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Five College Players Who Will Be Looking To Make An Immediate Impact In The MLS - by Dela Agbotse

A high selection in the MLS Draft doesn't necessarily mean that an individual will make an immediate impact in MLS.  Don't be surprised if most of the early first round selections don't start right away.  However, that is not to say that they won't be expected to make an immediate contribution to their team.  There is a big difference between contributing and actually cementing oneself in a starting role. The five players listed below have a good chance of accomplishing the later in their rookie seasons.



Siad Haji - VCU - Haji is without a doubt the most skillful player in the draft this year.  If the scouting reports on him are to be believed, the playmaker out of VCU under head coach Dave Giffard is ready to contribute immediately either through the middle of the park or out wide.  It is still an open question where the Generation adidas signee is going to end up.  Regardless, his natural talent should allow him to fit nicely into any team in the MLS.

 

 


Frankie Amaya - UCLA - The freshman First Team All-Pac-12 selection and Generation adidas signee out of UCLA has developed into an excellent center midfielder.  Whether as an attacking midfielder or a holding midfielder,  Amaya should be an effective linkman once he returns pro. He is particularly adept at making intelligent forward passes and is quick with his touches in tight space.  Look for him to continue to develop other aspects of his game in the MLS.  However, he is fundamentally sound and very capable in all areas as a midfielder.  Amaya's experience with the U.S. youth national teams, most recently helping the U-20 National Team qualify for the World Cup,  has helped to prepare him to be an instant contributor in the professional ranks.

 


JJ Williams - Kentucky - The Wildcat forward,  who was one of the three finalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy and a consensus First-Team All-American,  played a key role in Kentucky's historic  2018 season during which they advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.  The 6'2" striker is a powerful player with excellent strength, quickness, and touch on the ball.  Those factors combine to give Williams the mobility that is a threat for any defender.   Williams' offensive skills are immense but they are still under development.  Regardless he offers great value physically which should enable him to make an immediate contribution at the next level.   

 

 


Callum Montgomery - Charlotte - The 49er All-American and 2018 CUSA Defensive Player of the Year is an elite talent as a defender that is worth getting excited about.  The physical rigors at the professional level may pose a challenge for Montgomery, but he's solid enough with a 6'2" frame to match up against MLS strikers.  Montgomery was a four-year starter at Charlotte under head coach Kevin Langan.  His work ethic, ability to read the game, and leadership skills should enable Montgomery to offer some vital minutes for his team going into the MLS. 

 

 


Anderson Asiedu - UCLA - Asiedu's competitiveness in the middle of the park is among the key reasons that the 5'6" midfielder should make an immediate impact at the next level.  HIs physicality is complemented by his high soccer IQ and effectiveness on the ball.  Asiedu is a disrupter in the midfield and effective linkman between the defense and offense.  His effectiveness as a finisher is far from complete but his positioning, strength, and passing ability is impressive for a young holding midfielder. Scouting reports compare Asiedu to Diego Chara of Portland who has a similar style of play and stature.  

 

 



Dela Agbotse is a contributing writer for College Soccer News.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

2019 MLS SuperDraft Top 25 Prospects

Draft season is upon us! With College Cup and MLS Cup having both concluded, it’s officially time to start thinking about the MLS SuperDraft. 

The top prospects will convene in Orlando for the MLS Combine, January 3-9, leading up to the MLS SuperDraft on Jan 11. The initial list of seniors for the MLS Combine has been released, with the group of Generation Adidas signings (underclassmen), yet to be announced by MLS. Subject to change with GA and Homegrown signings pending, here is the first ​College Soccer News projection of the selections.  

Prospect Big Board for the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.  ** Indicates potential Generation Adidas signee. 



1.​Frankie Amaya​**(UCLA) - If the U.S U-20 midfielder is offered a GA, he’ll be arguably the top attacking prospect in this draft. For an MLS team, that wants a young playmaker to develop, Amaya is the pick.


2. ​Andre Shinyashiki​ (Denver) - The nation’s leader scorer with twenty-eight goals, Shinyashiki, is as an intriguing of a prospect as there is in this draft. The MAC Hermann Trophy finalist, is a playmaking forward, who can create goal scoring chances on his own. There are questions as to what position Shinyashiki projects to in MLS, but regardless expect him to be one of the top players taken off the board. 


3. ​Tajon Buchanan​** (Syracuse) - The Canadian born winger is a pacey playmaker with the intangibles to succeed in this league. Buchanan has a high upside and will likely be a top pick if offered a GA deal. 


