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MLS Combine, SuperDraft status report: Day 1

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Sunday was the first of three match days for the Major League Soccer combine, a prelude to the 2017 MLS SuperDraft on Friday.

In honesty, players should only see their stocks rise from solid performances, as the Combine matches are a mishmash of high-flying talent often shoehorned into positions or formations.

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For example, players who work best at center back are often moved to fullback, where they can be hassled by electric wingers. And a large number of wing prospects with terrific ability up top sometimes fall to a more defensively-responsible outside position.

The biggest shakeup in terms of the draft happened off the field, as Akron freshman Jonathan Lewis signed a Generation Adidas contract making him available for selection on Friday.

Lewis, to put it bluntly, is a stud. The 19-year-old winger posted 12 assists for the Zips and only got better as the year progressed.

Lewis finished the season with two goals and six assists in his last 9 games, including a goal against Ohio State and an NCAA tournament assist versus Villanova.

There could be a trickle down effect here for attacking players. For example, Lewis could slide ahead of Abu Danladi on a draft board. In the case of our mock today — done solely for fun and frivolity — either Danladi or Lewis would be available for Columbus at 5, which would perhaps leave them looking for a defender at 9. So while we had them going Lalas Abubakar (CB) and Russell Cicerone (FW) on our first mock, it’s changed a bit.

[ MORE: One Combine star’s 10,403-mile journey ]

On the field, it was impossible not to notice Louisville’s Daniel Johnson. We had him at 15 to Colorado, but any questions about the American attacker would’ve been answered on Sunday. Another star match this week would make it hard for Atlanta United to pass him the home state kid at 8.

The West Ham Academy product played at Maryland before starring with Louisville, where he unleashed this bullet.

The second match was difficult to analyze thanks to some rough play in the midfield. Brandt Bronico raised his stock, and consensus Top Five pick Abu Danladi showed a flash or two. English striker David Goldsmith finished two chances that make teams think deeper.

Notre Dame defender Brandon Aubrey had a tough day in the opener, but it’s hard to believe anyone’s going to eschew years of strong play based on one performance. Still, another game like this could lead teams to wait on selecting him.

  1. Minnesota United — Jeremy Ebobisse, FWD (Duke)
  2. Atlanta United — Miles Robinson, DEF (Syracuse)
  3. Chicago Fire — Jonathan Lewis, FWD (Akron)
  4. Houston Dynamo —Lalas Abubakar, DEF (Dayton)
  5. Columbus Crew — Abu Danladi, FWD (UCLA)
  6. San Jose Earthquakes — Jackson Yueill, FWD (UCLA)
  7. Vancouver Whitecaps — Brian Wright, FWD (Vermont)
  8. Atlanta United — Brandon Aubrey, DEF (Notre Dame)
  9. Columbus Crew — Reagan Dunk, DEF (Denver)
  10. Portland Timbers — Shamit Shome, MID (FC Edmonton)
  11. Chicago Fire — Daniel Johnson, MID (Louisville)
  12. DC United — Chris Odoi-Atsem, DEF (Maryland)
  13. Real Salt Lake — Adonijah Reid, FWD (Canada U-20)
  14. Sporting KC — Napo Matsoso, MID (Kentucky)
  15. Colorado Rapids — Russell Cicerone, FWD (Buffalo)
  16. Seattle Sounders — Francis De Vries, DEF (St. Francis PA)
  17. New York Red Bulls — Eric Klenofsky, GK (Monmouth)
  18. FC Dallas —Jorge Gomez Sanchez, FWD (Temple)
  19. Montreal Impact – Julian Gressel, MID (Providence)
  20. New England Revolution — Jacori Hayes, MID (Wake Forest)
  21. Toronto FC — Liam Callahan, DEF/MID (Syracuse)
  22. Seattle Sounders — Justin Schmidt, DEF (Washington)

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Hearts boss names USMNT mid Kitchen captain: “He’s a natural”

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Perry Kitchen has come a long way.

From Mid American Conference soccer to DC United and the United States men’s national team, the hard-nosed 24-year-old midfielder has developed quite nicely.

