being classified as a senior international in 2007 if he makes an MLS roster. But in the UCSB run to the national title he showed he has pace and the ability to get behind defenders. MLS coaches took notice and some seem to be not as concerned by his senior international status.

24. Nate Norman, midfielder, Notre Dame -- Another left-sided player that made an impression at the combine and is moving up the boards. A kind of unsung, unheralded player out of Notre Dame; Norman showed he has the skills to get behind a defense and hit a nice cross. He could be this year's Jonathan Bornstein and have an immediate impact for a squad that needs a left mid or defender they can give playing time to.

25. Nick LaBrocca, midfielder, Rutgers -- A high work-rate player that has excellent off the ball movement and anticipation when playing in the middle of the park. He's comfortable on the ball after winning it and if he sticks with the simple pass could really excel. He's not quick enough to play on the wing, but uses his mind and energy to overcome his lack of speed when in the middle.

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.