I’ve seen numerous lists of top college players/pro prospects in the last few weeks and quite frankly they’ve made me laugh. The same robotic big athletic players are being hyped up and called the nation’s best. I am going to keep it short and sweet and post a small list of players we feel have what it takes to play at the next level. MLS? Perhaps they will have to settle for our mickey mouse league; but these guys have the quality to be playing overseas and would be appreciated since they have the most important trait that many lack here in the states….SOCCER IQ. Yep, they may not be the fastest, tallest, or strongest but they can move the ball before the specimens come to bump bodies.
In no particular order, here goes:
1. Carlos Alvarez – junior – UCONN – mf/fw
What a joy it is to watch Carlos play. We first saw Carlos playing against our youth club team at u16 when he was a virtual nobody and fell in love instantly. He is silky smooth on the ball and is as complete as they come. He can take players on, combine, and thread deadly through balls. His touch is exquisite and vision second to none. Four years ago we labeled him the best offensive player of that 90 age group and our coaching peers thought we were nuts. He has since exploded onto the scene at UCONN and is one of the nation’s premier players. We labeled him on our “players to watch” list 2 years ago when he wasn’t tabbed on anybody’s radar. If Carlos is on top of his game and healthy, the Huskies will make a lot of noise this season.
2. Jose “Choco” Gomez – junior – Creighton – cm
Choco’s quality is undeniable! He is your classic #10 who plays under the strikers and can kill you every which way. He leaves his strikers 1 v 1 with the keeper and is a deceptive dribbler who literally walks right past you leaving you in his wake like a cone a la Iniesta. The most intriguing thing in Jose’s game is his ability to shoot and pass with either foot. That is priceless!!! When I say pass I mean he can put a ball where he wants with either foot over 50 yards with no problem. The same applies with his shooting or taking of set pieces with either foot. Pay close attention to this detail when watching him on the field. His shake and bake dribbling when he dances over the ball as it is stationary is fun to watch. He may look small but plays huge!!! Choco’s strength on the ball is remarkable. Good luck pushing him off a ball or winning a 50/50 ball against him. Lastly, his defensive work rate is impressive for an offensive midfielder as he will hunt down his prey and chase like a Carlos Tevez. Look for the Jays to make a Final Four appearance if their playmaker continues to deliver.
3. Jose “Guero” Altamirano – junior – San Diego State – cm
We are not going to discover Guero’s quality today. The kid can play and has a unique awareness of what’s going on around him at all times. His first touch is something you can’t believe unless you see it in person. Another player who can kill you will all facets of his game. A triple threat if you may……Altamirano can pass, dribble, and shoot with the best of them. I’d love to see him surrounded with more players that speak his soccer language to truly get the best out of his qualities. Regardless, he is arguably the most talented player in the nation.
4. Kelyn Rowe – sophomore – UCLA – cm
I must confess, I have not personally seen Rowe play since I didn’t make it out to Westwood last fall. But, it took Gary less than 5 minutes to fall in the love with the kid’s game. And he rarely thinks anyone’s special. Here’s a little something he wrote:
Rowe looked to have a proper technical foundation. Simply put, he receives and moves the ball with class – it’s natural as opposed to forced. He does not think to have a good first touch, he just does it.
On the tactical front, he understands far more than the typical American player. His decisions on and off the ball were money. This guy looks coachable at the highest level! The type we look for when constructing a roster of intelligent players for intelligent futbol.
5. Jacob Barron – junior – Penn State -dm
Jacob who? Anybody know this player? Is he on anybody’s radar? Well, he soon will be known by everyone. Jacob is a unique breed of defensive mid rarely seen on these shores. He can tackle better than anyone we’ve ever seen in our days. The same sentiments are felt by his new coach at Penn State. His reading of the game, close down speed, and tackling should place him in the MLS and the national team picture without a problem in due time. Picture a Sergio Busquets a la Americana. He does not lose possession for his team. Jacob transferred to Penn State last spring to seek an experience to catapult him to the next level and by the early signs he will do just that in his new home.
6. Machael David – junior – UCSB -dm
Machael David is a true monster in the middle of the park for UCSB. I have been intrigued the last couple of seasons watching him literally nullify opposing team’s superstar players. There are times where that is his only job and it limits him but he makes it a game of 10 v 10. David is also a complete defensive mid in that he can tackle, read the game, touch, and has great awareness and mobility.
7. Luis Silva – senior – UCSB – cm
Luis Silva is another complete midfielder. His polyfunctional play has helped USCB’s coach Vom Steeg place him wherever the team needs him on any given day. Silva will be a perfect player in the MLS since he has the quality and ability of a latin player but the bite and strength sought after here in the US. Will be interesting to see him and David locking down the midfield battle in every USCB contest this season. These two give them a great shot at a deep run towards the College Cup.
8. Richard Menjivar – senior – Cal State Bakersfield – mf
Richie made a genius move in transferring out west to virtual unknown Cal State Bakersfield. They have put together quite a team with lots of latin flare to jump into the national spotlight as a new D1 school. Richie has the complete midfield game and can play anywhere across the middle of the park. He has strength, speed, stamina, vision, passing, shooting, and finishing ability. Look for him to have a huge season and get Bakersfield into post season play.
9. Joe Franco – junior – Cal State Northridge – rb
Joe Franco is another virtual unknown nationwide. Well, people should take notice! He is the best right back we have seen in quite some time. Silky smooth like a center mid but playing in the back row. Think Dani Alves! That is what this country needs!!! Players like Franco that feel comfortable in possession and will not just lump it forwards at any sign of pressure. Joe gives CSUN that added dimension of a right back that projects forward and has good crossing ability. His defensive work matches his technique. Rarely does CSUN get beat down his side. I say he should be a lock for the next level!
