The arrival of this weekend’s MLS Combine and next week’s MLS SuperDraft means the beginning of the MLS preseason is just around the corner. With that in mind:

Over at Maryland, head coach Sasho Cirovski said that midfielder Matt Kassel was in the final stages of locking up a homegrown player contract with the New York Red Bulls (which you might’ve learned through my news-breaking tweet this morning). Terps defender Ethan White is already with D.C. United – actually, he’s currently training with the U.S. under-20s – but it remains to be seen whether he’s ready to assume a starting role with D.C. right away next season.

Cirovski has high hopes for goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who may be one of the most talented players in next week’s draft but could drop down past the first few picks because teams are in search of field players and potential attacking talent. Asked if signing with MLS was the right choice for MacMath, Cirovski expressed some concern about whether MacMath would land with a team where there is playing time available. The three years that former Terps keeper Chris Seitz spent as a backup at Real Salt Lake hurt Seitz in his first season as a starter this season with Philadelphia, which let him go in last month's re-entry draft to Seattle, which in turn eventually traded him to FC Dallas.

“Hopefully the Seitz situation was a one-off,” said Cirovski.

Maryland's Jason Herrick and Billy Cortes are also participating in the combine. Herrick is projected as a late first-round or early second-round pick.

Also, a few tidbits I picked up along the way that didn’t quite get into today’s print edition story about Maryland-Baltimore County forward Levi Houapeu and James Madison forward C.J. Sapong, who both have been described as what’s right about college soccer. They also might’ve been interesting test cases for D.C. United had MLS homegrown rules been instituted earlier.

Houapeu didn’t play organized soccer until he tried out as a freshman at Watkins Mill in Gaithersburg. He also didn’t make varsity that year. Coach Jeff Heckert did grab him sophomore year, and Houapeu also credits his time with the Potomac Cougars in advancing his development as a player prior to joining UMBC.

The Ivory Coast native – his father works for the embassy in Washington – aspires to play for his national team someday.Houapeu is a massive fan of fellow countryman Didier Drogba but patterns his game after guys like Carlos Tevez and Samuel Eto’o.

The professional route also could’ve started earlier than this winter for Houapeu, who had an offer to join Portland last year, according to UMBC head coach Pete Caringi. He’s also been tracked by Los Angeles, New York and D.C. United.

“He just does a lot of things by instinct,” said Caringi. “I think a lot of kids are brought up playing where they may be overcoached as young players. Levi just does a lot of things, it’s just natural how he handles the ball.”

Sapong’s parents are from Ghana, but he’s born and bred American – his former high school coach at Forest Park, Ken Krieger, said he wouldn’t put it past him to one day get on the radar of the U.S. national team.

“In every situation he’s been in, he’s first adapted, then excelled,” said Krieger.

James Madison head coach Tom Martin said Sapong, who played his club soccer with Prince William Soccer, really started to make the leap in his game after seeing former Dukes teammates Kurt Morsink (D.C. United) and Nick Zimmerman (New York Red Bulls) both make successful jumps to Major League Soccer.

I’ve heard it said that Sapong could possibly be a first-round pick in next week’s draft, which might make him better than both of his JMU predecessors.