MLS Combine: Xavier's Spencer more than just a No. 9
LAUDERHILL, Fla. -- Eriq Zavaleta set up two goals. Devon Sandoval captured the headlines thanks to his candor about the Steven Lenhart comparisons. Deshorn Brown went toe-to-toe with Andrew Farrell. Charlie Rugg threw his weight around and punished the adiPure backline.
And Luke Spencer? He just very quietly pressed the defense, connected passes and found the back of the net. All while shedding his usual No. 9 responsibilities for a half of work on the wing.
“In college I was the only one up top and I didn't have any other frontrunners with me,” said Spencer, who played as the lone striker in Xavier’s 4-5-1. “But I still did pretty much the same thing – tried to hold the ball up and run at players when I got the chance. So it worked out [Friday].”
Day 1 of the Combine was about those No. 9s in a lot of ways, and Spencer – probably the least-known quantity of those who came in with that mantle – had his work cut out for him in terms of making an impression. He was one of two big men (Virginia’s Will Bates was the other) who had to make a go of it out wide, playing on the right side of a 4-3-3 with Ashton Bennett as the center forward.
It worked out, to say the least. Both players scored in adiZero’s 4-0 win over adiPure (watch the highlights here).
“We talked before the game, Ashton and Eric [Hurtado] and I we all talked and said we'd all switch positions, but that we'd all depend on communication and we were able to communicate throughout the game and work well with each other,” Spencer, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 190 pounds, explained.
That versatility could prove to be the difference between hearing his name called next Thursday in Indianapolis, or waiting until the Supplemental Draft to find out which camp he’s going to. Either way, though, Spencer has the look of a future pro with a varied skillset.
“For one I'm good at holding the ball up. That's what I did at college all the time. I had to hold the ball up for attacking players to get in position for me to get further up the field,” Spencer said afterward. “And also I'm a two-way guy. I can face up and go at players. When I get the chance I'm a pretty good finisher and can put it in the back of the net.”
So far, there’s plenty of reason to take him at his word.