The latest? Captain of Scottish side Hearts (or, if you prefer, jack of the Jambos).

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Kitchen has been named captain of the Scottish Premiership side just months after joining the club. Predictably, he’s pretty jazzed about the whole thing, and manager Robbie Neilson — a Hearts legend in his own right — says his young Yank deserves the honor and responsibility.

From HeartsFC.co.uk:

“I’ve been impressed by Perry’s attitude, desire and, of course, his performances from day one.

“He’s a natural and leads by example both on and off the park. He’s also a really good player and will inspire those around him to reach the highest standards.”

Hearts are second in the Premiership, three points behind Celtic.

Carlos Bocanegra had captained Rangers, but that was not a full-time job. This is a really strong nod for Kitchen, who’s been on the periphery of the USMNT set-up for a while. Maybe this helps get him that look over Kyle Beckerman.

USMNT prospect Sabbi skipping college for La Liga contract

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From the Mid American Conference to La Liga, Emmanuel Sabbi’s competition just jumped up a notch.

Sabbi, 18, committed to Akron earlier this year but is not on the Zips’ preseason roster. Now we know why.

MORE: Borthwick-Jackson, Blackett leaving United

The U.S. youth player has joined Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, linking up with Kevin Prince-Boateng and Sergio Araujo (though it’ll be tough for the youngster to see the pitch early on).

Sabbi was Akron’s top recruit, and is No. 9 in the above photo from the U.S. U-18 national team.

Portland rolls the dice that Porter can fix Darren Mattocks after trade

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Caleb Porter has added another Akron alum to his Portland outfit.

The Timbers acquired Darren Mattocks from Vancouver on Monday for general allocation money, reuniting him with Porter and fellow ex-Zips like Darlington Nagbe and Zarek Valentin.

[ MORE: MLS Rewind — Vieira the Tinkerer and Player/Team of the Week ]

Portland’s started the season 1-1, while the ‘Caps are a disappointing 0-2. It could be addition by subtraction for Vancouver, as the streaky Mattocks has failed to live up to expectations in British Columbia.

From Timbers.com:

“We are extremely pleased to be able to add Darren Mattocks to our roster as another dynamic attacking option,” said Caleb Porter, head coach of the Timbers. “Darren is an exciting player that has game-changing pace and has displayed his goal-scoring ability in MLS and with Jamaica. He can provide depth in the striker role or as a winger and will bring another weapon to an already strong attacking group.”

It’s not a bad risk for Porter, who knows the player well. Mattocks has 12 goals in 31 caps for Jamaica and has 6- and 7-goal seasons under his belt despite falling out of favor with Carl Robinson.

Mattocks went second overall in 2012 SuperDraft, one pick behind Andrew Wenger and ahead of such standouts as Kelyn Rowe, Ethan Finlay, Matt Hedges and Dom Dwyer.

He’ll also have to overcome the strong start of another reclamation project in Jack McInerney, who scored Sunday for the Timbers.

Portland also signed Fanendo Adi to a new contract.

Akron names Jared Embick as Caleb Porter’s successor

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With time winding down in the Caleb Porter era at Akron University, the school announced associate head coach Jared Embick will take as head coach at the end of the season.

Embick had also been serving as Porter’s recruiting coordinator. He’s agreed to a three-year deal pending approval from the school’s board of trustees:

“I am honored to be the next head coach of the University of Akron men’s soccer program and look forward to continuing the tradition and success of Akron soccer,” Embick said in a statement. “For the last six years, I have been fortunate to work with and learn from Caleb Porter, one of the best coaches in the history of college soccer. I will continue to use those experiences to keep Akron at the pinnacle of college soccer. That being said, right now I am only focused on this season and helping the team reach our goal of winning a second national championship.”

Embick’s work as recruiting coordinator speaks for itself. Akron’s had top-two recruiting classes each of the last three years, helping to make the Zips an Major League Soccer talent factory. That’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

The 34-year-old has been with Akron for five years, winning 2010 national assistant coach of the year as the Zips claimed their first national title.

Porter’s set to leave Akron in December to become head coach of the Portland Timbers.