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.


It is Maryland and Akron for the National Championship on Sunday - Only Two Teams Left Standing

Akron (15-6-2) and Maryland (12-6-4) will face each other on Sunday night with the 2018 National Championship on the line.  Both teams advanced to the national finals with convincing wins Friday night.  

Akron dominated Michigan State 5-1.  This one-side match had a totally unexpected margin of victory.  Akron’s high-powered attack totally overwhelmed a Spartan defense that had previously allowed an average of only 0.77 goals per game including only two in their four NCAA Tournament wins.   

The contest remained scoreless until the fifteenth minute when Akron forward David Egbo sent the rebound of Morgan Hackworth’s header back into the frame to give the Zips the early lead that they never relinquished.  Michigan State had opportunities to score early in the match that might have created a different pace in the contest had they been able to finish them.  But they didn’t.  When Akron is able to gain the upper hand, they are very capable of scoring in multiples as they demonstrated Friday night. 

Freshman defender Carlo Ritaccio scored in the thirty-second minute to give Akron a 2-0 advantage at intermission.  Skye Harter made it 3-0 when he clinically drove a shot into the upper right-hand corner of the frame from outside the box in the fifty-third minute.  Junior forward Marcel Zajac made a nice move off the dribble to find the angle he needed to make it 4-0 in the sixty-fifth minute.  Sophomore defender Patrick Nelson converted a header out of a corner kick for Michigan State in the seventy-ninth minute to prevent the shutout.  Redshirt freshman Braden Petno added the fifth and final Akron goal of the evening in the eighty-fifth minute of play. 

Michigan State (14-5-4) is a much better team than the score indicated but for the night this one was all Akron.  The fact that this Michigan State team was able to advance to the College Cup leaves a legacy of success and experience that will benefit the program in future seasons.

In the second semifinal Friday night, the third time proved to be a charm for a Maryland side that had been on the short end of a 2-1 loss to Indiana in regular season play as well as in a match with Indiana that was decided by a penalty kick shootout in the Big Ten Tournament.  

The Terps came out of the gate on the front foot displaying the trademark Maryland fifteen minutes of very high pressure.  It proved to set the pace and it was clear from the get-go that the Terps were going to bring the heat.  

Indiana weathered the storm and it appeared that the momentum might switch to the Hoosiers but that was not the case.  Maryland abruptly gained the upper hand in the thirty-seventh minute of the contest when sophomore Matt Di Rosa came off the pine and scored out of a corner kick to give the Terps a 1-0 lead.  The goal gave Maryland both a physical and mental boost.

The Hoosiers had to chase from that point forward and a bend but don’t break Maryland defense anchored by backs Donavan Pines, Johannes Bergmann, Ben Di Rosa and Chase Gasper and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair was able to keep Indiana from finding the back of the net.  Pines, who was a factor on both sides of the ball for Maryland, scored the insurance goal out of a free kick in the seventy-ninth minute of the match. 

It was a heartbreaking end for an Indiana (20-3-1) team that has been outstanding all season. The Hoosiers appeared, particularly in the second half of play, to be just one pass away from breaking through on several occasions. 

The landscape of college soccer can change.  One of the storylines of the evening has to be the fact that just a few weeks ago it seemed highly unlikely that Akron and Maryland would be the last two teams standing.  Regardless, both advanced to the final because they beat the best. 

Akron’s road to the championship contest included a 1-0 win over number one seed Wake Forest in Winston-Salem and number nine seed and three-time defending national champion Stanford 3-2 on the road.  Maryland’s path included a 2-0 win over number six seed Duke in Durham and a 1-0 win over number three seed Kentucky in Lexington as well as the 2-0 win over number two seed Indiana.

The runs that both teams made were impressive but nonetheless improbable.  Akron finished regular season play in the MAC in the number four spot behind West Virginia, Bowling Green, and Western Michigan.  Maryland finished regular season play in the Big Ten in the number five spot behind Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Michigan.  That’s not where either program normally finishes in regular season conference play.

Akron was 7-6-2 overall at the end of regular season play and 10-6-2 after the MAC Tournament.  Their resurgence began just before the MAC Tournament and now includes nine straight wins.

Maryland was 7-6-3 overall at the end of regular season play and 8-6-4 after the Big Ten Tournament. Their resurgence began during the latter part of October. The Terps have won eight out of their last ten games with one tie and one loss.       

Perhaps the turnaround that both programs have experienced can be explained in part by the fact that both programs began the season with significant gaps to fill in key roles which created a learning curve.  It is also significant that despite the losses, neither team played poorly in the early going nor was there a lack of effort or talent.  The difference between winning and losing can be very small, particularly when you have a dance card that included the level of competition that both Akron and Maryland faced.    

Some teams are not able to recover when they begin the season with less than impressive win-loss records.  It clearly helped that both Akron and Maryland have winning traditions, are well coached, and had talented rosters.  Adjustments were made, the newcomers settled in, the veterans set the pace, and things began to fall into place.

Soccer can be a cruel sport.  Veteran Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski and Akron head coach Jared Embick would likely be among the first to tell you that.  Both have enjoyed a lot of success but both know that things don’t always work out as expected. 

Fortunately, regardless of the outcome Sunday night, 2018 will be a season in which things have worked out well for both Akron and Maryland.  Both have overcome adversity - stayed the course - and it has paid off for them. 

The contest will be carried live from Santa Barbara on ESPNU at eight pm eastern standard time.  It should be a dandy.