A week ago, the finest college soccer players in the country assembled in Florida for the annual MLS Combine. Attended by general managers and head coaches from every MLS team, the Combine was an opportunity for players to raise their profile ahead of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft this week.
And for some, it proved a blow to their draft prospects as they suffered through a string of poor performances.
The MLS Combine consists of a long weekend of interviews between players and team representatives, skills drills, and six full scrimmages. Media are invited to the proceedings as well, giving a glimpse into which players improved their draft position and which players saw their stock plummet. And how best to rate their performances at the Combine? Comb through the various MLS mock drafts that were published before and after the weekend.
The soccer blogs at SB Nation, including yours truly, held a mock draft last Friday, as each blog chose for the team it reported on in the order of the actual MLS SuperDraft. Center Line Soccer, matching our prediction from a day earlier, selected U.C. Davis defender Ramon Martin del Campo with the fourth selection in the draft.
The center back was a prominent member of the Earthquakes U-23 PDL team in 2014 and was a known quantity to the Quakes coaching staff. In addition, MLS has already signed the senior to a rookie contract. For other draft predictors, including those at Top Drawer Soccer, Martin del Campo made perfect sense for San Jose at #4.
And then the Combine happened.
By all accounts, including a quick observation from ESPNFC.com's Jeff Carlisle, Martin del Campo looked out of place at the Combine, especially in the first two of three scrimmage games. He was deemed too slow for the pace of the opposing forwards, and his decision making on and off the ball was brought into question. Suddenly, the sure-thing had a question mark over his head, and media analysts collectively downgraded his chances of finding MLS success.
In the final mock draft released by SBI, Ives Galarcep dropped Martin del Campo down to #25, writing that he recovered to perform well in scrimmage game three, but the questions raised were enough that other center backs would likely be selected ahead of him. MLSSoccer.com's drafting trio made a similar decision, with only one voter projecting Martin del Campo as a first round selection. Both mock drafts now have Jamaican forward and Generation Adidas signing Romario Williams the consensus selection for the Earthquakes.
Williams is a speedy prospect in the same vein as current Vancouver Whitecaps forward Darren Mattocks. An underclassman, Williams would have time to develop with the Earthquakes and would not likely be asked to contribute right away. He offers some size with his speed, another attribute that could tip him to San Jose.
Perhaps the fall of Martin del Campo could play into the Earthquakes favor. If he has indeed slipped to low first round/high second round material, San Jose could trade down in the draft and parlay its #4 overall pick into mulitple draft picks or allocation money. The Quakes are already without a second round selection, having traded the #24 overall pick to Orlando City for forward Mark Sherrod back in December. A perfect trading partner would be Sporting Kansas City.
Of the 20 picks in the first round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Sporting holds three: #10, #12, #20. For San Jose, any one of those three picks would likely be sufficient to select Martin del Campo, though in the interest of safety, #12 seems a good choice. If Kansas City were willing to throw in their #20 selection as well, trading two picks for the Quakes #4 pick, it could prove a win-win for both clubs. Sporting can still select a good prospect at #10, but they can also add a top-shelf selection at #4.
How do the Quakes win in this deal? They can still get Martin del Campo, a player that looked good during time spent training with the first team last year, and can pick up a relative unknown with the last pick of the first round. Local talent Miguel Aguilar is an intriguing possibility. The University of San Francisco forward and Sacramento high school standout had an excellent Combine, showing his versatility as a forward and a winger. Mock drafts have noticed, and Aguilar now stands as a first round/second round 'tweener.
One thing is certain, the MLS Combine performance of the Earthquakes supposed #4 selection has created a dilemma for San Jose. Do they simply go with the guy they know, or do they roll the dice and parlay the pick into another possible selection? Those questions, and more, will be answered when the SuperDraft begins at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time tomorrow, live from Philadelphia.