2018 MLS SuperDraft: Ranking the top 23 pre-combine prospects

The annual adidas MLS Player Combine, which begins on Thursday, has moved to Orlando City Stadium.

2018 SuperDraft: Rounds 1 and 2

A college scout who works with MLS clubs and agents provided Soccer America with his evaluation of the top prospects for the 2018 SuperDraft and their strengths and weaknesses.

The 2018 class includes six underclassmen signed to Generation adidas contracts as well as three seniors signed to MLS contracts ahead of the combine.

Here's his ranking 1-23.

1. W Francis Atuahene (Michigan, Ghana via Hotchkiss School) JR-GA.
Most exciting player in the class with incredible pace and power, but also the ability to make huge impact plays. He is best deployed on the wing in isolated areas and can strike with both feet with fine power and accuracy. His only question, and it is a concern, is his fitness and ability to stay away from injury. If he can do that, he can become a big-time attacker in MLS.

2. CB Tomas Hilliard-Arce (Stanford, Mathews, N.C.) SR. (MLS contract)
One of the most MLS ready center backs to come out of college in a few years. The two-time All-American has completely dominated the college scene and is a selfless warrior. His leadership and toughness will help him step in to any team straight away to help fortify a backline. He is very eager to learn and will get better and better. Decision-making and execution on the ball may not be at the same level as his defensive qualities, but he will not be expected to make the game from the back as a rookie.

3. DF/MF Joao Moutinho (Akron, Portugal) FR-GA
The most technically and tactically gifted player in the class. His left foot is so smooth and was a master at starting the attack in Akron's "beautiful game" scheme as a center back. When called upon to challenge for aerial duels and make plays defensively, he was always up to task. Can play anywhere on the field -- literally -- and be very effective. Will fit in well for teams that thrive in possession and switching the point of attack as his ability make creative plays against the grain with pin point pass or savvy dribble is extraordinary.

4. W Ema Twumasi (Wake Forest, Ghana via Kent School) SO-GA.
Similar to Atuahene, the Ghanaian winger is a menace on the flank. Smoother on the ball than Atuahene, Twumasi glides by opponents off the dribble and makes great plays at pace. Better at setting up his teammates, Twumasi can also be lethal around the goal but can improve his overall finishing ability.

5. MF Rafael Andrade Santos (VCU, Brazil via Montverde Academy)
Regarded as the top No. 10 in college soccer this past season (with SMU's Mauro Cichero tearing his ACL), Santos has special ability. His left foot can create chances for others, but can also finish them off for himself. Not many question marks for this player outside of a few intangibles here and there. If selected to the right environment, Santos could really thrive as a high-performing midfielder.

6 FW Mason Toye (Indiana, South Orange, N.J.) FR-GA.
The No. 9 for the national runner up had a tremendous freshman season with the Hoosiers and was a major game-changer for their attack. Not just big and strong, the target forward is quick and elusive and does very well to get past defenders to the end line. Needs to be more rugged and tough with back to goal in a physical league, but has exceptional technique and athletic talents. If he can continue to develop the ability to create his own shots and goals, he can be an immediate go-to striker in MLS. If he can become a threat in the air, he may have all the tools to be a top striker.

7 FW/W Chris Mueller (Wisconsin, Schaumburg, Ill.) SR. (MLS contract)
Very strong attacking player that improved more than anyone in college over the past two seasons. Playing up top in a direct 4-4-2 allowed him all of the freedom to run freely and look to make plays, and he made a ton of plays! Incredible ability to ball strike and whip in service allows him to play anywhere up top or in a wide midfield role. He was a dribble-first player in college so he must learn to connect with teammates at the next level and improve his movements off the ball to get into dangerous areas.

8 CF Jon Bakero (Wake Forest, Spain) SR. (MLS contract)
The center forward for the most talented team in the nation was better in person than in highlights and video. Tremendous ability on the ball makes him a highly coveted player for any team in the league. Can probably play in behind the center forward or as the target. Not as athletic as some of the other strikers on the board, but has game excellent vision and can finish -- which is what MLS scouts need to focus on.

