Opara set to be an instant impact player
It's shaping up to be a very nice pool of prospects who will be selected in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft. The productivity and talent of this year's rookie crop might even end up rivaling that of last year's bunch. Certainly the top-tier players look special, and teams should be able to find quality help throughout the first two rounds.
Top 20 prospects
1. Ike Opara, D, Wake Forest: Opara stays at No. 1 on my list after demonstrating at the MLS combine that he was clearly the best defender. In my book, he's the best defender in the SuperDraft since Chad Marshall and maybe the best since Eddie Pope. Amazing physical tools, coachability and a good soccer brain mean the sky's the limit for Opara.
2. Tony Tchani, M, Virginia: Proved at the combine that he's a top-tier talent in the making and will be ready sooner rather than later. Dominated the midfield and has climbed to the top of many boards. A candidate for the first pick in almost any season.
3. Danny Mwanga, F, Oregon State: The best forward on the table despite skipping the combine. He's already been tagged as the No. 1 pick by Philly and is third on this list partly because breaking in at forward in MLS is difficult. He has the complete package of skill and athleticism.
4. Corben Bone, M, Wake Forest: Bone is a traditional No. 10-style playmaker and the best pure attacking midfield talent in a couple of years. He will make some coach outside the top three picks very happy. He has the ball skills and passing vision to pull apart defenses, along with a good work rate and a very strong tactical background.
5. Teal Bunbury, F, Akron: The No. 2 forward on the board showed serious wheels at the combine. He's not as polished as Mwanga but is still a very good player who has size, skill and a knack for scoring. Don't undersell the value of a father who played professionally. (His father is former Canadian international Alex Bunbury).
|2010 MLS SuperDraft|
Convention Center, Philadelphia
2 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360.com
6. Toni Stahl, M, Connecticut: The top pure ball-winning midfielder in the pool and the best senior available. Stahl is ready to step in and start for a MLS team in his rookie season. He doesn't have a green card, so he'll count as an international, and that might hurt his status a bit on draft day.
7. Zach Loyd, D, North Carolina: An intelligent player with a future in several possible positions (midfield or defense). I still believe Loyd's future is in the midfield, but the team that picks him might opt to use him on the back line.
8. Dilly Duka, M, U.S. under-20 team/Rutgers: A game-changing type of player who plays bigger than his 5-foot-9. Depending on how much the Red Bulls love their former youth player, Duka could even go as early as No. 2. He's less of a playmaker and more of a scorer and attacking threat who creates chaos in the final third.
9. Amobi Okugo, M, UCLA: Okujo showed his maturity and composure at the combine. He's a smooth player with big upside but is not as ready to control a midfield as Tchani. To a team that can afford to wait a season or so, Okugo is an enticing talent.
10. Michael Stephens, M, UCLA: Stephens dominated inside at UCLA and proved this year that he can play outside. He also showed at the combine that he's one of the best midfielders in the pool and solidified his status as a first-round talent in my book.
11. Blair Gavin, M, Akron: An unsung player who attracts little attention, Gavin is a deep-lying midfielder capable of starting the play and creating. He's behind Stahl on these charts now but could pass him in a few years if he progresses the way I expect.
12. Andre Akpan, F, Harvard: The best senior forward, but that doesn't necessarily say much. Akpan didn't separate himself from the pack at the combine when he needed to show he was in a different class to move up. Should be a solid MLS player but doesn't look like a game-breaker.
13. Andrew Wiedeman, F, California: A poor combine showing has devalued Wiedeman to some talent rankers, but his background and Generation adidas status make him a probable first-round pick. Will he be Taylor Twellman or Abe Thompson at the next level?
14. Zach Schilawski, F, Wake Forest: In a less talent-rich draft, Schilawski would be much higher on the board. However, in this pool, much more exciting forwards are available. I'm still convinced he'll move to wide midfield in MLS and will have a long career. Think Brian Mullan.
15. Kwame Watson-Siriboe, D, Connecticut: Watson-Siriboe cemented himself as the second-best center back available in an average year for center backs. He has size, strength and grit in large doses and compares well to Shavar Thomas.
16. David Estrada, F/M, UCLA: His pure ball talent and skill were on display on the first day of the combine in poor weather conditions. He's confirmed what I had believed: This kid can play despite his lower numbers in his past two seasons with the Bruins.
17. Jovan Bubonja, GK, Illinois-Chicago: Bubonja remains unchallenged as the best keeper on the board and the most likely to be able to start right away. There's no Stefan Frei (last year's rookie standout with Toronto) in this year's group.
18. Jack McInerney, F, U.S. U-17 team: Age, size, development and the Nik Besagno factor make McInerney a later pick than he might have been a few years ago. What MLS coach has the security to wait three or four seasons for the kid to develop?
19. Collen Warner, M, Portland: His combine performance moves one of the best-kept West Coast secrets into the top 20. He's arguably the best wide midfielder in the pool and has good pace and a solid crosser, a combination that is rare these days.
20. Irving Garcia, M, UC Irvine: Despite the small size at 5-5, Garcia demonstrated at the combine that he's a real player who has the skills to make a difference in games. Will he get overrun in MLS? Looks as though he has the game to make it and overcome the size "problem."
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.