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Supplemental Draft Analysis

Photo Credit: MLSSoccer.com/Andy MeadWe have to start by sharing our disappointment for every MLS team passing on Akron’s Luke Holmes.  We hate to be biased, but when a local player that is technically gifted gets passed over for players described as projects, we have to draw the line somewhere. 

His coach at Notre Dame College, Michael McBride, spoke numerous times about Luke’s superior fitness, humbleness, pace, leadership, the list of positives goes on and on. For those who criticized his fitness, keep in mind that Holmes actually trained with Oldham Athletic over the holidays in preparation for the draft.  Mark our words, Holmes will be a successful professional somewhere in 2012. 

1.  We have differing opinions on who had the best supplemental draft.  Most analysts think the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA were head and shoulders over the rest in yesterday’s draft that lasted 76 picks. We feel strongly that Chicago and Seattle were the best.  The Fire landed two high quality players in Delaware’s Evans Frimpong and Green Bay’s Tony Walls.  Frimpong could push Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro for playing time, while Walls could see some significant time in the midfield off the bench.

Seattle landed a nice pick at #34 with English international Jason Banton, who was once talked about as a first-round pick before a lackluster combine showing. UCLA’s Andy Rose came to Seattle in a trade with RSL for Leone Cruz, a player that didn’t make it for the Sounders last season.  Both Banton and Rose could push for playing time in 2012.    

2.  New York had a rough draft overall.  The Red Bulls did little on Day 1 and came away with only training camp fodder in the supplemental draft.  We hope the Red Bulls will be active in the international transfer market because they have holes to fill.

ISN Opinions: National Soccer Media at Fault … Not at Fault

2012 MLS SuperDraft exposes the stretched coverage of college soccer

It’s no wonder the national media was hard on Luke Holmes surrounding the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. They look at his stats from Notre Dame College and wonder how bad the competition must be … lets be serious he scored 24 goals as a junior and an NAIA best 29 as a sophomore. When you compare those stats to “only scoring” five goals in 16 games for the University of Akron as a senior one can understand why Holmes endured such criticism from national media leading up to the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft in Kansas City.

The sarcasm is deep because if the media compares the stats as though he played out wide at Notre Dame they should be talking about him as though he is not an MLS caliber player … how could they imagine a player who scored 70 goals in three seasons at a small school in Ohio to be a world-class player, let alone an MLS player if the positions were the same? Simply they should not, nor would they have any reason to. But the position he played at Notre Dame was strikingly different than what he played at Akron.

After spending two weeks working on the Mock SuperDraft and then spending four days and nights at the NSCAA Convention and SuperDraft I have found the national media is just that … national. Their knowledge about the college players even at a national prominent Akron are more than lacking. The issue is at the regional and local levels that players are not getting the exposure with video or commentary about the players outside of school website game reports. There is a true lack of knowledge about individual players and what their strengths and weaknesses and how those will translate at the MLS level. I don’t knock the major networks for not having a show dedicated to college soccer, however there is no such show, and there are not nearly enough games broadcasted to allow broadcasters and media to understand players.

So regardless of each media member’s ability to evaluate talent, it’s not their fault they do not understand how a player will translate at the MLS level. This being said, they still do not understand and have little or perhaps no understanding that Holmes is not a winger. Ives Galarcep, one of the best in the soccer journalism business, listed the three-year standout at Notre Dame College and senior at Akron as a winger … not because that is the best position for Holmes at the MLS level but rather that is where he played his one season for the Zips as he supported and supplied the second overall pick forward Darren Mattocks with eight assists as the sophomore talisman scored 21 goals for the Zips before earning a Generation adidas contract with MLS.

In his three years under Head Coach Michael “Mac” McBride at Notre Dame Holmes scored a program best 70 goals playing in the middle of the pitch. He played up front as a striker for the first two seasons earning American Mideast Conference Freshman and Player of the Year and AMC Player of the Year. As a junior he moved to center mid where he scored 24 goals and led the Falcons to their first National Championship Final with a 23-1-0 record. Holmes was best when he was in front of goal. His goal total shows his ability to score at the NAIA level, but what does that mean to a national media that has probably never watched the level of the NAIA and many of them would have to Google the acronym to know what it is? To them it means nothing.

This was Holmes’s struggle before the MLS SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft with the national media who said he was not athletic enough, was too small, and always tried to cut-in from his wide position at the MLS Player Combine. Sadly for the Oldham, England, native he was forced to play out of position once again … did the scouts and technical staff with the combine even know his strengths as a forward and goal scorer?

Now Holmes played a season at Akron and had the exposure of playing in the MLS Player Combine, think about the lack of knowledge the media has about Dan Knight and Travis Wall, two other players who also went undrafted in the in the SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft. Wall, the Division III National Player of the Year, led Ohio Wesleyan to their second National Championship with 19 goals and 15 assists. His 2.12 points per game was good for 13th best in the nation. Wall also played four seasons for Dr. Jay Martin, whose 608-115-49 record make him the winningest college soccer coach in the history of the NCAA, regardless of division.

Knight, a center back and three-year captain for Notre Dame was a surprise inclusion to the official MLS Draft Eligible list provided to the media at the SuperDraft in Kansas City. It made people wonder how a player who didn’t know they were eligible for the draft would be just that. The morning before the Supplemental Draft, Susan Marschall the Coordinator for New Media for the MLS stated, “A player can be named to the draft eligible list by having an MLS team request that player to be added.”

