Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics
As the 2018 MLS Player Combine begins next week, 45 PDL alums and 60 players in total will take to the fields and interview rooms to try and impress the 23 MLS teams selecting at the 2018 SuperDraft on January 19 in Philadelphia, PA
While every player invited is worth watching, we’ve identified five in particular that are worth taking note of as the Combine progresses and we get closer to draft day. These five players stand out via their college performances, excellence in their PDL campaigns and their potential to hear their name called early on during the draft.
Since arriving at Wake Forest in 2014, where he started over half of the Demon Deacons in his freshman season while scoring six goals and assisting two more, Bakero has rapidly established himself as one of the nation’s premier professional prospects. His sophomore and junior campaigns followed suit from his first year, where Bakero started the vast majority of Wake’s matches, scoring 15 goals and 10 assists over the two seasons combined. His senior year was his breakout season though, as Bakero would exceed the combined total of the past two years to score 16 goals and assist 14 in his final campaign, leading the nation in points with 46 and guiding the Demon Deacons to their second consecutive ACC Championship and NCAA College Cup appearance.
In addition to his collegiate accomplishments, Bakero also spent the past two summers competing in the PDL with FC Tucson and the Carolina Dynamo. Over that time, Bakero scored six total goals and recorded two assists over his 15 appearances in both campaigns. Combined, his PDL and collegiate accomplishments have pushed Bakero to the peak of his class, and potentially to the top of the draft, making him well worth watching during the upcoming event.
Like Bakero, Chris Mueller established himself as one of the nation’s top attacking threats over his four years at Wisconsin. After making consistent appearances and spot starts his freshman and sophomore seasons at Wisconsin, racking up five goals and four assists over those two years, Mueller broke out during his junior campaign. His third season saw Mueller grow into an everyday starter for the Badgers, and the team’s faith in him was rewarded with an eight goal, 11 assist campaign. He further elevated himself in his senior season into a high-level prospect by knocking in a career-high nine goals and NCAA-leading 20 assists, averaging nearly an assist-per-match while guiding Wisconsin to its first Big Ten title and NCAA Quarterfinals appearance since 1995. Doing so earned Mueller respect as an All-Big Ten First Team honoree and the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
Also like Bakero, Mueller spent the past two summers plying his trade and furthering his development in the PDL. He spent 2016 with the Des Moines Menace, contributing to the team’s Heartland Division-winning campaign, before spending this past summer with Chicago FC United, where he scored four goals and recorded three assists. Despite his slow start for the Badgers, Mueller continued to develop each season into a feared attacker and a legitimate early first round prospect.
Chris Lema established himself as a key component of the Georgetown Hoyas’ midfield over his four years with the collegiate team. Though he made just six starts his freshman year, he did appear in 21 matches for the team, previewing his high level of involvement the next three seasons. His sophomore campaign was a big step forward, as Lema started 20 of 21 matches while helping guide the Hoyas to their first Big East Championship. Lema had another stellar season his junior year, starting all 17 matches for Georgetown while earning All-Big East First Team and Team MVP honors. He continued to grow in his final season, scoring a career-high four goals and adding four assists while helping the team win its second Big East Championship.
Lema was also a key part of his PDL club, appearing in the summers of 2016 and 2017 with the New York Red Bulls U23. He made 11 appearances in the earlier campaign, scoring two goals and assisting one more while helping the Red Bulls U23 to a winning 6-4-4 record. Lema also featured heavily in 2017, appearing in eight matches between the regular season and playoffs while helping the Red Bulls U23 win both the Mid Atlantic Division and the PDL Regular Season Championship.
Tobacco Road FC forward Alan Winn also benefitted from a successful four-year career with a notable rise during his senior season at UNC. Despite starting only six games his freshman season, Winn produced three goals and four assists for the Tar Heels. He doubled his goal total in his sophomore season while keeping his assists level before knocking in another three goals and four assists in his junior year. Winn truly broke out his senior season, scoring a career-high 11 goals along with two assists, cementing his legacy which included four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and two straight College Cup appearances in 2016 and 2017.
Winn was also a big producer for Tobacco Road FC during the club’s inaugural PDL season in 2017, appearing in eight matches and scoring and assisting two goals apiece. His efforts helped the club secure a winning 6-5-3 record and earned with the No. 4 spot on the PDL Top Seniors List, and have likely pushed him into becoming a first round selection at the upcoming SuperDraft.
In his four years at UNLV, Daniel Musovski was a constant, dangerous goal-scoring threat for the Rebels. An immediate starter, Musovski made 22 appearances for the Rebels in his freshman season, scoring six goals and recording six assists while winning the WAC Tournament MVP. His output grew in his sophomore and junior seasons, where he scored 14 and 12 goals respectively while garnering 11 total assists, being named WAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2015 and All-WAC First Team in both seasons. He had another stellar season his senior year, banking another 15 goals and six assists in 16 matches.
In the PDL, Musovski plied his trade with FC Tucson in 2017. While helping lead the club to its fourth consecutive Division title, Musovski appeared in eight matches while racking up four goals and one assist. Though sometimes overlooked when compared to ACC or Big Ten players, Musovski’s consistent goal-scoring success has pushed him through into a legitimate professional-level attacking prospect.