10. Tyler Polak – sophomore – Creighton – lb
Tyler Polak is identical to what I just mentioned in Franco but plays on the left. He has been identified and has all the pedigree Franco lacks since he’s been on the youth national teams and such. Polak’s game has grown in the last year! He doesn’t over do it on the dribbling. He plays simple and always makes the right decision of connecting through “choco” when he becomes available. Polak stock is that much more important for being left footed and having good technical quality in that left. He seems to have added tactical understanding which makes him even more of a commodity. His crossing and combination play is tremendous and gives Creighton something most programs lack in an attacking player pushing from the back.
11 Jossimar Sanchez – junior – UCONN – def/mf
Jossimar Sanchez will likely mostly see the field as a holding mid at UCONN for his collegiate season but he first caught my eye playing center back at a youth national team camp several years ago. He was so calm on the ball! Everyone else was going at the same thousand mile-per-hour speed that we routinely see here in the US. He would slow the pace of the game down and was completely aware of his surrounding and where each of the 22 players on the field were. The kid is pure class and has translated that into a consistent role for the Huskies over his first two seasons. It’s a great tamdem he forms with Alvarez. He gets him the ball with ease and lets Carlos operate. Look for the Huskies to make a deep run with Jossimar covering Alvarez back all season long.
More to Come
This is a preliminary list of players to watch on our radar. The list does not include players from top notch programs such as UNC, Maryland, Louisville, Cal, Indiana, ect. We will be sure to add to the list as we see these teams which surely have some quality players in action. The 11 players on the list have been seen on numerous occasions and will be monitored closely throughout the college season.
No Akron players? Yep, that’s right!!! We’ve seen Akron live twice this year and once on webcast and they simply do not have the material they’ve had in the past. They have good players, but nothing that merits being on this list. So those who claim they play good soccer because they have the best players are wrong this season. They play quality soccer because they have a coach who gives them this identity and recruits players that can execute it.
Remember, stats and pedigree aren’t the only metrics for measuring a player’s class on our scale. Technical quality, tactical knowledge, awareness, soccer iq, and mental speed (above physical speed) are what we are looking at here. Lastly, how valuable these players are to their respective teams. Could the teams produce without them in the line up?
Did we miss anyone? Any players that fall under these criteria that we should take a look at? Please share if there are any craques we missed on our preseason candidates.
p.s. Give me these guys and throw in Danny Mwanga (Philidelphia Union 91 age group, would be a senior at Oregon State), Amobi Okugo (Union, would be a junior at UCLA), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake, 92 age group), Jonathan Prieto, a couple of Gk’s which we have no problem producing here in the states, and a good center back (still lacking on this list)……let us train them for a couple months and you would see a magical team representing the US in international competition at the Olympics (u23 competition where these players all easily fall under) and beyond. Yes, a team that would keep possession a la Barca.
Soccer Dummy says
#9 Gyasi Zardes
Red Shirt Sophmore @ CS Bakersfield, , LA Galaxy u20s,
South Bay Force, Leuzinger High School
name a MLS Player with a similar background
Brian Kleiban says
Thank you for the post. I have heard some good things and some bad about Zardes. I will catch him live this month when they play at Cal State Fullerton. I know he dropped two hat tricks in his first two games and he’s on the “watch list” for Hermann Trophy.
Soccer Dummy says
2 more vs CSUN. 8 goals
Soccer Dummy says
kei kamara of SKC came from same club, high school then csudh
David S says
Have you ever seen a player named Verneri Valimaa?
Brian Kleiban says
Thanks for the comment. I have never seen him play. Just looked him up and saw youtube video. I like that he has a pass first mentality and appears to have some quality. Will try to catch a George Mason game in its entirety to give a better assessment.
As an alum, I was really pumped to see a PSU kid on this list, is their new coach someone you guys respect? Is he working to install a more possession based system there? I would love some insight!
Overall another great post…keep on w/the unique content
Gary Kleiban says
Bob Warming built the Creighton program from nothing to national recognition. In this regard he is one of the few outliers I know of with respect to his American colleagues. It takes tremendous passion, dedication, and some idea about player quality to accomplish this. Charisma helps too.
As far as actual coaching, I can only claim watching his team play on 3 occasions (this season). From that, it definitely looks like he is a possession advocate. And unlike most coaches who only talk the talk, from what I’ve seen thus far his team walks the walk – to a certain point. Again evidence he may be an outlier!
But … I want to see more!
On a personal front, Brian has had conversations with him on numerous occasions. But I’ll let him speak about that; if he so chooses.
Thanks for the reply!
I will try to catch them on the BTN this fall.
Gary Kleiban says
Speaking of right-footed Jose Gomez capability with his left … take a look at his game winning goal last Friday:
I’ll make the same point I made about UCLA’s Rowe. You want to change MLS into all mini Barcas. You think these players have that quality. Yet you foolishly whine they have to settle for MLS, even though most would be lucky even to make a MLS roster. Shouldn’t you be pushing these players for MLS since it fits your agenda to change it? Not that you have any power or voice in American soccer. Not many read this blog.
Wouldn’t changing MLS be better for American soccer than these guys in Scandinavia or the boring as dry as toast Scottish Premier League? Or the bench on a Championship club? As college players, it’s not like any team from a better league is going to look at them. College players generally suck. The academies are the future.
And the “mickey mouse” name calling won’t endear you to many fans since it is used by foreign American soccer haters to put us down.
You should do a new post reviewing your scouting reports on players teams coaches !! Would be v interesting