4. ​Mo Kamara​** (UCLA) - Kamara, a potential GA prospect, is a raw forward with loads of upside. He was plagued with injuries in his first year with the Bruins, but has shown scouts enough to be in consideration for a top 5 pick. 


5. ​Siad Haji​** (VCU) - Haji, the U.S youth international has been on MLS radars for a while now and with a solid combine, will be one of the first midfielders taken in the draft. 


6. ​John Nelson​** (North Carolina) - For a league that lacks top left back talent, Nelson is an interesting option and will fill in a team’s void early in this draft. He’s a solid 1v1 defender and combines well with teammates in the attack. 


7. ​JJ Williams** ​(Kentucky) - Williams, a ​College Soccer News First Team All-American, gained notoriety this season as he led Kentucky to an impressive 19-2-1 record. The Alabama native has a well-rounded game and with a solid showing at the combine, could work his way into the top five.  


8. ​Rashid Nuhu​ (Fordham) - Nuhu, arguably the top GK prospect in the draft, has the athleticism and shot stopping ability to thrive in this league. The Right to Dream Academy product has the best feet out of any GK in this draft and is expected to be a 1st round pick. 


9. Santiago Patino (FIU) - Patino, an Orlando City HG candidate, is one of the most complete forwards in this draft. He's an impressive goal scorer and has the ability to get in behind or combine with his teammates. Expect him to be one of the first seniors off the board.


10. ​Tate Schmitt​ (Louisville) - The Cardinals forward could be one of most underrated players in this draft. Schmitt has an excellent work rate to go along with his technical ability and goal scoring prowess. 


11 ​David Egbo​** (Akron) - The Nigerian born forward, helped lead the Zips to a College Cup final in part due to his stellar hold up play and attention he commanded up front. If offered a GA contract, Egbo will be a player who likely needs time in USL, but has the potential to be a productive forward in MLS. 


12. ​Griffin Dorsey​** (Indiana) - The U.S U-20 midfielder is capable of playing on the wing or centrally and while he didn’t perform his best at the Concacaf U20 Championship, he’s performed well enough with the Hoosiers to earn a GA contract offer. 


13. ​Kamal Miller​ (Syracuse) - The Canadian born defender can play as an outside back or center back. With a good showing at the MLS Combine, expect Miller to be one of the first defenders off the board. 


14. ​Alex Comsia​ (North Carolina) - Comsia, the ACC Defender of the Year, may be the most MLS ready defender in this draft. The Canadian youth national teamer’s positioning and ability to snuff out attacks has been a major part of UNC’s success over the past four years. 


15. ​James Pyle​ (North Carolina) - Pyle, the second GK on the list and a 1st team All-ACC honoree projects as a long-term MLS player. His shot-stopping and positioning are among the best in this year’s draft. 


16. ​Tucker Bone​ (Air Force) - Bone, a box-to-box center midfielder has a great ability to win loose balls and play penetrating passes to open up a midfield. He’s one of the more complete midfielders in this draft, but may lack the upside some teams are seeking. 


17. ​Tanner Beason​ (Stanford) - Beason, the PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year and ​College Soccer News First Team All-American, has shown his ability to be a difference maker and leader in big games, and will certainly be a first round pick. 


18. ​Callum Montgomery​ (Charlotte) - Montgomery, a towering center back, is a physical presence in the air, who’s improved greatly on his ability to play balls out of the backline. Expect Montgomery to be one of the first defenders off the board. 


19. ​Abdi Mohamed​ (Akron) - Mohamed, an Ohio State transfer, was a tremendous addition in the Zips run to the College Cup. A former midfielder, Mohamed, has been converted to a right back, where he finds his best chance of success at the next level. 


20. ​Amir Bashti ​(Stanford) - A San Jose Earthquakes Homegrown eligible player, Bashti, is an offensive weapon who can play anywhere in the midfield or up front. 


21. ​James Pyle​ (North Carolina) - Pyle, the second GK on the list and a  First Team All-ACC honoree projects as a long-term MLS player. His shot-stopping and distribution are among the best in this draft. 


22. ​Sergio Rivas​ (Seattle) - Rivas, one of the best true playmakers in this draft, will find the same issues making an MLS roster as many prior #10s have from college. With that said, if Rivas can show his ability to play both sides of the ball, he could be one of the steals from this draft. 


