CHI’s NCAA Men’s Preseason Division I Top 25
(in all honesty it’s an aggregate of Top Drawer Soccer’s and the NSCAA’s)
Updated Aug. 14, 2007
CHI Rank) Average-NSCAA Rank-TDS Rank School [2006 Record]
1) 2.5-1-4 UCSB [17-7-0]
The Gauchos – as returning NCAA champions – take the honor of pre-season #1 knowing full well that a hard season lies ahead. After starting the 2006 season only 7-6, someone – most notably head coach Tim Vom Steeg – delivered a firm kick in the ass to the Gaucho squad and worked them into winning 11 out of the next 12 games and the NCAA Tourney. They lose 5 of their starting 11, but reinforcements have been called in. Transfer Ciaran O’Brien will shore up the midfield which lost a talented member in Tyler Rosenlund. Bryan Byrne (graduation/Revs) and Kyle Reynish (RSL) have moved on but a capable keeper in Bryant Reuckner – who is capped at the U-17 level – and forwards Tino Nunez and Andrew Proctor will certainly suffice. The key to the Gauchos is their quality of depth and it will be vital in their bid to repeat.
2) 2.5-3-2 UCLA [14-6-4]
Another extremely deep and talented squad returns a hungry bunch looking to overthrow the Gauchos at the top. Yes, wide man Sal Zizzo has gone to Hannover 96 in Germany and Kiel McClung graduated to the California Victory, but UCLA still has a wealth of options at their disposal. At forward, with 25 goals between them, David Estrada, Jason Leopoldo, and Maxwell Griffin look to produce even more this year. U20 WC defender Tony Beltran earned vital experience and will look to translate to the collegiate playing field, while Brian Perk – the Pan-Am games starter – will man the nets nobly. Who will serve them though? No problem – Kyle Nakazawa returns with 8 assists last year while defenders (though they sometimes move up) Brandon Owens and Greg Folk help the cause. The Bruins are my pre-season pick for NCAA Champions of 2007.
3) 2.5-1-4 Duke [18-4-1]
Though picked as the ACC favorite to win and returning ACC champs, the Blue Devils were shunned by the NSCAA falling a place under fellow-ACCers Wake Forest. The talent-rich Duke squad is led by pre-season All-Americans Michael Videira and Mike Grella. Ranked as high as 2nd in other pre-season polls, the Devils dropped a preseason result to Coastal Carolina while beating #25 UConn 1-0 on Aug 25th. They’ll have to deal with the loss of Chris Loftus to the New England Revolution and Kyle Helton to the pro ranks as well. Their goal: to improve upon last year’s Final Four appearance where they lost in overtime, 3-2 to the eventual runner-ups – UCLA.
4) 3.5-2-5 Virginia [17-4-1]
The third of six ACC reps in the Preseason Top 20. The Cavs have lost a lot, almost to the point that it makes this 5th place ranking a bit wondrous. Their most important losses were to MLS clubs – Bakary Soumare (Chicago), Nico Colaluca (Colorado), and Adam Cristman (Revs). All are performing well for their respective pro clubs, while the only silver lining seems to be the return of German import Yannick Reyering who was the team scoring leader last season with 12 goals. Not to mention, the #1 recruit of last year’s freshman class – Jonathan Villanueva who has starred at the U-17 and U-15 levels for US Soccer. Only time will tell for the Cavs, but on paper more is lost then coming in. The progress of Reyering and Villanueva is crucial, while the midfield will be captained by junior midfielder Jeremy Barlow who recently scored the lone goal in an exhibition win over South Florida. Amidst all my skepticism about UVA’s prospects, one can never bet against the true star of the team – coach George Gelnovatch. Is another Final Four appearance feasible though? Sure.
5) 5-7-3 Wake Forest [18-3-4]
The Demon Deacons lost a good crop of talent to the pro ranks this off-season as Ryan Solle (Revs), Wells Thompson (Revs), and Stephen Curfman (Revs) all left to try their hand at the bigs. The progress of midfielder and South Jersey native Jamie Franks and U-20 wingback Julian Valentin are a virtual must in order for the Deacons to move forward this year. Their defense and striker corps ranks among the nation’s best (even with the losses), but the midfield needs to improve readily to warrant a 3rd place ranking.
