Oscar Pareja

Thursday’s MLS Draft could turn into a referendum on the MLS combine value

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The annual MLS combine in Florida, which always directly precedes the draft, can be a good friend or a bitter enemy.

It’s going one way or the other for three teams this year, clubs that allocated extra weight to performances in Florida over the past few days. Put another way, Thursday’s MLS draft may turn into something of a referendum on the dependability of the combine as an accurate evaluation tool.

Three players chosen Thursday’s significantly elevated their standing at the annual pre-draft combine. None moreso that Tesho Akindele, who was perhaps a low second round pick coming into the combine. This story called Akindele “penny stock” of the combine, a scarcely known type who quickly evolved into the revelation of the games in Florida.

So when the forward out of Colorado School of Mines (not making that up … heck, he’s not even the first player from the engineering school; Craig Thompson in 2008 was the school’s first draftee) went at No. 6 overall to Dallas, that was a head-turner.

Blessed with speed and athleticism, there was a rush by MLS clubs to interview Akindele over the last few days, based on those eye-catching performances. Of course, the man who took Akindele was in position to know about him all along; FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja (pictured above) just left his position at DSG Park, just across Denver from School of the Mines.

Andre Lewis, taking one spot later at No. 7 by Vancouver, was another so-called “no-namer” coming into the combine. But the Jamaican under-20 was impressive right away for his skill and ability to hold the ball under duress.

Later, Toronto selected Nick Hagglund at No. 10 overall. He was one of the more impressive center backs at the Florida combine.

The annual combine is certainly a valuable tool in the belt, but it has flaws. After all, what can the prepared coach, GM or technical director learn in two or three says that they don’t already know about these guys?

Still, scouts and managers can be swayed or dissuade by performance at the combine, as we see. And perhaps this year’s thin draft is the one where clubs can take a chance, grabbing someone on a bit of a flier, safe in the knowledge that there aren’t a bunch of game-breakers out there anyway.

(MORE: MLS Draft recap, who went where)

(MORE: D.C. United has the best day at the MLS Draft)

(MORE: The big surprise of Thursday’s MLS Draft)

WATCH: Carrasco levels Champions League final, finds partner for long kiss

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28:  Yannick Carrasco of Atletico Madrid celebrates afte scorig the equalizing goal during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Milan on a starry night sounds romantic. Add in a massive match-tying goal, and it was all too much for Yannick Carrasco.

The 22-year-old Belgian attacker got on the end of Juanfran‘s cross and beat Keylor Navas at the near post.

[ MORE: Griezmann’s PK miss ]

In celebration, Carrasco raced toward a pitch side suite and into the arms and lips of what we presume is his partner for a gift that must count as much as a few dozen roses (but probably smelled much worse).

WATCH: Griezmann misses Torres-won PK in huge Champions League moment

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28: Antoine Griezmann of Atletico Madrid speaks to head coach Diego Simeone during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Frankly, Antoine Griezmann embodied the Atletico Madrid attack in the first half, so it was no surprise when he stepped up to the penalty spot early in the second half.

Fernando Torres had won a penalty kick from Pepe after the Portuguese back stamped on his ankle in the 46th minute, and Greizmann got Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas going the wrong direction before cranking the ball off the bar.

[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]

The miss looms large.

Argentine star Messi leaves Honduras match with back injury

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 08:  (L-R) Jose Juan Vazquez #23 of Mexico and Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina during a international friendly at AT&T Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi left the field with a back injury in the second half of a 1-0 victory over Honduras in a friendly Friday night.

The Argentine team captain and Barcelona star was hit on an apparently inconsequential play and immediately went to the locker room. He was replaced at the 62-minute mark by Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega and never returned to the field.

“Messi suffered a trauma to the left side of his lower back and rib cage,” the Argentine Football (Soccer) Association said in a statement, adding that doctors were looking at the injury.

[ MORE: Hull City snares last PL spot for 2016-17 ]

Messi is not a player who leaves the field with minor injuries like he did Friday at San Juan’s Bicentenario stadium.

“I would not dare to venture a diagnosis,” said a concerned Argentine manager, Gerardo Martino.

Gonzalo Higuain, who scored for Argentina, said it “was an important win and here’s hoping that what happened to Leo is nothing.”

Messi was scheduled to fly to Spain to resolve a tax issue and then rejoin the team in Santa Clara, California.

Hull City secures PL position next season

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Ross Wallace of Sheffield Wednesday make a break during Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Mohamed Diame was the hero on the day for Hull City, as the Tigers gain promotion to the Premier League next season.

The Senegalese attacker sent Sheffield Wednesday packing on Saturday afternoon at Wembley Stadium after hitting a scorching long-distance effort past goalkeeper Kieren Westwood in the second half.

After an initial back-and-forth spell of chances over the opening half hour-plus, Sheffield was drastically taken out of the match as Hull began to gain their composure on the ball.

Hull City will join Championship winners Burnley and Middlesbrough in the Premier League in 2016-17 after being promoted. Relegated clubs Newcastle, Norwich City and Aston Villa will take their place in England’s second flight.

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