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Dec 16, 2008

Goalkeeper pool for '09 draft deep in prospects

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of previews for the 2009 MLS SuperDraft.

The 2009 MLS SuperDraft, to be held Jan. 15 in St. Louis, might have proved to be the class of the goalkeeper, if it weren't the class of the forward. It also doesn't help that two of the best goalkeepers in this class, Chris Seitz and Mike Gustavson, have already reached Major League Soccer as underclassmen. But this group still has some top-notch prospects, with three legitimate pro talents at the top and others who have a chance sitting just behind them.

In the past, these rankings have listed only seniors, but this year there are two reported Generation Adidas targets who are redshirt juniors. Even if MLS doesn't sign them to GA deals, they could end up in MLS anyway. Keepers signing Generation Adidas deals are rare enough, but this year, two might do so. (Generation Adidas is a program, sponsored by adidas, that encourages early entry of American players into MLS. Generation adidas players do not count against the MLS senior roster and are also guaranteed scholarships to continue their college education should their professional career not pan out.)

Top 10 goalkeepers

1. Stefan Frei, California: The 6-foot-3 redshirt junior is a two-time All-American and has been named to the first team of the All-Pac-10 squad twice. A native of Switzerland who moved to the U.S. at age 15, Frei has become a leader on the field for the Bears. His eight shutouts led the Pac-10 in 2008, as did his 0.68 goals-against average. In three years as the Bears' netminder, he racked up 19 shutouts. Frei has arguably been the best keeper in college the past two years.

2. Zack Simmons, Massachusetts: A former walk-on who this season earned the Atlantic 10's Defensive Player of the Year award, Simmons was a four-year starter for the Minutemen and carries a 3.99 GPA as a double major in history and economics. Simmons almost single-handedly led his team to the College Cup in 2007 and followed up that performance with a 0.81 GAA and seven shutouts this past season. A terrific shot-stopper at 6-2, he's capable of making the big save to keep his team in games. Simmons is the player on this list most likely to make an immediate impact in MLS.

3. Jovan Bubonja, Illinois-Chicago: After taking a medical redshirt in his first season at UIC because of an ACL injury, the Serbian-born Bubonja rebounded with two Horizon League Goalkeeper of the Year nods in three years. He also earned a first-team All-American nod this year. The 6-2 Hermann Trophy semifinalist had a 0.67 GAA in his redshirt junior season with 10 shutouts. Bubonja is graduating this month but retains a year of eligibility.

2009 MLS SuperDraft
Jan. 15
St. Louis
2 p.m. ET, ESPN2

4. Chris Brown, Boston College: At 6-5 and 225 pounds, Brown is the kind of a massive keeper who catches the pro scouts' attention. Although he's not a can't-miss prospect like those above, Brown made his first U.S. U-23 camp this year. The two-time ACC honoree played every game in net for BC the past two years and finished this past season with a 0.90 GAA. One red flag: Brown missed both 2004 and 2005 with knee injuries.

5. Evan Bush, Akron: A 6-3 redshirt senior, Bush leaves Akron with career marks in wins with 62 and shutouts with 49. Bush was Mid-American Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2005, when he ranked third in the nation with a 0.51 GAA. He was named to the first team of the All-MAC squad in '05, '07 and '08. Bush registered an impressive 0.46 GAA and 13 shutouts this past season.

6. Milos Kocic, Loyola (Maryland): The second Serbian among the top six, the 6-5 Kocic transferred to Loyola from St. John's after redshirting there in 2005. Listed as a junior, Kocic will attend the MLS combine and is draft-eligible because he'll graduate this month. Named to the All-MAAC first team in 2007 and this past season, Kocic garnered a second-team All-American nod this season with a 0.87 GAA and 12 shutouts. His 17 shutouts in 2007 tied Loyola alum Zach Thornton's school record, and he led the country that season a 0.47 GAA.

7. Neal Kitson, St. John's: The redshirt senior is the smallest keeper (6 feet) in my top 10, yet Kitson put up some extraordinary numbers this season behind the Red Storm's defense with a staggering 0.32 goals-against average and 13 shutouts. Although one might be tempted to think that Kitson has benefited from a notoriously strong back line, his standout performance at the College Cup against Maryland where he was beaten only by a stunning goal from Graham Zusi in overtime, leads one to believe he's a major part of the team's standout defensive performance. Good lateral quickness helps compensate for his small frame.

8. Kevin Guppy, Cal State Northridge: A four-year starter for the Matadors, Guppy is a former U.S. U-20 pool keeper. The 6-1 keeper earned All-Big West Conference nods every season and was named the Big West Goalkeeper of the Year in his freshman and senior campaigns. Guppy's career ranks in the top 10 in all-time Big West play in five major statistical categories: wins (38, second), games (79, second), minutes (7,469, second), shutouts (25, fourth) and GAA (1.00, seventh).

9. Steward Ceus, Albany: The giant 6-6 Ceus, a four-year starter for Albany, carries a 5.93 saves-per-game average this season that ranks fourth in the country. The America East Goalkeeper of the Year, Ceus will leave Albany with school records in shutouts and saves. His third-team All-American nod is the first Division I All-American award in Albany soccer history.

10. Sean Milligan, Dartmouth: The 6-5 Milligan, who started two years and was named to the first-team All-Ivy squad two years, leaves the Big Green as their all-time leader in career GAA with a 0.82 mark and shutouts with 18. He posted a 0.87 GAA and six shutouts in 2008 after setting a single-season school record with nine shutouts in 2007.

Ten more seniors to watch:

Eric Branagan-Franco, Cal Poly

Chay Cain, Indiana

David Cappuccio, Colgate

Robert Cavicchia, Syracuse

Pat Disbennett, Saint Louis

Alec Dufty, Evansville

Andrew Dykstra, Virginia Commonwealth

Matt Jones, Sacred Heart

Tyrel Lacey, Tulsa

Brian Visser, DePaul

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.

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