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Sporting KC Has A Couple Of Very Good Defensive Options In The 2011 MLS SuperDraft

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2011 MLS SuperDraft
2011 MLS SuperDraft

So, in no way whatsoever am I much of an NCAA soccer fan or qualified to be a college soccer scout. One, I don't watch college soccer until it's time for the College Cup (I just don't have the time for it) and two, I was never a player myself, so I don't necessarily possess the "skills and abilities" eye that make professional scouts so good.

I do still have to write something about Thursday's 2011 MLS SuperDraft, though. Basically, we (think we) know that Sporting Kansas City is looking to take a central defender with their first round pick, the tenth overall selection.

Most mock draft have either North Carolina defender Jalil Anibaba or Cal-Berkeley defender AJ Soares falling into the 8-10 range where Sporting KC will be picking. While I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I can offer some sort of insight on either of these players that you won't find anywhere else, (because I can't) what I can do is pool together excerpts from here and there from multiple outlets with writers that have more knowledge on the subjects at hand.

So, after the jump, I'll be pulling reports and any other pertinent information from places like Soccer By Ives, WV Hooligan and my fellow MLS writers on the SB Nation network on the team's suspected top targets in tomorrow's draft...

AJ Soares

Based off of really nothing more than a couple of things I had read, I have stated before that I prefer Soares to Anibaba with the tenth pick on Thursday, if he were to be available.

6a00e54ef2975b88330133f3833df3970b-pi_mediumThe Basics
Height/Weight: 6'2"/170
College Career: During his time at Cal-Berkeley, Soares started all 77 games that he appeared in for the Golden Bears. He scored a total of 10 goals in his four year college career, including 5 in his 2010 senior season. Among other numerous honors, Soares was selected second team All-Pac 10 in 2009 as a junior and chosen to the first team in 2010, along with winning Cal's defensive MVP award. Soares is originally from the San Diego, California area.

Various Excerpts About Soares

- Soccer By Ives content -

SBI's College Best XI Draft Prospects

Strong, tenacious and good in the air, Soares drew attention from MLS scouts last year, but another year could help him develop his game to a point where he could be an MLS-ready centerback by 2011. A dominant defender in the Pac-10, Soares is also a threat to score.

Confident Soares could be next standout college defender

The college ranks have filled Major League Soccer with several young central defenders ripe with potential in recent years, with the likes of Omar Gonzalez, Ike Opara and Tim Ream making the smooth transition from college to the pros.

University of California defender A.J. Soares could be the next to join that list. The cerebral yet extremely physical defender has quickly put himself on the national map with his steady play for Cal.

SBI MLS Draft Big Board (Version 1.0)

Best centerback in the draft, he could be this year's Tim Ream.

SBI MLS Draft Big Board (Version 3.0)

Tall (6-foot-2) and skilled central defender who is also a threat on set pieces, Soares is regarded by some as the best centerback in the draft. He could be this year's Tim Ream

MLS Combine Day 1 Rewind

AdiPower also had a standout center back in A.J. Soares.

Also from SBI, this interview with Soares

SBI Combine Spotlight: AJ Soares from Soccer By Ives on Vimeo.

- WV Hooligan content -

WVH Mock SuperDraft 1.0

Some think he could be the 2011 Tim Ream, so I’d imagine someone will bite early. KC could be that team as they’ve got some work to do defensively now that Jimmy Conrad is gone.

WVH Mock SuperDraft 2.0

One of the best defenders in the draft, and he’s just signed with the league. Soares is a big kid, one that Fire fans will be excited to see come into the attack on set pieces next season.

WVH Mock SuperDraft 3.0

No change yet again for Chicago here. They will be hoping to land a GA but grabbing the best senior defender on the board has to be something they’ll look to do here. They do have needs up front but their defense has to be the top priority in this draft with their first pick.

MLS Mock Draft: Sporting Kansas City Select AJ Soares With 10th Pick

The need for defense in Kansas City is a big one and landing Soares is a huge pick for Sporting KC. Peter Vermes should be a First Kick starter for this club. His size is perfect for set pieces. He could be the Tim Ream of this draft.

- From Around SB Nation content -

MLS Combine in Review – Day 2 - Sounder At Heart

Joao Plata – Plata has been far and away the most exciting player to watch in the combine. He started high on the left side and combined very well with Bruin on the attack. He was able to break down the AdiPower defense repeatedly with darting runs and crisp passes. Later in the first half he was switched over to the right side where he wasn’t nearly as effective due to the defense of Tetteh and AJ Soares.

Not bad, eh? Sounds like he could potentially be the second coming of Jimmy Conrad - same type player: both athletic at a young age, threats to score on set pieces (something SKC could desperately use), similar size and a pair of SoCal boys. I don't think we should be too upset if Soares is the guy.

But, would we be ultimately happier if it's Anibaba?...

Jalil Anibaba

Anibaba is a guy who has so far been thought of as an equal to Soares, with the two going in flip-flop order in mock drafts, depending on who you're reading. But, has Anibaba's superb combine been enough to leapfrog Soares as the majority favorite? Has he outplayed SKC's number ten overall pick?


Age: 22
Height: 6'0/175
College Career: During his time at North Carolina, Anibaba started a remarkable 24 of 24 career games in which he appeared in for the Tar Heels. His first three college seasons were spent at Santa Clara, where he started 60 of 61 games. He scored a total of three goals in his four year college career, all of which came in his freshman and sophomore seasons. Among many West Coast Conference accolades through three years, Anibaba was chosen first team All-ACC regular season and tournament teams.

