With the 2016 MLS Combine coming to a close and the 2016 MLS SuperDraft just days away, we caught up with CenterLine Soccer writer Robert Jonas and "The Aftershock" podcast host Colin Etnire to get their thoughts on potential targets for the Quakes ahead of Thursday's SuperDraft.
Robert Jonas - Center Line Soccer
You know that quiet, out-of-the-way restaurant in your neighborhood that serves the most amazing dishes? The one that always has a table available when you stop by? Well, eventually it gets noticed, is profiled in culinary magazines, and becomes everyone's favorite "hidden gem" -- so long, secret eating spot!
That is exactly what the San Jose Earthquakes are going through when it comes to potential MLS SuperDraft selection Brandon Vincent. The senior defender has been under the careful watch of the Quakes since arriving on the Farm, but the Cardinal's run to the NCAA Championship and Vincent's recent surprise call-up to the U.S. Men's National Team have made him the hottest prospect in the draft. He's a left back that has many projecting as a starter in his rookie year. Even picking at #8, the Earthquakes will not have a chance at a player that most having going in the top-three.
So where does that leave San Jose? Having satisfied most of the team's needs on offense with other off-season signings, the Quakes will target the best available defenders in the prospect pool. Two strong contenders to be draped in Blue-and-Black scarves on draft day are right back Keegan Rosenberry of Georgetown and right back/left back Jordan McCrary of North Carolina. Both players have played well in the MLS Combine thus far, and either would be a sound pick at #8.
Rosenberry spent some time with the Philadelphia Union Academy, so he has already been introduced to some of what MLS has to offer. The senior is very comfortable overlapping on the flanks and is proficient at passing the ball from that position. He is also sound defensively and has shown he can join the attack without being exposed on the counterattack. Rosenberry is very similar in his skillset to former Earthquake Steven Beitashour, and he would fit in perfectly as a backup to current right back Marvel Wynne.
McCrary is a fifth-year senior having sat out all of 2014 recovering from a torn ACL. However, he shed the label that he was damaged goods with a solid senior season at Chapel Hill. At the Combine, 5'9" fullback recorded the fourth-best vertical jump in fitness testing, highlighting his athleticism. Questions remain about his fitness going into MLS, but the same was said about Fatai Alashe last year, and he went on to finish runner-up in MLS Rookie of the Year voting. That McCrary can play either left or right back makes him the type of versatile selection the Quakes crave.
For more coverage of the Quakes and Bay Area soccer, be sure to check out Center Line Soccer.
Colin Etnire - "The Aftershock"
With a dozen attackers on roster (and a weak class of forwards available in the SuperDraft) the San Jose Earthquakes should look to bolster their depth at the back.
The dream fit is Brandon Vincent, and it’s not even close. The 21-year-old left-back captained Stanford to a national championship this year, exhibiting excellent composure and technique on the ball to go with rare soccer IQ and rugged defensive chops. While he isn’t an elite athlete, Kinnear & Co. have likely seen enough from his four years in Palo Alto to believe he has a 10-year MLS career ahead of him. The catch? Others have noticed too, including Jürgen Klinsmann, who invited Vincent to the USMNT January camp. It’ll require a king’s ransom to move up the draft board and get him, but in my opinion he’s worth it.
If the Quakes stay at #8, there are plenty of other defensive options. One of either Kyle Fisher (Clemson) or Jonathan Campbell (UNC) should be available to help the team get younger at center-back. With only two healthy full-backs on roster at the moment, I could also see the Quakes going for Keegan Rosenberry (Georgetown) or Jordan McCrary (UNC), although both are right-footers.
In later rounds, keep an eye on two more Stanford boys, Ty Thompson (Tommy’s brother) and Eric Verso. Thompson is a tidy, hardworking defensive midfielder and Verso is a smart, well-rounded winger with good feet.
Alex Morgan - football.co.uk
With the MLS Combine well underway, the nation’s top prospects are under the microscope ahead of the 2016 SuperDraft in Baltimore this Thursday.
The San Jose Earthquakes have the number eight draft pick and manager Dominic Kinnear said they would "love to move up” in a conference call with reporters last Wednesday. The Quakes have a lot to live up to after their fourth pick of the 2015 draft, Fatai Alashe, went on to establish himself as the team’s starting midfielder last season.
Several Bay Area products are up for grabs, including Stanford left-back Brandon Vincent, who was recently called up to the US Men’s National Team training camp. Joining him is fellow Cardinal standout (and LA Galaxy academy alumnus) Eric Verso, a winger who was an integral part of Stanford’s NCAA title-winning squad this season, who may well be a dark horse for a first round pick. Having redshirted his freshman season, he’s also a year older than most others in the draft.
The Quakes could well look to the draft to find a potential successor to their aging center-backs, Clemson’s Kyle Fisher and North Carolina’s Jonathan Campbell could prove solid bets, as could Georgetown’s Joshua Yaro if he isn’t chosen as a top pick.
However, they could just as easily go the same route as last year, picking an under-the-radar option that fits Kinnear’s preferred profile. University of Washington midfield-enforcer James Moberg could fit that bill, although a knee injury put a premature end to his 2015 season. Zach Carroll, a hulking center-back from Michigan State with US Youth National Team experience, may be another ideal fit as a developmental project behind Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez.