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Jan 10, 2008

Nyarko the cream of the forward crop

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

That bad news for college players is that forward is a more difficult position at which to break into MLS because of the limited roster space for forwards and the tendency of MLS teams to spend big money on foreign players at that position.

The good news is that while only the real cream of the crop of forwards have a chance as a MLS striker, you might see quite a few of these guys get shots at deeper-lying positions.

I am including two underclassmen on this forward list and keep an eye out for Marcus Tracy out of Wake Forest. If he signs he will be one of the elite tier talents in this draft and highly coveted.

Top 10 forwards

1. Patrick Nyarko, Virginia Tech -- The immensely talented junior from Ghana by way of Virginia Tech heads our forward list. He's reportedly signed with an agent, so he's leaving college. The only remaining question is will he sign with MLS? Blistering pace and fantastic technical skills make him too much for college defenders to handle. Good height (6-foot) and great athleticism, so he's dangerous in the air as well as with the ball at his feet. First Team All-American and Hermann Trophy Finalist in 2007, three-time First Team All-ACC, and 2005 ACC Freshman of the Year. He leaves college after three years with 31 goals and 24 assists. If he signs with MLS he is odds on favorite to go No. 1 overall.

2. Xavier Balc, Ohio State -- The Buckeyes standout senior and Big Ten Player of the Year is both a dangerous goal scorer and playmaker. Both in body and game he cuts a striking resemblance to MLS great Preki. Not the quickest player out there, Balc is blessed with a beautiful left foot, fantastic technique, and fabulous vision. He's also big and strong with great soccer smarts, which allows him to dominate in possession. Balc usually plays withdrawn striker behind the lead target man, but could also be a very dangerous No. 10 in the right system. Balc holds school records for assists in a season with 14 and over a career with 35, the latter more than double the previous record career high. Balc is also a high impact player as 11 of his 23 career goals being game winners.

3. Joseph Lapira, Notre Dame -- The 2006 Hermann Trophy winner with 22 goals on the season passed on MLS's Generation adidas offer last year and had a slight drop-off in production for 2007 since he was the marquee name for all Irish opponents to mark. A two-time First Team All-American and 2006 Big East Player of the Year, Lapira leaves Notre Dame with 41 goals and 23 assists. So why is he ranked so far down this list? Even though he's a great player, at 5-foot-8, he's a bit undersized to be a pure MLS striker, and he isn't noticeably fast. But more importantly he's got an Irish passport and has even played for Ireland. That means it's very easy for him to sign in Europe and will make a MLS team ponder before drafting him. Unless of course MLS sign him early to a contract like they typically do with all Hermann Trophy winners.

4. Yannick Reyering, Virginia -- The other junior on our list is the big target type pure striker Reyering. At 6-foot-6 and 200-pounds Reyering will be tough for any MLS defender to handle physically. You won't see his name on any Generation adidas list despite being a junior because he's apparently out of eligibility having played some college equivalent ball in his native Germany prior to joining Virginia. The two-time Hermann semifinalist finishes his career with 39 goals and 10 assists in just three college seasons. Reyering scored 13 goals in 16 games this year prior to suffering a season-ending knee injury in the Cavs final regular season game against Wake Forest. The giant German's got above-average feet, touch, and technical game for a player of his size.

5. George Josten, Gonzaga -- Josten was tapped as a Third Team All-American in 2007, the first All-American in Gonzaga history. His 34 career goals (tied with Brian Ching) and 17 career assists both rank third in school history. Josten is also a three-time West Coast Conference First Team player, another first time feat in school history. He led the WCC in goals and points in both his sophomore and junior years.

6. Ely Allen, Washington -- A rangy striker with solid Pac-10 production, Allen is the 2007 Pac-10 Co-Player of the Year. Allen led the Pac-10 with 12 goals, and finishes his career with 26 (plus 12 assists.) A four-year starter for Washington, Allen is a four-time Pac-10 honoree. Allen is one of two players to earn Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and Pac-10 Player of Year honors during their career.

7. Ryan Cordeiro, UConn -- Overshadowed by Hermann Trophy candidate O'Brien White and his 23 goals, Cordeiro is still a strong prospect who can play multiple positions. The Husky was second in scoring for UConn with eight goals and 10 assists. Playing both midfield and forward in his career; Cordeiro was second team Big East in 2007.

8. Saidi Isaac, Winthrop -- The slightly undersized but extraordinarily quick Isaac is also quite gifted technically. His outstanding career at off-the-radar Winthrop was capped by the Big South Player of the Year award. A 12-goal senior year followed two straight 17-goal seasons, which earned him three straight Big South First Team nods. During his freshman year at Park University, Isaac bagged a stunning 39 goals to earn NAIA All-American status and Region IV Player of the Year. Isaac has been capped by Kenya at the senior, U2-0, and U-18 levels.

9. Lukasz Tumicz, Rhode Island -- The Polish-born Tumicz is a well rounded forward who led the A-10 in goals this year with 12. As a junior the Rams striker led the A-10 in assists with 10 and finished second in goals with seven. Tumicz leaves URI with 31 goals and 24 assists in 58 starts and 74 games. He was a member of the U-15 and U-16 Polish national teams, but went to high school in the United States.

10. Sherron Manswell, Boston College -- The versatile Trinidadian striker had outstanding production in his senior year with 11 goals and sophomore year with 10 goals. Those strong scoring seasons bracketed a lackluster junior year when he only had one goal, although he was playing midfield. Manswell is a prime candidate to change positions in the pros. He was all set to move to defense this year for BC but was returned to forward, presumably after Charlie Davies signed with Hammarby.

Other senior forwards to watch

Kenny Anaba, Cincinnati

Javier Ayala-Hil, California

Mkhokheli Dube, Coastal Carolina

Kevin Forrest, Washington

Sven Meusch, Virginia Commonwealth

Toni Nunez, UC Santa Barbara

Spencer Wadsworth, Duke

Kenzo Webster, Michigan St.

Andrew Wheeler, York College

Murphy Wiredu, St. Peter's

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.