Senior defender class solid but lacks sizzle
Editor's note: This is the second in a series of previews for the 2009 MLS SuperDraft.
While on the surface the defensive position isn't as deep as in previous years, there still is some talent to be had. MLS teams tend to spend big money at forward and midfield, which means defense is perhaps the easiest spot to make a MLS squad. MLS teams will be looking for bargains who can be turned into starters.
What is missing here is a sure-fire prospect. There's a solid group of defenders, almost any of whom could become good pro players, which is reminiscent of the 2005 draft pool.
Helping this group considerably could be three potential Generation adidas signings that will rank at the very top of any defender list -- perhaps even at the top of the list of prospects overall: Ike Opara of Wake Forest, Omar Gonzalez of Maryland and Kevin Alston of Indiana. Also under consideration are players such as Sheanon Williams of North Carolina, Rodney Wallace of Maryland and, perhaps, U.S. U-17 defender Gale Agbossoumonde. The signing of any of them will add considerable talent to the defender class.
Unlike the goalkeeper ranks, I won't include any of the underclassmen since none are redshirt juniors who could still end up in MLS even if not signed to Generation adidas.
Top 10 defender prospects
1. Calum Angus, St Louis -- Angus is a four-year starter and the vocal defensive leader for the Billiken program. A Brit, the 6-foot Angus is a two-time All-American and was the 2007 Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year. He led the St. Louis defense to a 0.82 team goals-against average and 10 shutouts this year. A former outside back who has also played centrally, Angus does have the speed to play multiple spots in the back line. He's graduating early this winter in preparation for a professional soccer career.
2. Yohance Marshall, South Florida -- After a promising freshman season, this 6-foot-2 Trinidadian missed most of 2006 with an injury but rebounded with a solid 2007 and had a spectacular 2008. Big, strong, and quick, this third-team All-American led USF to shutouts in more than half of its games. Marshall has a strong reputation as a leader and has played for the Trinidad and Tobago U-17s, U-20s and U-21s.
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3. Michael Holody, Michigan -- The 6-3 Holody is only the second All-American in the Wolverine program's short history. Holody leaves Michigan as the program's all-time leader in minutes played and his nine goals rank him in the top 10 on its scoring list. A strong two-way player in the college game, it will need to be seen if that offense translates to MLS. In addition to his two All-Big 10 nods, Holoday was named to the 2008 PDL Team of the Year for his play for the Michigan Bucks.
4. Chris Clements, Tulsa -- A subpar year for Clements, due to an early injury, has seen him slide a little further down this list than he might have been with a clean bill of health in 2008. His return from injury coincided with Tulsa's revival in the latter half of the year. An aggressive reader of the game with a big pro-size body (6-2, 187 pounds), Clements also has terrific feet for a large player. Clements is a three-time All-Conference USA player and was a third-team All-American in 2007. Out of the storied Dallas Texans club, Clements is also a former U.S. U-20.
5. Jide Ogunbiyi, Santa Clara -- A late bloomer and undoubtedly a raw project with upside, Ogunbiyi moved up to the West Coast Conference first team in 2008 after three previous honorable-mention nods. The big, 6-4 defender could become a dominating force in the middle if his progression continues. Born in Rochester, New York, Ogunbiyi has spent time with the Nigerian youth programs and this past summer trained with the Nigerian senior side. Ogunbiyi scored 11 goals and added eight assists during his career, despite mostly coming off the bench in his sophomore year due to an offseason injury.
6. Matt Besler, Notre Dame -- A first-team All-American this year, Besler started every game for the past three seasons for the Irish and earned three All-Big East nods. An Academic All-American as well, Besler is the first Golden Domer to do the All-American double. The tough and gritty Besler missed only one game in his collegiate career and has led the Irish to two consecutive Big East regular-season titles. Besler passes well out of the back, accumulating seven assists and five goals in his career.
7. Lyle Adams, Wake Forest -- Don't let the lack of conference honors fool you, immense talent can come through the ACC while hardly being noticed. Speed kills and this left-sided flank defender has plenty of it. As a four-year starter at Wake, he plays in as advanced a pro-style, 4-4-2 formation as you'll find in college. Adams was a key part of the 51 shutouts the Wake defense earned in his time there. He's got good feet and loves to take on the opposition with pace -- 11 goals and six assists show his quality getting forward. Adams is the best wide defender in the senior class.
8. David Sias, California Irvine -- Sias is a soft-spoken, hard-working leader and one of the keys to Cal-Irvine's impressive 2008 resurgence. After giving up 31 goals in 2007, UCI reduced its goals conceded this season to a meager 21. Sias was named the 2008 Big West Defender of the Year after a second team award in 2007.
9. Brad Rusin, UCLA -- After three straight Pac-10 honorable mention nods, Rusin was the sole defender named first team this year. At 6-4, Rusin is an imposing figure in the back line and in 2008 he led a young Bruins' defense to eight shutouts, including six straight in Pac-10 play. He also notched three goals and two assists. Rusin has played in the PDL with the San Fernando Valley Quakes and last summer had trials with IK Start and BodoGlimt in Norway.
10. Ossie Michalsen, Akron -- After redshirting upon arrival at Akron, Michalsen ripped off a streak of three straight first-team All-MAC awards before slipping to a second-team spot this year as he struggled with a couple of injuries. Overshadowed by Akron's impressive underclassmen, Michalsen remains an interesting prospect. A member of the Norway U-16, U-18 and U-19 teams, Michalsen played for the SK Brann youth program prior to joining the Zips. Michalsen graduated from Akron in 2008 and played his final year of eligibility while pursuing a MBA in international business.
Ten more seniors to watch
Darrius Barnes, Duke
Rhett Bernstein, Brown
Evan Brown, Wake Forest
Michael Coburn, Memphis
Rich Costanzo, Maryland
AJ Delagarza, Maryland
Ryan Mirsky, Southern Methodist
Seth Sinovic, Creighton
Jack Traynor, Notre Dame
David Tyrie, Central Connecticut
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 email@example.com.