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Saturday, January 8, 2011
MLS combine leads to draft with 6 locals

By Scott French

Major League Soccer's technical staffs are in Fort Lauderdale the next four days to assess top draft prospects at the league's annual combine. Seventy players have been divided among four teams, and doubleheaders will be played Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.


The draft, with three rounds of 18 picks apiece, is Thursday in Baltimore. Chivas USA has the fourth overall selection, and the Galaxy will pick 16th.

Ten players, nine of them college underclassmen plus 17-year-old forward Omar Salgado, who signed with the league when he was forced to depart  Club Deportivo Guadalajara after committing to the U.S. under-20 national team, are on Generation adidas contracts and will count neither against the roster size nor salary cap for the clubs that select them. GA players traditionally are among the most talented and coveted in the draft.

The list includes UC Santa Barbara junior Michael Tetteh, a Ghanaian midfielder who prepped at the Dunn School in Los Olivos. Five GAs -- including Darlington Nagbe and Perry Kitchen, widely seen as the top two prospects in the draft -- come from NCAA champion Akron. Also among the group is defender Zarek Valentin, whose brother, Julian, was a defender for the Galaxy in 2008-09.

Four GAs -- Salgado, Kitchen, Valentin and Maryland goalkeeper Zac MacMath -- will miss the combine while playing for the U.S. U-20s. Nagbe, who on Friday won the Hermann Trophy as college soccer's top player, also will skip the conbine.

Five foreign players who did not play at U.S. colleges are in the combine, including forward John Rooney, the brother of Manchester United superstar Wayne Rooney. John Rooney spent time on trial with the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers to prepare for the draft.

The complete combine rosters and schedule can be found here. Major League Soccer's Web site will be following the combine and draft here.

A quick rundown of the half-dozen local players in the combine:

MICHAEL BOXALL (UC Santa Barbara): The 22-year-old New Zealander is a big (6-foot-2, 200 pound), veteran center back, a college All-American who featured in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2006 FIFA U-20 World Cup and has played for the Kiwis' national team. Made 75 starts in four seasons for the Gauchos.

MICHAEL FARFAN (North Carolina): The former Cal State Fullerton midfielder, from Wildomar in Riverside County (although he played high school and club soccer in San Diego), was a two-time All-American after transferring to Chapel Hill and led the Tar Heels to the NCAA semifinals last month. A creative force who was in the U-17 residency in Florida and played at the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup. He made 73 starts in four years with the Titans and Tar Heels, scoring 18 goals with 14 assists.

HECTOR JIMENEZ (California): The 22-year-old midfielder from Bell Gardens (Bell Gardens HS) is a three-time All-Pacific 10 first-team selection, a creative midfielder who assisted 28 goals in 71 games in four seasons with the Bears. Played club ball at Arsenal and was in the U.S. under-17 residency at Bradenton, Fla.

DAVIS PAUL (California): The 22-year-old forward from Upland (Damien HS) emerged as a force up front as a senior for the Bears, scoring eight goals with 14 assists for the Pac-10 champs. Jimenez's former teammate at Arsenal started 54 of 78 games he played at Cal, totaling 15 goals and 21 assists.

MICHAEL TETTEH (UC Santa Barbara): The 21-year-old Ghanaian midfielder, a Generation adidas signing, is a product of the Right to Dream Academy, which takes African children from poverty and provides educational possibilities in the U.S. and Britain. Tetteh attended the Dunn School in Los Olivos, played for Santa Barbara Soccer Club and made 50 starts in three seasons at UCSB, scoring six goals with eight assists.

AMANI WALKER (UC Irvine): The 21-year-old forward from San Diego scored 20 goals in his final two seasons for the Anteaters, 27 in four seasons, and set a school record with 85 games. He was the Big West Conference's Co-Offensive Player of the Year and a Soccer America second-team MVP after scoring 11 goals to lead UC Irvine to the BWC title. He scored 12 goals last summer for Orange County Blue Star in the USL Premier Development League.