First, the bad news, college soccer fans: There’s just one game left in the NCAA season, Sunday’s final between ACC rivals Maryland and Notre Dame (Sunday, 3 pm ET, ESPNU).
Now, the good news: That means that MLS SuperDraft silly season is just one game away from officially being in full swing.
And while the vast majority of college soccer players aren’t taking the field at this weekend’s College Cup, what's happening in Philadelphia is still having a major impact on players' prospects for the upcoming SuperDraft.
So after Friday’s two semifinals, whose stock is on the rise? Here are three players who did themselves the biggest favors:
(1) Patrick Mullins, F, Maryland – In our first mockery of the Draft, we had the Terrapins’ stand-out senior striker going No. 1 to D.C. United, a projection that was immediately tempered by rumors that many in MLS were projecting Cal defender Steve Birnbaum to go even higher, or even his centerback partner Christian Dean if the junior were offered a GA deal.
After two goals on two classy finishes by Mullins on Friday against Virginia, it’s hard to imagine that United aren’t seriously considering taking him with the first pick, particularly after they acquired Bobby Boswell in the Re-Entry Draft. Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski, for his part, had no doubts when asked about his star striker on Saturday: “He’s the No. 1 pick in the draft. That should be clear.”
(2) Michael Calderon, MF, New Mexico – Had there been a fourth slot available for our Men of the Match in the Notre Dame-New Mexico game, it would have been Calderon. The Costa Rican midfielder looked so composed on the ball whether he had a mile of space or just inches. He forced a couple of passes that he probably shouldn’t have, but the Lobos were trailing from the seventh minute, so you can forgive him for trying to bring his team back.
Here’s the bottom line: Calderon has truly exceptional field vision, and is usually accurate enough to take full advantage of any openings the defense presents him. Not the kind of player to really run a defense down, but any team would love to have a player that can pick out a pass like New Mexico’s playmaker.
(3) Enrique Cardenas, MF, UC Irvine – We know exactly what you’re saying: “Huh?”
Let’s start with the obvious: The Anteaters didn’t play on Friday. In fact, the last time that they played was on December 1, a 1-0 loss to Maryland. Don’t read too much into that scoreline, though. Irvine very easily could have snatched an equalizer, and Cardenas came pretty close himself, only to be denied by a stupendous save from Union Homegrown goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Friday night's semifinal between Maryland and Virginia, with the Terrapins holding possession against one of the most talented attacking teams in the country, allows us to look back at that Cardenas performance back on Dec. 1 in a different light: Yes, “Keykeh” is pretty good at playing soccer.
Nate Sulat covers college soccer for MLSsoccer.com.