6) 5.5-5-6 Santa Clara [13-5-5]A total of three Broncos took part in the Pan-American games this past July, which sizes up their squad’s youth nicely. That crew is led by the immensely talented incoming freshman duo of Janil Anibaba and GK Kevin Klasila. The team is led, however, by Hermann Trophy watch list senior midfielder Peter Lowry. The losses are felt though as Amaechi Igwe went pro to D.C. United, Erick Ustruck graduated to Houston, and forward Keith DeVey graduated as well. Defender Matt Hatzke (younger brother of Nick, Houston Dynamo player) and soph midfielder Stephen McCarthy look not let it effect the Broncos too much as they try and re-spark the dominance Santa Clara once had.
7) 7-6-8 SMU [17-2-4]
Poised to do great things last year, but a little bad luck and a lack of results led the once top-ranked team in the nation to fizzle out in the NCAA Tourney. The Mustangs did win Conference-USA somewhat easily and look to do it again this year with the help of junior midfielder and C-USA Player of the Year Bruno Guarda. Anyone would also feel safe with U-20 WC back up Steve Sandbo in net and even more so with All C-USA defender Adrian Chevannes there to protect him. Unfortunately – Sandbo was a back-up to a great goalkeeper in Matt Wideman and Guarda’s production can’t beat that of striker/attacking mid Chase Wileman who moved into the pro ranks after scoring 8 goals and notching 13 assists last year. Chevannes also partners with Jay Needham, now in the USL after refusing to sign with MLS powerhouse D.C. United. The Mustangs, regardless, should rise again and some stars will definitely inch out of the woodwork with the upcoming season.
8] 9.5-12-7 Indiana [15-5-2]
U-20 WC standout Ofori Sarkodie headlines a healthy Hoosier squad which also includes two potent forwards in the form of soph Darren Yeagle and jr. Brian Ackley who both had 7 goals last season. Add a good recruiting class and you have yourself a team that can challenge yet again for the Big-10 title. The loss of John Michael Hayden to Houston and Josh Tudela to Los Angeles will sting, but a core defensive unit led by second team All-Big 10 selection Greg Stevning will certainly soften the blow. Look for a Big-10 repeat and a better showing at the NCAA’s – a Final Four finish perhaps?
9) 10-11-9 Maryland [16-5-1]
Like Virginia, the Terrapins are going to have a real hard time filling the shoes of the likes of Maurice Edu (picked #1 in the MLS Superdraft) and goalkeeper Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake, US U-20 WC Standout). Add that to the graduation of midfielder A.J. Godbolt (who was with the Kansas City Wizards for a whil, could still be) and you’ve got a lot of quality gone. Maryland – over the years – has created a program that attracts quality though and the Terps could come back strong. Though Maurice Edu was the heartbeat, it was the duo of Graham Zusi (11 goals) and Pan-Am participant Jeremy Hall (7 goals) who provided the finishing touch. Shawnee (NJ) product Stephen King (no relation) will be the motor and try and provide Zusi and Hall with their chances, with support from Drew Yates who should see more time this year and incoming freshman Yannick Salmon – a member of the Jamaican U-17 National Team. The defense includes the dependable A.J. Delagarza and Spencer Allen who between them missed one game. Though Seitz was seen as the best Terp goalkeeper ever, it will be a race between three to get 2007’s job done. If the new pieces fit together, the ACC is wide open but don’t expect Maryland to push far in the tourney.
10) 10-10-10 Notre Dame [15-6-2]
A promising 3-0 win over New Mexico in the preseason has the Fightin’ Irish confident of big things this year. None of those goals were scored by last year’s Hermann Trophy winner and Irish international Joseph Lapira (22 goals, 6 assists). If he can perform as well as he did last year and senior Ryan Miller can quarterback a serviceable defense, the Irish will be dangerous. Most of their losses last year were mental letdowns – losing to teams of lesser quality – and that seemed to be remedied early on in the NCAA Tourney. That is…until they met the University of Virginia in the quarters and lost 3-2. They need more weapons to be a significant threat as now-Chicago reserve Nate Norman and powerful defender Greg Dalby have moved into the pro ranks and Lapira can’t do all the offensive work. If Lapira finds support, watch the Irish soar.
