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San Jose Earthquakes 2014 MLS Draft


I hate to ask, but is this best that the MLS Draft has to offer?

I’m struck by the comments posted in the player bio’s on the MLS Draft site, or at least the comments associated with the Earthquakes initial picks.  The comments seem to reflect the lack of player quality available.

JJ Koval

JJ Koval

1st Round Pick: JJ Koval – This kid is an inside mid-fielder coming out of Stanford.  The MLS bio “Scouts” state that Koval is a “Holding midfielder who sees the game well and plays very simply … Good ball-winner and good in the air He’s been a steady, solid starter … Doesn’t try to do anything extraordinary … Good communicator.”   Sounds pretty good to me.  Not an outstanding review, but solid.  He was Stanford’s team captain and selected All Pac 12 for 2013, scoring two goals and one assist.

Koval had a strong youth career, but during the four years of college a lot of things can change.  A players strength and speed that put him at the top of the youth game may not keep pace with the other young players who step up into the college scene.  Individuals peak at different times.  For a player being drafted into the MLS the expectation is that they will continue to improve.

Koval is rated 12th in the nation and 3rd in the Pac12 by TopDrawerSoccer.  At the national level they rank him behind other senior midfielders #8 Pedro Ribeiro (Coastal Carolina – Big South) and #10 Aodhan Quinn (Akron – MAC), neither of whom have been selected through the first two rounds.   All three were invited to the MLS Combine.

2nd Round Pick: Joseph Sofia – Another prospect out of California, this time from UCLA.

Joe Sofia

Joe Sofia

The MLS bio is a little flattering, describing Sofia as “A big, strong central defender, Joe Sofia, in the estimation of one coach, “made UCLA a better team” when he was on the field. Wickedly smart and “a really good young man,” Sofia understands the game well and knows how to organize people, and has a long throw-in that can cause opposing defenses fits. That said, he’ll need to answer lots of questions to prove he has what it takes to hack it at the MLS level. Despite his size and strength, he lacks pace and athleticism. His passing out of the back is suspect at times, and though he has moments where he can be strong on defense, they are interspersed with moments when he is a massive defensive liability. Perhaps his biggest criticism is that he has plateaued, and maybe even regressed, since his sophomore year (though some coaches think it may be due to Sofia’s commitment to doing well in school). For the most part, you know what Sofia will give you: A big body with a simple, solid game. “A good college player,” one coach says. “An above average college player. That’s it.”

Well, ok.  A LOT less flattering.  And a lot more to say than for their first round pick.

Sofia is not on the TopDrawerSoccer national ranking, but they have him ranked 12th in the Pac12.  There are a LOT of other defensive players that could have been selected if the Quakes were serious about a top defender to be selected in the second round.

Which bring me to the bottom line purpose for this article.

This is a huge country, with a lot of very fine soccer players.  The Earthquakes first two picks are essentially “local” to Californina, which doesn’t require a lot of travel to scout them, and both are from big name colleges.  You pretty much have to be a pretty smart individual to get into those colleges, as well as a really good talent.  It’s a fairly “safe” set of schools to pick from.  Unfortunately for picking a pure quality soccer player it is a catastrophe for soccer in this country.


Because you’ve got to have the grades and money to get into those schools.  Those schools are not just about soccer.  The focus in this country is still at the Division 1 college level.  Guys like Wondolowski didn’t go to one of those schools.  When a kid like him gets picked up, teams often are so biased to a players college pedigree (and ODP) that they miss a quality player that is sitting right there in front of them.  The Earthquakes had to use Wondo because of injuries, and the rest is history.  Houston had the same problem.  They just didn’t have their eyes open.  They don’t really reach out and scout the talent available.  It’s a really hard thing to do in a country this size, but the MLS Superdraft just seems so limited.

Let’s hope these first two draft picks develop into top level players, and that the Earthquakes pickup some surprises in the next couple of rounds that open some eyes.

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