FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — If you see a player who works like Brian Mullan, has the bravery of Brian McBride, and can distribute the ball like Shalrie Joseph, where would you pick him in the SuperDraft?
That’s the question facing MLS coaches who are watching Bobby Warshaw at this week’s 2011 adidas MLS Combine. And the complete package of intangibles will likely make the difference in whether he is selected in the first round on Thursday afternoon in Baltimore (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
In Saturday’s opening doubleheader of the combine, Warshaw had arguably the most notable standout performance of any player, proving to be a magnet for the ball from his left center back position. He was involved in countless plays, sniffing out danger and reading the game like an old pro. He also threatened on several attacking set pieces.
In a conversation with MLSsoccer.com before the event, his passion for playing the game was evident. He believes it’s what has set him apart from other players.
“I’m not that good,” he said, “but I have a feel about the game that gives me an advantage. I like working hard and training. I have decent basic skills but it’s the energy, passion, competitiveness that go a long way. I’ve done better than other players who are more talented because of my desire.”
The scouting report on the Stanford University captain entering the Combine included skillful feet, good vision, and strong passer, but it was the laundry list of intangibles that set him apart on Saturday: organizer, leader, overpowering athlete, competitor, dedication, demanding, strong work ethic.
Warshaw’s coach at Stanford, Bret Simon, has worked with the likes of Mullan, who has a reputation as being one of the most tenacious players in MLS this past decade. But he says Warshaw is on another level.
“He’s probably the hardest worker, the most personally dedicated soccer athlete I’ve been around,” Simon said. “I have to go back out to the field often times and make sure he’s not overdoing it. The harder the work, the more he enjoys it.”
One episode that exemplified that Warshaw drive came when he was playing for the USA U-17s against Cruzeiro in Brazil the summer before the 2005 Under-17 World Cup. His eyes got big as he told the story.
“I had just come on and I lost a challenge on a header,” he said. “I was not going to lose the next one.”
He went up so hard on the following play against two other Cruzeiro players that he came away with a gash that needed 20 stitches and left him missing five teeth. The scar on his forehead is still visible.
Warshaw has plenty of familiarity with MLS, and vice versa. He claims to be a D.C. United fan, and he grew up in the same parts of central Pennsylvania as United manager Ben Olsen. He also played for Philadelphia Union assistant John Hackworth when he was with the U-17s.
But whoever picks him, some still wonder what Warshaw’s best position will be: Center back? Right back? Holding midfielder? Whatever position he winds up playing, he should not only be in the running to claim a starting spot in his rookie year, but in short time he could easily become a cult hero to the fans—the guy they love for all the intangibles.