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Jan 3, 2008

Midfield pool lacking blue-chip prospects

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of previews for the 2008 MLS SuperDraft.

The 2008 draft isn't a great one for midfielders. Although there are a handful of solid guys at the top of the list, the talent pool quickly deteriorates into players who are projects or have flaws in their games. Some of the best midfielders at the next level were originally forwards in college, so you will find some forwards on this list.

A lot of the top midfield prospects are underclassmen and many of them may make up this year's Generation adidas class. Names such as Alejandro Bedoya (Boston College), Bruno Guarda (SMU), Ciaran O'Brien (UCSB), Scott Campbell (UNC), or Eric Avila (UCSB) could still figure into these rankings by SuperDraft day.

Top 10 senior midfield prospects

1. Michael Videira, Duke -- Videira is about as sure a thing as you'll find in this year's midfield pool. The Blue Devil is a big, active player with good feet and range. He battled an injury much of this year but was still third-team All-American. A three-time Hermann Trophy semifinalist and three-time All-ACC selection, Videira has a remarkable college resume. His career tally of 15 goals and 32 assists shows his game-changing ability. A former U.S. U-18 and U-20, Videira was on the Generation adidas target list last year.

2. Andrew Jacobson, California -- A fifth-year senior out of a Cal program that has produced multiple MLS players in recent seasons, Jacobson is a good two-way player with terrific size (6-foot-2). He's likely to be a defensive or linking midfielder in the pro game with the ability to contribute offensively (11 career goals and 13 assists). Jacobson was an All-American in 2007 and a three-time all-Pac-10 player.

3. Stephen King, Maryland -- King has lots of talent but is undersized at only 5-foot-8. Still, King has penned himself a shinning resume at Maryland that includes finishing second on the Terrapins all-time career assist list with 33 helpers. King is a very composed and skillful offensive-minded gunslinger on the ball who has the ability to score (27 career goals). He is also a former captain of the U.S. U-15s and member of the U-16s.

4. Andy Wright, West Virginia -- This tall (6-foot-1) Brit has a reputation for playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. The Big East Midfielder of the Year with six goals and six assists, Wright is a two-way midfielder who finished with 18 goals and 17 assists in 83 career games for the Mountaineers. Wright is the first Mountaineer in program history to earn Big East Midfielder of the Year honors. He should be able to play multiple midfield positions in the pro game. (Editor's note: Since this article was written, Wright has subsequently signed a contract with Scunthorpe in the English Championship)

5. Peter Lowry, Santa Clara -- Lowry led the Broncos in scoring with eight goals and seven assists in 2007 and earned the West Coast Conference Player of the Year award. A 2007 All-American selection, Santa Clara's top playmaker has plenty of offensive ability but may need to develop a more well-rounded game to make it in MLS. Lowry's best bet at the pro level may be on the wing. A U.S. U-23 and former U-18 pool player, Lowry finishes with 22 goals and 15 assists in his college career.

6. David Roth, Northwestern -- His second-team All-American nod made Roth the first player to receiver that honor in Northwestern history. Another small midfielder at 5-foot-8, Roth is composed in possession and is a terrific passer, but his strength on the ball is a large concern. The questions about Roth center around whether he has the quickness and skill to overcome his stature. Roth finished his career with 32 assists and 19 goals, and tied a Big Ten record in 2004 as a freshman with 14 assists.

7. El Hadj Cisse, North Carolina State -- Cisse started every game during his college career. He started out playing defensive midfield as a freshman before moving to forward in his later college years. Originally from the Ivory Coast, Cisse moved to the U.S. at age 14. Cisse is a tough, hard-nosed leader both on and off the field. He finished his Wolfpack career with 17 goals and 6 assists. Cisse should be able to play all over the offensive third of the field for an MLS team, but he will be best suited as a wide midfielder or high wing.

8. Cesar Zambrano, Illinois-Chicago -- The 6-foot-1-inch Zambrano is the kind of special player who can change a game. Gifted on the ball and creative offensively, Zambrano led the Flames in scoring his senior year with six goals and seven assists. Despite playing only three years of major college ball, Zambrano still put up impressive totals with 15 career goals and 12 career assists.

9. Eric Burkholder, Tulsa -- A diminutive forward at 5-7, Burkholder was blessed with very quick feet and a great first step. Although he's not sprinter fast, Burkholder's burst makes him more suited for the wing or wide in midfield. Burkholder started 62 of 83 games for the Golden Hurricane at the forward position and posted 12 goals and 25 assists.

10. Ryan Maduro, Providence College -- In 2006 Maduro became only the second Friar to be named a first-team All-American and the first to be named first-team All-Big East. The 2006 Providence College Athlete of the Year for a team sport, Maduro had a great 2007 season without earning some of the same accolades. An attacking midfielder or withdrawn forward who can both score goals and create opportunities, Maduro finished 2007 tied for the team high with five goals and his six assists led the team.

Other senior midfielders to watch

Geoffrey Cameron, Rhode Island

Kraig Chiles, San Diego State

Pavle Dundjer, Illinois-Chicago

Joe Germanese, Duke

Pat Healey, Towson

Shea Salinas, Furman

Luke Sassano, California

Ben Shuleva, SMU

Adam Sloustcher, Loyola Marymount

Dan Stratford, West Virginia

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.