Obviously the guy whose stock rose the most today is Brandon Vincent, the Stanford left back who was called into the US men's national team by Jurgen Klinsmann. I had him at No. 3 in my first mock draft and he may now be in play at No. 1 overall, depending upon how many moves the new Chicago Fire braintrust want to make.
Vincent was really, really good on both sides of the ball today. I can't say he looked the part of a US national teamer (yet), but he definitely looked like a guy I'd want to draft.
Anyway, the annual player combine is not a producer of great soccer. As Bobby Warshaw wrote earlier in the week, the teams are cobbled together, given little time to train with each other and players are played out of position. Some are out of shape.
So take any and all observations with a grain of salt. We've seen guys dominate the Combine before, then fall off the face of the earth. We've seen guys bomb in the combine and turn into All-Stars or more (Dom Dwyer and Kekuta Manneh are two good examples).
Bear that in mind. The teams doing the drafting surely will.
Keegan Rosenberry, RB, Georgetown -- Rosenberry had one of the day's toughest jobs in trying to lock down the right side against Michael Gamble and an overlapping Vincent, and he largely held his own. He didn't win any footraces, but he didn't get pulled out of position and made "Team X" (Gamble & Vincent's team) earn it whenever they inched forward. He looked like a smart and capable defensive fullback.
On the other side of the ball he has the makings of an exceptional attacking fullback. Rosenberry mostly helped move the ball quickly in possession, keeping it on the ground and providing a platform for Team Ace to build off of. Then the one time he got way forward he was able to find enough space away from Vincent to put in a cross that probably should have been finished -- it literally bounced across the six-yard box.
Rosenberry was probably going to be the first right back off the board regardless of how he played at the Combine, but his strong performance seems to have entrenched the perception of him around the league.
Range: Anywhere from No. 6 to No. 12, though it'd be bittersweet for the Union to pick him at 6 since they were denied a Homegrown claim.
Thomas Junior Libiih, CB, Cameroon -- There are the occasional fun moments at these events when a guy shows up out of the blue and gets all the coaches and scouts asking "Who's that?" In this instance, fans of the Indomitable Lions know.
Libiih is a Cameroon youth international and the son of Thomas Libiih, who played d-mid at the 1990 and '94 World Cups -- the events that put Cameroon on the soccer map. Junior Libiih is bigger (6-foot-1, 160) and stronger than his father, and though he was listed as both a defensive midfielder and central defender in the guidebook everyone was given, he looked like a pure center back from my vantage point. His athleticism was notable, but what really stood out was the way he marshalled his backline, communicated with his midfield and was dropping off to give a cushion between him and his central defensive partner when the game got hectic.
In that sense he reminded me of Michael Parkhurst a little bit. Whispers are that multiple teams are considering him high in the first round.
Range: Somewhere in the first round
Tsubasa Endoh, MF, Maryland -- I never loved what I saw of Endoh during his years with the Terps, but it's undeniable that college soccer is not built to highlight the strengths of a guy who's 5-foot-7, about 140 lbs and is more technique than athleticism. College soccer prizes basically the opposite of that.
At the same time, every game I watched Maryland play over the last four years it seemed like their best chance came from something Endoh did -- a great run, a clever touch in traffic, a smart pullback to open a lane. He showed that same thing in this one, capitalizing on one of the few mistakes made by presumptive No. 1 pick Josh Yaro to set up what was one of the day's two best chances for Team Ace. He also showed an ability to receive the ball in traffic and still create a bit of separation from the defender.
He has enough quickness and agility to be an asset for somebody, though it has to be the right team.
I came into this event not expecting him to be picked until very late, and now I'll be disappointed if he doesn't go by the middle of the second round.
Range: Second round. I hope
Chris Hellmann, F, Lynn -- A true No. 9 who made smart runs and scored an opportunistic goal. He may not be a smooth enough athlete for MLS, but some USL or NASL team will definitely find a roster spot for him.
Range: Third round, though that could bump up with another strong performance or two
- HIGHLIGHTS: Hellman scores two to lead Team X past Team Ace
Julian Buescher, MF, Syracuse (GA) -- The best player on the day, until he limped off with a hamstring injury. His passing was a level above anyone else on the field, and somebody who plays a 4-3-3 need to draft him and make him their starting No. 8.
Range: Anywhere from No. 4 through No. 8
Jack Harrison, MF, Wake Forest (GA) -- Harrison may or may not have failed his physical, depending upon what you're hearing. There are several different messages floating around in the wind right now. If he's actually hurt it's unlikely to be something catastrophic.
The real problem is that teams aren't really sure what his best position is, and wanted the chance to eyeball him in this setting and see. He's played both central midfield and on the wing, and has been a game-changer in both spots, but any opportunity to impress that's not taken is an opportunity lost.
We'll see over the next 24 hours what reports come out regarding his health. And we'll also see if he stayed out of the Combine because somebody in the top three gave him a promise.
Range: I still don't think he drops out of the top 3, but let's say it's anywhere from No. 2 through No. 5
Zach Carroll, CB, Michigan State -- This is probably a little unfair since he picked up a knock late in the first half and actually had to come out of the game for a bit, but Carroll really seemed to struggle defending 1-v-1 against speedy attackers. The fact that he gutted it out and came back into the game in the second half gives points in his favor -- toughness is both a skill and an asset.
But teams will want to see more from him defending in space. It's not something central defenders have to do all the time, but once or twice a game you'll be asked to make a play against the likes of a Darlington Nagbe or a Sebastian Lletget. Coaches want to know the guy they're putting out there has a chance of making it.
It's worth noting that it was Carroll's central defensive partner, Jonathan Campbell (UNC), who misjudged the goal-kick that led to the game's only score. But the coaches and scouts I talked to wrote that off as a blip, and Campbell is still expected to be the first senior central defender off the board.
Range: Mid-to-late first round
Ben Polk, F, Syracuse -- Polk struggled to do anything when asked to receive the ball with his back to goal, which is the calling card for most No. 9s in this league. He wasn't able to shield or turn against Carroll or Campbell, and wasn't a reliable outlet when the midfield got swamped. He was significantly more effective playing on the wing in the second half, but not game-breaking.
The comparison most make for Polk is Dwyer -- who, as I mentioned, bombed at the Combine. So this is not a death sentence.
But Dwyer makes up for his relative lack of size and iffy first touch with an engine that is always running in the red. He has a will to contest and an eagerness to take a beating for the team that Polk has to emulate in order to win greater interest from the crowd on hand.
Range: Mid-to-late first round