MLS has published a list of 60 players invited to participate in the 2019 Player Combine. The combine isn’t until January 3; not every player invited will necessarily attend; there will likely be additions and subtractions before the combine gets started: still, it is a first look at the cohort of players who will form the core of the 2019 class of MLS SuperDraft picks (teams can and often do draft players who did not attend the combine).
Anderson Asiedu: The midfielder played two summer seasons of PDL (now USL League Two) with RBNY U-23s - 2016 and 2017 - while he was at Monmouth University. Since transferred to UCLA, he is not a homegrown prospect for the Red Bulls, but he is familiar to the club and a product of the New Jersey youth soccer scene.
Marcello Borges: Perhaps the biggest RBNY talking point about the initial list of 2019 MLS Player Combine invites is the fact Borges is on it. He is about as homegrown a Red Bull as it is possible to be: Academy product, RBNY U-23 appearances, even a couple of games for NYRB II. And he was a US youth team regular who would probably have played in the 2017 U-20 World Cup but for an unfortunately timed injury at a critical moment in the qualifying cycle. Played his college soccer at Michigan and surprised some by playing out the full term of his college years rather than seeking an early exit to a pro deal. To some observers, that was a sign he was readying himself to join RBNY after college.
Borges is typically regarded as a full-back. That is a position where the Red Bulls could use both depth in the short-term and a player with potential to win the starting job in the longer term: a profile that rather neatly matches Borges’ capabilities. But RBNY isn’t the only team in MLS or the world interested in good, young full-backs.
MLS has published a list of players invited to its pre-draft combine. Borges’ presence on the list could simply mean he has options: take a homegrown player deal from RBNY, or take his chances in the draft. But there is evidence to suggest Borges wasn’t entirely convinced he was going to be signing with RBNY this year:
On Marcello Borges as RBNY HG. "The New York RB has a right to me as a player for playing at his academy. If they do not make it their priority, I'll try my luck in the draft". That was to Globo Esporte on 11/05/2018. https://t.co/LYrCAEtWOE— Profe Mapu (@JuanMapu) December 13, 2018
Comments reported by Globo in November suggest Borges was not counting on even necessarily getting an offer from the Red Bulls:
The New York RB has a right to me as a player for playing at his academy. If they do not make it their priority, I’ll try my luck in the draft.
Since the Red Bulls made it their policy to sign homegrown players every year, we have seen just about every possible scenario play out between the club and the RBNY Academy products it seeks to add to its roster. At the end of 2015, Brandon Allen was on the initial list of MLS Player Combine invites - and he signed a homegrown player deal with the Red Bulls about 10 days after the list was published. Dan Metzger opted to bypass the homegrown player route, entered the 2015 MLS SuperDraft and was selected by D.C. United - but didn’t make it through pre-season with the MLS club and signed with NYRB II in USL for 2015 (and ended up playing three seasons with the II team). Adam Najem and RBNY reportedly haggled over terms in the 2017 pre-season, until the Red Bulls gave up and flipped his homegrown player rights to Philadelphia Union for a draft pick.
It would be premature to say Borges isn’t going to be with RBNY next season - history suggests highly-rated homegrown prospects keep their options open. We likely won’t know what path to the pros Borges will follow until he makes that choice himself.
Janos Loebe: lightly-used forward with RBNY U-23s in PDL (USL League Two) this summer. He tallied 26 goals and 31 assists in 79 appearances during a four-year college career at Fordham. Any interest the Red Bulls may have in drafting him will likely have to be balanced against the fact he is German and therefore would require an international roster spot.
Rashid Nuhu: ranked #2 in Everybody Soccer’s November survey of NCAA goalkeepers, Nuhu spent the summer with RBNY U-23s. With three ‘keepers on MLS contracts already, RBNY is likely looking for a fourth-string GK to sign directly to the II team in USL. Nuhu played his college soccer at Fordham: alma mater of long-time Red Bull Ryan Meara.
The 2019 Player Combine will run from January 3-9 in Orlando. The 2019 MLS SuperDraft will be on January 11.