9. MF Ken Krolicki (Michigan State, Plymouth, Mich.) SR.
Krolicki is flying a little under the radar as he played his senior season sharing minutes out wide as well as in the middle of midfield. One of the most fit and energetic players in the draft, he simply impacts the game at all times. Krolicki, who spent his youth in Japan, has incredible vision and seems to slow the game down so well for his teammates. As most players coming out of Michigan State, has a tremendous understanding of team tactics and is a great defender with incredible work ethic. Very good forward passer and link player, but final product is lacking. Very selfless and a versatile player. He can impact an MLS team straight away in a variety of positions in midfield or outside defense.

10. RB Tim Kubel (Louisville, Germany) SR.
Best outside back in the class, and can do it all. Very good service of the ball as well as ability to finish from outside the box. Kugel has been a mainstay since joining the Cardinals and can continue to improve his game at the next level. An overall steady player will bring consistency and competency to any club as he is a solid defender with good position and can make critical plays.

11. FW Jon Gallagher (Notre Dame, Ireland) SR.
Very similar player to Mueller, Gallagher is a dribble-first striker that loves to create his own chances. Excellent off the dribble with quick touches and can be very elusive. Has good ball striking ability and can serve a killer ball. Must diversify his game if he wants to explode onto the scene in MLS by linking with teammates and moving the ball quicker. The Bobby Clark product has a very good understanding of defensive pressure and angles.

12. CF Marcelo Acuna (Virginia Tech, Costa Rica) SR. 
The left-footed Central American had a wonderful final 2 seasons at Va Tech. Incredible hold up play and even better finisher. Has a lack of pace but that should not be overlooked. His ability to hold off defenders and bring his teammates into play is second to none in this class. Should be valued very highly as a striker that can take chances with high efficiency as well as link with his teammates.

13. MF Mo Adams (Syracuse, England) SO-GA.
Very talented midfielder for the Orange that did not get a ton of help this past fall. Very steady on the ball and decision making playing quickly is solid, but has a great ability to cover ground with tremendous work rate. Has good versatility about him so can play in a few different positions, even as an outside back. Not as sexy a name as some of the other players, but is consistent and tidy.

14. FW Danny Musovski (UNLV, Henderson, Nevada) SR.
A lot of scouts and media have Musovski as a potential sleeper and breakout player in this class. Danny is a very good goal scorer and could breakout with better players around him at the next level.

15. FW Gordon Wild (Maryland via USC Upstate, Germany) JR - GA.
The German had a very disappointing season this past fall at Maryland in front of goal -- especially compared to the previous year where he was scoring goals for fun. The left-footed talisman can find great fortune in MLS if he can get his confidence back and bang in some goals. Has ability to find dangerous areas and be a poacher around goal, but can also create his own chances with savvy footwork and creative movements. Does not seem to have a selfless work ethic so he will need to be focused to assure himself minutes straight away.

16. MF Oliver Shannon (Clemson, England) SR.
The holding midfield player out of Clemson is a major reason for the Tigers' success over the past few years. Shannon is an imposing player that does a lot of the dirty work for his teammates. Somewhat of a typical hard-nosed British-style enforcer, Shannon needs to improve his ability to switch the ball from side to side and get his teammates out of pressure. If he can improve the tempo of his game in that aspect, he has a lot of abilities that could get him on the field.

17. RB Tristan Blackmon (Pacific, Las Vegas, Nev.) SR.
True wingback that can get up and down the sideline. Has a lot of hype coming out of Pacific where his team was excellent at keeping possession and attacking teams with overloads. Questions do arise in overall quality but if he can fit into a system defensively, he has the ability to make plays joining into the attack.

18. CM Chris Lema (Georgetown, Ridgefield, N.J.) SR.
Comfortable midfielder that connects all of the dots. Does very well to create time and space for himself, but also for his teammates.

19. FW/MF Alan Winn (North Carolina, Garland, Texas) SR.
The former youth national team member had a wonderful career at UNC and in the ACC. The forward combines good athletic attributes with a direct attacking technique. Has a ton of experience in high-level matches in his career and should be able to make the move to MLS smoothly.