So both players were on the radar of at least one club if not several and when looking at the players selected in the Supplemental Draft it strikes me as shocking that these players, along with the aforementioned Holmes, would go through 114 picks without being selected. It leaves plenty of room for questioning the MLS scouting departments, but also with the national media knowing nothing about their abilities and the level of competition that each player succeeded at makes one question how they are “experts”?

Knight led the Falcons to an outstanding 77-7-3 record over his four year career. That record also includes a program best 36 game regular-season unbeaten streak that began after dropping a 2-1 decision to Roberts Wesleyan on Oct. 27, 2009. As a junior in the program’s final season as a member of the NAIA he led them, along with Holmes to their first NAIA National Championship final appearance in 2010. Knight was instrumental in a program-best 32 shutouts in 84 matches while leading NDC to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. Prior to his arrival on College Road, Knight earned 26 caps with the Welsh U16, U17, and U19 national teams.

Did the media check to see that Holmes finished second in the PDL scoring in 2010 with 32 points (14 goals, 4 assists) while leading Forest City London to the Central Conference Semifinals? Why you might ask is the PDL relevant to comparing a player to his MLS readiness? Over the last three years the PDL has produced 111 alumni, equal to 70 percent of the draft selections from the MLS SuperDraft. This year 26 of the 38 players selected in the SuperDraft – more than two-thirds, with six of the top 10 including the first overall selection, having PDL experience. The Chicago Fire Premier had a record 11 alumni selected and Holmes’s 2011 PDL team, Michigan Bucks had a duo with Lucky Mkosana and Babayele Sodade were both taken in the second round, going to the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders respectively. T

he USL’s PDL continues to offer the opportunity for growth and development during the summer as players work toward their goals of turning professional. For those players coming from the 70 teams spread through nine divisions that cover North America the PDL paid dividends.

So why has the national media not discovered this connection to players like Holmes. Holmes’s ability and skills didn’t go unnoticed by everyone. One team media member who coved both the MLS and Premier Development League said Holmes’s performances in the PDL reminded him of another Ohio-based player, Chris Rolfe. Rolfe a Kettering, Ohio, native made 123 appearances for the Chicago Fire scoring 36 goals. If Holmes can go onto have a career similar to the two-time Chicago Fire Golden Boot winner then the team that picks him up at this juncture, after he was skipped on the 114 picks that made up the 2012 MLS SuperDraft and subsequent Supplemental Draft, will be getting a true steal.

That steal could be in line with Steven Lenhart who totaled 38 goals and 12 assists in 61 collegiate games at NAIA Azusa Pacific University (Calif.). Lenhart was named to the was honored as the NAIA National Tournament’s Outstanding Offensive Player in 2006 and 2007 helping lead Azusa Pacific to the 2007 NAIA national title. Lenhart has gone onto make 83 appearances in the MLS scoring 19 goals for Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes. Holmes was named the NAIA National Tournament’s Most Valuable Player in 2010 along with the NAIA National Player of the Year while leading the Falcons to National Runners-up.

The media is at fault even though it’s not their fault. People go to the news sources for just that, news. If the information provided by broadcasters and writers covering the coming presidential election, NFL draft or Super Bowl were inaccurate, they would certainly lose their jobs. The national soccer media should look to add measures of “credibility” to their reporters and add to the pool or people reporting on the college game. It is impossible for the media to know every player, but they should have a much better understanding than they displayed this year when they spoke about players as if they had watched countless hours of match tape or sat in the stand taking notes. It seems to me that the media went off the hype surrounding a player or the lack there of.

For Holmes, Knight, Walls, and countless others there was little to no hype surrounding them. Who do we blame their respective local media, their coaches, or the national media for the lack of hype that kept them from being players the media could speak intelligently about?

The truth of the matter is the soccer media in the U.S. is stretched. As much as it pains soccer fans to say it, the game while growing is not a heavy hitter with sponsorship and advertising money. Thomas O’Toole, wrote an article that appeared in USA Today on April 22, 2010 the NCAA reached an 14-year $11 billion contract with CBS and Turner Sports. Roger Pielke Jr. wrote a New York Times article on Nov. 24, 2011 that pointed out the NCAA’s sale of football television rights soared from $50 million to nearly $11 billion in 30 years when they signed with the most recent contract. Those staggering figures allow networks to hire individuals who focus on the college game.

For soccer it’s different. The soccer media in the U.S. are responsible for not only covering the MLS, but also the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League, the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams, international tournaments, and then there is college soccer. So it’s not media’s fault for having a lack of expertise in the area where there is the least amount of sponsorship and advertising revenue … figures on Major League Soccer’s television contract are a reported $10 million. That’s over $10 billion less than the NCAA contracts for football and basketball respectively or over $21 billion less than the two contracts combined.

It’s not the fault of the media who passionately covers a game they love. Some of that passion needs to be turned over to some new knowledgeable reporters to assist the prominent national reporters and writers. It will be exciting to see Holmes, Knight, and Wall make the move to the professional game. There is no doubt they each have the ability on the field to do just that, regardless what the media writes or says. 


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