Player Prospect - 2018 Combine

FEATURE: What coaches, scouts and GMs are saying about top prospects at MLS combine

ORLANDO, Fla. – Who will go No. 1 in the MLS SuperDraft on Friday? 

There’s no real consensus yet among coaches, scouts and GMs at the MLS adidas Player Combine about exactly who the top pick will be, with several names getting bandied about as potential No. 1 selections. asked multiple execs, coaches and scouts about some of the most likely names to go No. 1, getting their takes on the strengths and weaknesses on Generation adidas players Francis Atuahene, Joao Moutinho and Mason Toye, and senior signees Jon Bakero and Tomas Hilliard-Arce.

Here’s what they had to say: 

Francis Atuahene

FW, Michigan

• “For one, he’s got the elite speed and he also seems to be a smart player, makes good runs to put himself in position and is dangerous. … A lot of people are talking about him playing out wide, I’d like to see him play in the middle, too, a little bit. But I think there’s a lot of guys like that in the league when the game gets stretched out, they can come on and do some damage. You need players like that on your team and that’s your job as a manager to figure out what’s best and when to put him in the game that best suits him, but he can certainly have an impact.” 

• “Best attribute is his 1-v-1. He’s not scared to take on people, very confident, lots of speed and has a decent shot in him. Looks to shoot all the time. He’s a pretty good player, I like him. … You can put him out wide, throw him into a game late and make him do something to take people on. I think he could contribute like that right away, him and [Mason] Toye are probably guys that are difference makers right now that could come in and right off the bat make some plays.”

• “He’s fast, but, like almost all college forwards, he struggles with finishing and consistency. He’s got a lot of potential, but really needs to improve his end product.”

Jon Bakero

FW, Wake Forest 

• “I think his best asset is the way he reads the game. He’s a pretty smart soccer player, finds the right spots when he plays up top. He could be a second forward up there, but I think he’s gifted enough to last in the league. … He’s not the most athletic, but if he’s going to be finishing his chances that he gets, there’s always going to be a market for him.”

• “I think he does really well, makes really good runs off the ball. You can see his soccer intelligence. People that have been watching him know that he’s quality when he gets in the box as well … He’s international, which can affect where he goes depending on the individual teams, but I think if you really like a player you’re gonna figure it out. … 100 percent has the athleticism to be effective. I think he’s smart enough and savvy enough for anything he doesn’t have, that he’ll make it up in other ways.”

• “Good touches, cerebral player, able to find good spaces. But I think his lack of athleticism will be a challenge on the next level. I see him as a No. 9, I know he wants to play as second forward potentially, but he won’t beat out the players there that teams are giving millions of dollars. I see him as sort of a Patrick Mullins type, a more technical Patrick Mullins.” 

Tomas Hilliard-Arce

DF, Stanford

• “He is a killer. He’s an absolute man-marking machine, really impressive on and off the field. Captain on a three-time national championship team, his leadership is unquestioned. Bit of a robot like that. He doesn’t drink for the whole season and demands that no one on his team does, that’s not just alcohol, that’s coffee. Gave the interview of a Fortune 500 Wall Street banker.”

USA Today Sports Images

• “Obviously has all the attributes to be a good center back in this league for a long time, he’s showed that consistently and I think people have seen him enough to know that he’s going to be in the league next year and probably for years to come. … He’s just a very intelligent player, and I think also his ability to distribute out of the back and find those plays into the midfield, those passes into the midfield to break lines, that’s good and that’s what everybody wants to do now, so I think he’ll be solid.” 

• “He’s steady, and maybe it’s good that he doesn’t really stick out, but I’ve seen him a lot and I’ve never come away all that impressed, to be honest. Maybe that’s the expectations. For me, he’s solid, not spectacular, not a super high ceiling, just solid.”

Joao Moutinho

DF, Akron

• “He’s a good player, I don’t think you’ve seen the best of him yet. He’s just a freshman and he still has some growing to do I think, but from all the qualities I’ve seen so far, he’s aggressive, he likes to compete and I think that’s important for a young player. … I don’t know where he plays, he’s got a lot of good qualities as a center back so it’s hard to say that he’s going to be a left back like a lot of people are talking, maybe people are going to bring him into camp and make a decision then based on their needs.”

• “Really good soccer player, he’s the best player on the ball in the class. It’s just not clear where he plays. … I’d play him at defensive midfield because he lacks the pace and athleticism to play out wide and lacks the size to play center back, so I’d play him there. But that’s the issue, you’re trying him there because of a lack of other good options.”

• “Think he’ll transition to a left back. He’s got a great left foot, organizes well, but needs to eat a couple more tacos. But he’ll be fine, I think his best position will probably be left back. He played center back in college, but he got forward pretty well in the games here at the Combine. As we saw when he was at Akron, there’s not a lot of players in MLS even right now with a left foot like that, so that’s a huge plus for him."

Mason Toye

FW, Indiana

USA Today Sports Images

• “One of the youngest kids here, lots of talent, but more of a project. … I think that his ceiling is CJ Sapong, floor is probably Khiry Shelton.” 

• “He’s a big talent. He’s definitely at the start of really figuring out how good he can be. He’s going to grow and become, I feel, a very good player in this league. You can just see that he’s only scratching the surface of his ability … I think Mason might be one of those players that has a really high ceiling.”

• “Not bad, not a bad prospect. Even though he’s a freshman, he’s done some really good stuff, shown some really good flashes. If you can unlock his potential he’s another one that could have a nice career. … I think it’s up there in terms of him having the highest ceiling. I think it’s between him and Atuahene. They both have the ‘it’ factor, I guess, the thing that makes them a little different than everyone else.”


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