Finding the next Special One is a new segment on Ts1 that will identify and feature talented young players looking to make the jump from the amateur ranks to the next level as professional players, both domestically and/or abroad.
Since the 2016 MLS Superdraft has come and gone for this class of college seniors (and underclassmen who signed Generation Adidas deals), it’s time to focus on the 2017 class who will be looking to hear their name called in next year’s draft held in Los Angeles.
Jacori Hayes, Wake Forest, Midfielder: This Bowie, MD native has quick feet and a sharp change of direction on the dribble, plus a soft first touch. Hayes needs to continue to develop his upper body strength, but he has some of the technical tools to make the next step. Perhaps biggest question mark around him is his best position. While many think of him as a winger at the next level, he’s currently more comfortable as a central midfielder and may need some adjustment in order to settle in.
Ian Harkes, Wake Forest, Midfielder: The apple seems not to have fallen far from the tree with the Demon Deacon midfielder, as his father is former USMNT captain, John Harkes. A clever technical player with decent vision, Harkes isn’t the strongest tackler, but he puts himself in decent positions to make timely interceptions. For the Deacs, he plays as a box-to-box center midfielder, in the pros, he would easily slip into a deeper lying defensive midfield role where he can cover the pitch and act as the pivot to switch fields or start the attack. Ian played for DC United’s Academy, but since he hasn’t trained with the club since he left for college, the homegrown claim is a weak one and he may be available.
Chris Odoi-Atsem, Maryland, Defender: The explosive right-footed fullback has pace to burn. Not the greatest with the ball on his feet, he is able to get into dangerous positions but has problems gaining separation from the defender to get a cross off. His crossing has improved however, and he’s gotten better with his 1v1 defending. Each year, Chris developed his game; from starting his Maryland career at center-back, to moving to a right-back role, and now being one of the fastest fullbacks heading into next year’s draft.
Adam Najem, Akron, Midfielder: The NYRB product is very composed midfielder: an exceptional passer with decent control on the dribble. Mostly an attacking midfielder, he featured a number of times as a holding midfield for Akron last season to show his versatility. He doesn’t possess the greatest bite on the tackle but is an intelligent player who is able to nip the ball away from the opposition and regain possession. He is currently locked in with Red Bull if they want to offer him a homegrown deal. If not, he would be an intriguing prospect.
Alex Crognale, Maryland, Defender: Columbus Crew would be foolish not to put a homegrown claim on the 6’6″ center back. Alex is very agile for his size, having improved on his quickness over the course of his three years in College Park. As is expected with his large frame, Crognale is strong in the air and does well reading the game to step in front of attackers and make important challenges.
Walker Hume, UNC, Defender: Not to be confused with his brother, Tucker, Walker had to take a redshirt season after breaking his foot early in preseason. Despite his 6’5″ frame, he has a slender build, but is still strong in the air. Walker scored four goals during his junior year, and has good vision to play out the back-line. Does not possess great pace, but shows good positional sense. If he’s healthy and not lost any more pace, he should be one of the first center-backs taken in the SuperDraft.
Guillermo Delgado, Delaware, Forward: The Spanish forward has already accumulated 37 goals over his three years with the Blue Hens. 5’8″ in height, he is a very strong player with decent pace to burst past defenders. Good technique on his shot and a composed finisher. A solid forward prospect, but coaches might shy away from making him their #9 because of his height. With a year or two seasoning, Delgado might just be perfect for that spot.
Part 2: Seniors who are not on many scouts or coaches’ radars.