Michael Boxall (left) was one of 25 Whitecaps FC players in action on Tuesday.
Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps

Five underrated rookies to watch in 2011

Locating MLS-ready talent in the later stages of the draft process is a difficult task. In fact, many players who were taken in the second half of the SuperDraft and in the Supplement Draft haven’t even made the final roster.

But there are plenty of young collegiate players taken in the second and third round of the SuperDraft who have avoided the final cuts, and are going to be fighting for playing time when the season starts.

Here are five under the radar draft picks to watch for in 2011:

Servando Carrasco (MF), Seattle Sounders FC

Osvaldo Alonso, who has proven to be susceptible to injuries during his two-year Seattle career, is a crucial cog to Seattle’s success. But in the recent draft Seattle nabbed a player who can transition and provide cover for Alonso in the holding midfielder role he plays – or simply give the Cuban a break and prevent him from becoming overworked.

Carrasco is a similar player, able to handle the defensive midfield duties, and speed up the transition from defense to attack.

Davis Paul (MF/F), Chicago Fire

[inline_node:326026]The undersized forward out of Cal falls into the ‘tweener category – not big enough to be used in a target role up top, and doesn’t quite have the wheels to play on the flank in a 4-4-2.

However, he’s worked hard to earn a contract during Chicago’s preseason, and seems like a good fit for the 3-5-2 system, offering creativity and scoring ability from wherever he’s lined up.

Michael Boxall (D), Vancouver Whitecaps

The Kiwi out of UC-Santa Barbara offers a robust, physical presence. He just officially inked a contract with the expansion club and will likely start the season as a backup for Greg Janicki and Jay DeMerit.

Should either go down with injury, Boxall provides depth and has already caught the attention of the New Zealand national team coaches, earning a call up for a camp and possible selection in two upcoming friendlies.

Demetrius Omphroy (D), Toronto FC

Toronto is one of several clubs with heavy turnover. And one of only a few rookies battling for a starting spot up north is Omphroy. With Aron Winter’s vision of attacking soccer looking to take hold in Toronto, the rookie from Cal gives his head coach someone who is able to get forward from his right back spot, and enough pace to recover when caught up the field.

Serving in a final ball is the next thing he’ll need to refine in order to make an impact for the Reds this season.

Ryan Kinne (MF), New England Revolution

Although Kinne hails from the lesser-known Monmouth soccer program, he impressed enough in training camp to win a contract. That should come as no surprise after an excellent collegiate career.

Playing mostly on the flank with the Revolution through preseason, Kinne has the skill to provide service from the wings and vision to create at the MLS level. He must however, show that he can consistently mark opposing wingers to earn playing time on a regular basis.