Various Excerpts About Anibaba

- Soccer By Ives content -

UNC's Anibaba sets sights on MLS Draft

After arriving at Chapel Hill, Anibaba led the Tar Heel defense to an Atlantic Coast Conference-best 0.65 goals allowed per game. While not remarkably tall, Anibaba developed his aerial abilities and earned a reputation for clearing crosses with ease. North Carolina reached its third-consecutive College Cup on the back of three-straight penalty kick shootouts, with Anibaba slotting home the final spot kick in the quarterfinals against Southern Methodist. But his college career came to an inauspicious end when Louisville's Aaron Horton scored in the final minute to end North Carolina's title dreams.

SBI 2011 MLS Mock Draft (Version 1.0)

Replacing veteran defender Jimmy Conrad won't be easy, but KC will be happy to grab an athletic centerback like Anibaba, who has the talent to step in and start for the club formerly known as the Wizards.

SBI 2011 MLS Mock Draft (Version 2.0)

The Dynamo need defensive help and while A.J. Soares is more highly rated by many, Anibaba is the ideal athletic centerback to partner with Bobby Boswell.

SBI MLS Draft Big Board (Version 3.0)

A dominant physical presence at centerback, Anibaba could be considered this year's Ike Opara (though he isn't quite as physically gifted). Rivals Soares for title of best centerback in the draft. If he has a good combine he could lead a team to make an early first-round play for him. He has signed a senior MLS contract.

MLS Combine Day 1 Rewind

Jalil Anibaba, who manned the center of the defense for AdiPure, was arguably the best defensive player, breaking up almost everything that came his way.

MLS Combine Day 2 Rewind

AdiPure's stingy defense was led by Jalil Anibaba, who once again impressed despite not being as busy as he was on Day 1. Alibaba helped keep forwards like Justin Meram and Victor Estupinan quiet, and his stock surely benefited from it.

MLS Combine Day 3 Rewind

Anibaba ended his combine with another solid outing for AdiPure. He helped keep an offense led by the combine's Golden Boot winner Joao Plata (three goals) and Will Bruin in check, and he continued to distribute the ball well.

MLS Combine 2011's Top Performers

1. Jalil Anibaba, Defender, UNC

Joao Plata's only quiet performance came on Day 3, and part of that was due to the stout defending of Jalil Anibaba, who was the combine's top defender. Anibaba was a rock in the back for AdiPure, constantly breaking up attacks with his physicality and solid positioning. He also dealt well with aerial balls and looked a step ahead of most of the attackers he faced. Anibaba distributed the ball as well as any center back at the combine, especially with his knack of unleashing pinpoint long balls to the right flank.

Also from SBI, this interview with Anibaba

SBI Combine Spotlight from Soccer By Ives on Vimeo.

- WV Hooligan content -

WVH Mock SuperDraft 1.0

A big defender that would add solid depth to an already strong defense. He’s dominate in the air which would be a good fit for a club that does well on set pieces.

WVH Mock SuperDraft 2.0

He’s one of the couple UNC seniors that have either already signed or are extremely close to signing. He’s a big centerback that could be paired with Tim Ream, which could end up as one of the better young pairs in the league.

WVH Mock SuperDraft 3.0

Defensive work is what they need and Anibaba easily rivals Soares as the best senior defender in this draft. With Jimmy Conrad now with Chivas they need to work fast on improving that back line.

MLS Mock Draft: New York Red Bulls Select Jalil Anibaba With 13th Pick

Love the defense pick for New York. Anibaba is the physical back that the Red Bulls need. He's possibly the most senior ready defender in this draft. Anibaba will allow Marquez to sit above the defense which has to be something Hans Backe is looking for this winter.

- From Around SB Nation content -

Combine Observations: Day 1 - Burgundy Wave

D Jalil Anibaba: Big and tall on the back line for AdiPure, didn't have much to do but kept almost every chance Power had to get into the box away. +

With the 18th Overall Pick... Jalil Anibaba - Burgundy Wave

At only 6'0 and 160 pounds Jalil projects to be more of a Drew Moor type with probably a bit more speed than the Julien Baudet big-slow-guy archetype that we've all been predicting with the Boxall pick. (Check out the entire post)

MLS Combine in Review – Day 2 - Sounder At Heart

Jalil Anibaba – Anibaba was very solid again in the back for AdiPure. His combine performance is helping to take the ‘most MLS ready center-back prospect’ title away from AJ Soares. I like his positioning and passing out of the back. He also made the two other center-backs for AdiPure, Ushedo and Abibio, look very good. AdiPure with Anibaba in the back has been playing as a unit rather than just some guys thrown together for a glorified pick-up game.

2011 MLS Draft Profiles: Kofi Sarkodie, Zarek Valentin, Jalil Anibaba - Black And Red United

Jalil Anibaba might be to Zarek Valentin what Will Bruin is to Omar Salgado. Anibaba, a senior out of UNC, is widely thought as one of the players who showed the best at the MLS Combine. Kyle McCarthy speaks of not only his defensive organization and leadership, but also his accurate passing. He could absolutely start in MLS from Day 1.

I realize that if you actually read through all that, it's a lot of content and information, but hopefully it serves to give a bit of insight into who Sporting KC technical director/head coach Peter Vermes would, should and could take with the tenth overall pick in Thursday's draft.

Personally, after further review, I've warmed on Anibaba. I watched bits and pieces of his Combine games and he surely impressed. That's not to say that Soares didn't; I just didn't get to see him play. For the record, Anibaba is from Cali, too. Either way we'll be able to play up that storyline with the departure of long-time stalwart Jimmy Conrad.


The Daily Wiz will be hosting an open thread here tomorrow morning and afternoon for the SuperDraft. If you haven't already, you'll need to sign up for an SB Nation account. The great thing about that is that the one account is good for the 296 (and growing) sites on the network. Jayhawk or Tiger fan? There's sites for those teams, too. You can sign up here, join me back here  tomorrow and shoot a little breeze starting a little early, around 11 a.m.