23. ​Akeem Ward​ (Creighton) - The Bluejays outside back reads the game exceptionally and is competent in the attack. Ward is a bit of an underrated prospect, but his ability to play on either wing, should help his case. 


24. ​Colin Miller​ (Providence) - Miller, a 6’3” shot stopper, has shown an ability to dominate his box and make big saves. The Friars captain could use a solid showing at the MLS Combine, to further elevate his draft stock. 


25. ​Marcello Borges​ (Michigan) - A New York Red Bull Homegrown candidate, Borges, remains as one of the draft’s premier left back players. His ability to maintain possession under pressure and provide good service in the box will make him an appealing prospect. 


25. ​Amar Sejdic ​(Maryland) - Sejdic, a well-rounded midfielder, capped his Terrapin career with a National Championship and College Cup MVP. Sejdic has shown improvement on the defensive end throughout his career, while his on-ball talent has never been questioned. With a positive showing at the combine, Sejdic could work his way up the draft boards. 



It's Maryland. The Terps Edge Akron 1-0 to Win The 2018 National Championship

Santa Barbara proved to be a worthy venue for the 2018 National Championship contest.  In addition to a great environment, the sky was clear and the field was in great condition. The weather was not a factor in the match. 

This one was special because it featured two teams that stayed the course despite some early season challenges.  Both teams displayed a lot of grit to get to Sunday's Championship game. Both could have taken their eye off the prize and settled for an average campaign but instead played through the challenges they faced and grew stronger from them. Clearly neither Akron or Maryland fall into the Cinderella category since both programs have had a lot of success on the national scene but both had to dig deep to reinvent themselves midway through the season in order to punch their ticket to Santa Barbara.    

Every team in the country has a tipping point of some sort during the season that either propels or derails their progress.  In retrospect, the tipping point for both Akron and Maryland occurred on October 16.  For Akron,  it was a 1-0 win over then highly ranked Creighton followed by a 2-1 wake up call loss on the road to Northern Illinois that ignited the Zips.  For Maryland, it was a 1-0 win at College Park over highly ranked Denver in which the Terps seemed to come together as a team on both sides of the ball.

In the Championship Contest Sunday night, both teams applied pressure in an effort to create space that they could exploit.  A possession and attack oriented Akron side sought to break the code on the Maryland defense by switching the point of attack and through diagonal runs.  Maryland sought to put together combinations that would unlock the Akron defense but for the evening their approach was more direct as they sought to find an open seam that they could run into.

This one could have gone either way but in the end Maryland made the plays that they needed to make on both sides of the ball to secure the programs' fourth national title and third (2005, 2008, 2018) under head coach Sasho Cirovski.  "I could not be more proud of this group," Cirovski stated.  "We talked about this being a big moment for our program. They were pushed and hardened after a challenging schedule. And now, they're jewels." 

It was a total team effort for a Maryland side that didn't allow a goal during the entire tournament.  Nonetheless, the impact of center back Donovan Pines, senior midfielder Amar Sejdic, sophomore back Ben Di Rosa, senior defensive midfielder Andrew Samuels, and freshman forward William James Herve warrant comment.    

Pines was the enforcer on the defensive side of the ball for the Terps much like Brandon Vincent was in 2015 and Tomas Hillard-Arce in 2016 and 2017 for Stanford.  Pines also created havoc when he pushed forward for Terp corners or free kicks.  Sejdic, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the College Cup,  was the catalyst on the offensive side of the ball for the Terps. 

In every College Cup someone unexpected steps forward to make several big plays.  DiRosa was that guy this year.  Samuels deserves mention simply because the contribution that he makes is so vital and should not be overlooked.   Herve, who hails from France, was the newcomer in the group. The shake and bake that he brought to the pitch added a needed additional dimension to the Maryland attack.

It was a disappointing loss but another highly successful season for an Akron team whose run to the Championship Contest featured wins over Wake Forest and Stanford on the road and a win over Michigan State in the semifinals of the College Cup. 

Akron head coach Jared Embick and his staff once again did a great job of retooling a team that lost four out of its five top goal scorers from the 2017 squad as well as several key defenders.  Embick pretty much summed things up when he stated, "We struggled, learned, fought and never gave up.  We showed that adversity is rewarding." 

Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski was making his ninth appearance in the College Cup.  Cirovski is a competitor but throughout the weekend he was relaxed and truly seemed to be enjoying the experience of being with his team once again on the biggest stage in college soccer.  It was clear that he was confident that his team was prepared to play. That alone was a good reason to Fear the Turtle.