20  MF Jake Rozhansky (Maryland via Virginia, Germantown, Md.) SR. [Editor's Note: Rozhansky signed with Israel's Maccabi Netanya! on Thursday]
One of the best midfielders in the country in 2016, the Maryland playmaker seemed to fall off a bit this past fall. With that being said, there is no denying Rozhansky's ability to create in midfield. Very quick and elusive, but also a tremendous passer. Could probably be forced to play in wide areas or deeper in midfield as MLS does not tend to play college players straight away in attacking midfield positions. If he has his head on straight, and is willing to become a little more selfless, he could be a very good pickup.

21. MF Drew Skundrich (Stanford, Lancaster, Pa.) SR.
Seemed to be the midfield engine for the Cardinals over their impressive run in the last couple of years. Selfless and a workhorse, Skundrich will need to improve some execution in his passing game in tight quarters. However, if paired with the right playmaker, he can be a great addition to a lot of midfields in MLS.

22 FW/MF Brian White (Duke, Flemington, N.J.) SR.
The Blue Devils striker knows how the make great attacking plays. However, Wright needs to learn how to diversify his game and not rely on his speed at all times. Very good on the dribble and excellent around the opponent's goal, Wright is a big-time attacker. If he can learn to create space for himself and clean his touches up in tight areas, he can really help out any team's attack.

23 FW Mohammed Thiaw (Louisville via  Cincinnati State Tech, Lexington, Ky.) SR.
Thiaw is a very electric, yet raw striker. The Cardinal thrived in the ACC and has the ability to create something out of nothing. He is not the most physical presence but knows how to bait opponents into mistakes and creating chances for himself. Has tendencies to come in and out of games, so needs to be more consistent throughout the 90 minutes -- starting with his willingness to close down defenders.

3 comments about "2018 MLS SuperDraft: Ranking the top 23 pre-combine prospects".
  1. beautiful game, January 11, 2018 at 7:42 a.m.

    This MLS scout appears to be in an MLS coma when assessing players. Handling pressure situations and execution are most important, everything else is a bonus.

  2. R2 Dad, January 11, 2018 at 1:28 p.m.

    Thank you for this, Paul. I assume the verbiage is the scout's. There are a few comments that make me wonder if MLS is just happy sitting where it is, quality-wise, or if real league and player development is possible:

    "ability to stay away from injury"--maybe this is more a reflection of poor officiating and opponent tackling than fragile body?

    "but he will not be expected to make the game from the back as a rookie"--If he is good enough, he is old enough. Does that mean he has to ride the pine for a few seasons before he's ready? Maybe if MLS played their rookies more, he would develop faster.

    "Will fit in well for teams that thrive in possession"--In MLS, there are maybe 3 teams that meet that criteria.

    "If selected to the right environment"--I have no idea what that means, is it special MLS-speak?

    "Playing up top in a direct 4-4-2"--"has prevented him from developing his skills in the attacking 3rd" should be added to the descriptoin, since the 4-4-2 is retrograde and you're pretty much stuck to playing counterattacking football which never develops players.

    "Not as athletic as some of the other strikers on the board"--in general, the over-emphasis on athleticism is misplaced (thoug this scout points out vision and finishing should be more important). It's as if that little guy from Italy who has been dominating the league the past couple of seasons doesn't exist as a means of demonstrating how limited Athleticism is.

    "Somewhat of a typical hard-nosed British-style enforcer" --if MLS is going to grow as a skillful league, why would any team look for this type of red card-generating player?

    "direct attacking technique"--player will most likely not get the chances (or finish them) as he would in college. Only the worst teams would want a player like this.

    "will need to improve some execution in his passing game in tight quarters"--it is waaaaay too late to address this type of developmental issue. Our system has failed this player.

    " needs to learn how to diversify his game and not rely on his speed at all times"--it is waaaay too late to address this type of developmental issue. Our system has failed this player.

  3. Ben Myers, January 13, 2018 at 12:57 a.m.

    Eleven of the 23 were recruited into US colleges (or private schools) from other countries.  This does not speak well of US Youth Soccer, does it?

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