LAUDERHILL, Fla. – The performance testing results are in at the 2016 adidas MLS Player Combine, with Hadji Barry (speed/30-meter dash), Paul Clowes (agility/5-10-5 shuttle run) and Josh Turnley (power/vertical jump) finishing first in the three categories tested on Friday at Central Broward Regional Park.
The wins are certainly a nice feather in the cap for all three players, but just how much importance do MLS teams place on the results?
Clubs, naturally, don’t value the performance tests as much as a player’s body of work from college or overall talent, but they do play a role in how teams rank prospects ahead of the SuperDraft.
“We value it, it’s not like it outweighs other characteristics, but for us it’s good to know,” New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch told MLSsoccer.com. “Seeing how fast a guy is, then kind of factoring that in to how explosive a guy is, and then how big his tank is from watching him play a little bit, that’s good information.”
Marsch, who successfully implemented a high-pressing style to lead the Red Bulls to the Supporters’ Shield last year, plays particularly close attention to endurance and power, a quality best measured by the vertical jump and 30-meter dash.
“We try to get a good sense of his explosiveness and then his endurance, with the way we play those are important qualities,” he said.
“They say the jump is a better representation of pure explosiveness and I get that, but the foot speed part is big for me, too.”
Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes, who, like Marsch, employs a high-tempo, physically demanding style, also places a lot of importance on the performance tests. His first look is at the vertical jump results.
“I think when you see a player does not have a very good vertical, it tells you a lot about whether he’s got that power inside of him,” Vermes said. “It’s one thing if a guy’s got a good vertical and he doesn’t really have a lot on him, you can build with that. A guy that doesn’t, it’s really hard to then change that. And if there’s one thing our league is, it’s very athletic, it’s very explosive, it’s a very powerful league and it’s physical, and you have to have those qualities. I think that’s a thing that we always pay attention to.”
Of course, some of the results aren’t exactly a surprise. Clubs do their homework, and most have a general idea of which players will test well before they arrive in South Florida. But for players who come from smaller, under-scouted programs, the tests can be valuable, with a good showing indicating that they’re able to handle the physical rigors of the league.
“We’re already all sitting over here and we know [Generation adidas signee Joshua Yaro’s] going to be the top guy [in the 30-meter dash], so your eyes tell you a lot of it,” said Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin. “But there are things that have caught your eye.
“I can remember Richie Marquez, a guy that we have at center back, we had a good idea of his speed and his jumping ability, but the actual data here helped and confirmed it. We took him as a late pick and he’s a guy that’s adjusted well to MLS, so that’d be an example of a guy that we didn’t have a lot of data on – he was a Division III player at [University of Redlands] – that we saw at the Combine. And Richie can run and Richie can jump and that was proven in the testing that they did here, so it is helpful.”