As we count down to the 2013 SuperDraft on Thursday, MLSsoccer.com is ranking the top 10 players available to MLS teams by position.
They may be the top difference-makers when it comes to the collegiate ranks, but they are often among the first ones to be discarded in the SuperDraft: attacking midfielders.
The common refrain on playmakers in the NCAAs: They're either too small, they're not athletic enough, they don't know how to play defense or they could never compete with the international talent manning the No. 10 spots in MLS.
The good news for the ranks of attacking mids in 2013 is that at least half of MLSsoccer.com's Top 10 are sure bets to be picked up in the SuperDraft or the Supplemental Draft. Whether they wind up playing as No. 10s in MLS is a whole other story.
10. Mitchell Cardenas (Campbell) – Not a super athlete (when has that ever been said about an attacking mid?), but Cardenas has vision, technique, good touch, a powerful shot and plenty of ideas. Although his size and strength are decent for an attacking midfielder, he’s not aggressive and he’s not a grinder. Without a real change of pace, his best fit is likely in a three-man midfield set-up.
9. Shawn Sloan (High Point) – Deadly passer of the ball: He can see the final pass and deliver it in whichever way the situation warrants. He may not be as cheeky as other No. 10s, but he’s a great passer with vision and good ideas. Is he too lightweight for MLS? He is deferring med school to play pro soccer.
8. Jesus Sanchez (Cal State Bakersfield) – “Chewy” is a busy attacking midfielder who is brilliant and clever on the ball, according to those who have seen him. However, as is common with some playmakers, he is on the smaller side and some say he will struggle with physical demands of MLS. A good passer, but can he play fast enough in MLS and learn how to play some defense?
7. Chris Harmon (Old Dominion) – The catalyst for most of Old Dominion’s goalscoring. He is quick and dangerous with the ball and can go past people. Considered an active and fit “little guy” who has more quickness than pace or vision. An opportunistic player with a game that is all heart and passion.
6. Jose Gomez (Creighton) – Considered a true playmaker, but we saw little proof of it in his Combine debut on Sunday. However, he is good enough that Mexico's Tigres UANL offered him a contract, only for Gomez to decide to conclude his college career. Scouts say his vision is what sets him apart and he also makes good runs and finds the right seams. Perhaps at his best when operating with space in transition. His physical limitations might hurt him in MLS.
5. Michael Bustamante (Boston University) – At the MLS Combine, he has made most noise by lining up at right back and performing admirably. Clever, technical, right-footed player who was a difference-maker with his vision and ideas in college, but he may not have enough pace for MLS. He has also dealt with past ACL injuries. Scouts believe he will have to become more of a two-way player to make it in MLS.
4. Leonardo Fernandes (Stony Brook) – A classic No. 10 who has proven a handful for opponents in college. An intelligent, left-footed player who can beat people on the dribble and deliver the killer pass. Excels in and around the box. Good size and athleticism for a playmaker.
3. John Stertzer (Maryland) – All-around tough, solid athlete who can play anywhere in midfield, but he has the vision and technical skills of an attacking midfielder that have earned him comparisons to Graham Zusi. That vision has been on display during the Combine when he’s pushed high enough upfield. He also showed good instincts around the box (scored a goal) and has a knack of making the right runs into the attack. But will he be asked to drop into a holding role in MLS?
2. Danchrisandre Delgado (San Diego) – Gifted, crafty player with a lethal left foot and good size. But we’ve yet to see him at the Combine because of a right quad injury. Scouts say he pops up in great spots because of his high soccer IQ and a willingness to work. An excellent passer of the ball.
1. Carlos Alvarez (Connecticut) – Playmaker extraordinaire who is one of the early stars of the MLS Player Combine. Alvarez (pictured at top) makes things happen when he’s on the ball because of his vision. He can unlock a defense with his passing, but he can also do it all himself and score as he’s shown in Florida. A natural.
Catch up on the entire SuperDraft Top 10 series: