2014 Generation Adidas class stocked on defensive talent

Christian Dean playing for Cal - Cal men's soccer

The absence of Cyle Larin leaves this year's Generation Adidas class a bit thin on the attack but for clubs that are looking to add a quality defender they will have a number of options.

Every year at the draft the players who signed Generation Adidas contracts and exited college early are among the top picks on the draft board.  Occasionally one of these players will slip down the board for a variety of reasons but the majority of GA players wind up being taken in the top 10.

That should be no different at this year's draft as the GA class has been creating a lot of buzz and could wind up dominating much of the top 10.  It is a class that is primarily built around defenders as the top attacking prospect, Cyle Larin, declined his deal.

We break down the GA class for this draft and try to determine if there is a chance any of the players could slip to Toronto at #15.

Christian Dean - Defender- University of California

The question for Dean on draft day seems to be if he will go first or second with his main competition being one of his teammates from Cal.  He logged 55 consecutive starts on a very strong back four at Cal where he made the switch from playing left back to being a very good CB.  He certainly has the size, strength, and poise on the ball to be an instant success in MLS but that does not mean he does not have room to improve his game.  His big knock is his one-on-one defending not being at the level of the rest of his game which is why he does better at CB as it involves a lot less one-on-one defending and is more about cleaning up the ball which he is excellent at.  With left footed CBs not exactly growing on trees it is clear why so many teams are interested in him.

AJ Cochran - Defender- University of Wisconsin

Like Dean. Cochran is a 6 foot 3 inch, left-footed CB but the big difference between the two is that Cochran does not have the high end athleticism that Dean offers.  Cochran is able to make up for it in other ways though as he is an above average passer for a CB and is absolutely dominant in the air.  He seems to win every ball that comes near him in the air and it makes him valuable when defending set pieces and crosses but he is also capable of chipping in with the odd goal on the other end of the field.  Cochran seems to be a candidate to slip a bit in this draft with a number of other talented CBs but he should still go somewhere around 10th even if the SB Nation mock draft had him land in Toronto at 15th.

Damion Lowe - Defender- University of Hartford

The third 6-3 CB on the list, Lowe is from Jamaica and is a bit of a less known commodity and at 175 pounds he could stand to add a bit of bulk.  What will catch the eye is his athletic abilities as he can get forward quite well for a CB and had a knack of picking up points during his college career as he finished his junior year with 5 goals and two assists while also helping Hartford to their best defensive record (0.84 GAA) since they joined Division I in 1984.

Eric Miller - Defender - Creighton University

With the draft being thin in players capable of playing on the outside of the draft there will certainly be a number of teams interested in landing Miller.  He is capable of playing right back or moving forward into the midfield if needed as he is capable of getting forward and joining the attack when needed.  The fact that he could potentially play right-back, defensive midfielder, or even centre-back at the next level will appeal to teams looking for some versatility from their early selection.  His abilities got him included in the US U-20 squad last year and should make him out of the first fullbacks taken in this year's draft.  He does still have some work to do though before reaching the next level as the mental elements of his game are not always there as he can struggle with when to react and with reading plays.  He would certainly fill a need for Toronto FC but it is unlikely that he slips to 15th with a number of other clubs having a similar need for outside defenders.

Andre Blake - Goalkeeper - University of Connecticut

Most years you are not going to see a keeper being taken near the top of the draft but that is likely to change this time around with a number of teams interested in Jamaican shot-stopped Blake.  His natural abilities in goal could make him special at the next level as at 6 foot 4 he can cover the entire frame of the goal thanks to some impressive leaping abilities.  He is the kind of player who you want in goal as he can make the saves as well as command his own area and act as a leader for his team.  With a number of teams near the top of the draft in need of help in goal he should not be around long as starter ready keepers are not exactly in abundance in the draft.  In college he barely allowed a goal as he logged 37 clean sheets in three years.  There is no reason to believe he won't continue that at the next level and eventually become an All-Star calibre keeper and Jamaica's number one option.

Marlon Hairston - Midfielder - University of Louisville

The box-to-box midfielder was the star of the combine's physical testing as he finished in the top 10 in all three categories (speed, agility, vertical jumping).  He is not just a raw physical talent though as Hairston is technically sound and strong on the ball.  He is listed at a generous 6 feet, 157 pounds and could stand to add a few pounds but he does play much bigger than his size would suggest and is rarely going to be pushed off the ball with ease.  He is not MLS ready though as any club taking him would have to first determine where he is best suited to play and then work with him to round out his game.  The talent is there and he can do it all in the middle of the park but he needs to work on his defending and bulk up a bit before he will really be ready to contribute in MLS.  For a team willing to take on a project he could really pay off in the long run and should still draw interest from someone in the top 10 thanks to his young age (19).

Ntokozo "Schillo" Tshuma - Forward - University of Maryland

While Tshuma does not have the attacking numbers of his college teammate, Patrick Mullins, he has managed to catch the eye of scouts.  Even his less than impressive sophomore season was not enough to stop him from signing this GA deal and that is due in large part to the fact that his physical abilities are quite eye catching.  His ability to take on defenders one-on-one will likely lead to him being used as a secondary striker or even a winger in MLS as he is at his best when running off of someone or working in space where his pace comes in handy.  He is a tricky runner who can cause problems for defenders but he will need to work on being more consistently involved in games as in college he seemed to disappear for periods of time while Mullins carried the majority of the attacking workload.  Another GA player whose potential will make him a high draft pick even if he might not be ready for much of a role in 2014.

With only seven players signing GA deals with MLS this year there is a good chance that none of them will be left on the board by the time Toronto FC are picking at 15th overall.  If one of them, primarily the defenders, does start to slip down the board it would not be a surprise to see TFC moving up to draft them but they also have the luxury of not needed to draft a GA player and could nab one of a number of talented seniors who could be available at 15th.

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