11) 10-9-11 Cal [13-6-1]
Eric Ebert and Nick Hatzke were both taken by Houston Dynamo and Steve Purdy has signed a contract with Bundesliga-2 club 1860 Munich (Josh Wolff’s squad). This mini-exodus at least leaves them a quality scorer in Javier Ayala-Hil who struck for 12 goals last term. He’ll probably pair up with Jacob Wilson to get the job done on the offensive side of things. Any sort of injury bug could ruin the Golden Bear’s season as depth is not their strong suit. The defense is captained by Jeff Serafini and Tyler Barry which needs to step up even more this year to secure a decent performance in the PAC-10.
12) 11.5-8-15 New Mexico [14-4-3]
In the middle of an unsuccessful but lesson-rich preseason, the Lobos are hoping to continue last year’s progress. Their biggest loss was Kiwi international defender Andrew Boyens who now plies his trade for Toronto FC. The future is very bright for UNM as ten starters return and a promising freshman class comes in. They started the year slow last year, going 2-2-2 in their first six, if that can be avoided this year and the youth starts to capitalize on experience, we could see a real hard team to beat this year. My sleeper of the top 25. Expect an increasingly competitive striker corps to wreak havoc all year, spreading the fun around, but the transfer of Brandon Barklage to St. Louis will hurt a bit.
13) 13.5-14-13 West Virginia [15-3-3]
The number one party school in the country also happens to have and produce immense soccer talent. Their talent took a hit however after the 2006 season when Jarrod Smith – a Kiwi international – was taken by Toronto FC (the forward scored 14 goals in 15 apps) and solid goalkeeper Nick Noble was snatched away by Chicago. Two is less than many as there are many waiting in the wings for the Mountaineers. Unfortunately, none of those are attackers. Dan Stratford is ready to set up the scorers, senior right-back Pat Carroll is ready to lead the defenders – but who will take Jarrod Smith’s place? If that question is answered sufficiently, WVU could surprise again. I don’t expect that to be the case though.
14) 15-16-14 Northwestern [14-8-0]
The Huskies lose two seasoned veterans in Brad North (DC United and the first Husky to play in the MLS) and Gerardo Alvarez, but they have a lot to build upon. Eamon O’Neil is poised for a breakout year, while the offensive team of David Roth (8 goals, 5 assists) and Carl Pett (1 g, 9 assists) will make up for the loss of North. They may not match their ranking of 8th last year but they can certainly help themselves to a few big wins and possibly make a decent run in the tourney.
15) 15-13-17 St. John’s (N.Y.) [14-6-2]
Jason Landers and Ryan Soroka return as the heart and soul of the Red Storm. Soroka registered 9 goals and assists last year while Landers manned the nets admirably earning 2007 Pre-Season All-American honors. The key to St. John’s success will be the development of the supporting cast. Incoming freshman Danny Stott (once linked to Red Bull New York) should factor into an extremely young backline after plying his trade in the Bolton Youth Academy. Jeff Stepan and Rory Quinn will have to help improve the midfield to keep the Red Storm in the Top 25 and ready to compete against the elite.
16) 16-20-12 Clemson [13-5-2]
The Tigers were devastated to lose raw talent Dane Richards (who is lighting up the MLS with New York), net-minder Phil Marfuggi (Revs), and Frederico Moojen (with the Montreal Impact of the USL-1). Clemson has a large veteran presence to build their team around though – that being in the form of senior midfielder Mark Buchholz. They are also expecting big things from Danny Poe who had 4 goals and 3 assists in only 19 games last season. The pride and joy of the South Carolina university is their recruiting class which boasts several players ranked in the Top-25 recruit-wise heading into this season.
17) 16.5-15-18 Washington [13-7-1]
An 8-game win streak to start the season last year fizzled quickly, but the future is looking real bright for the Huskies. They return 9 of 11 starters last year including 2006’s Pac-10 player of the year Kevin Forrest (16 goals last year) and a decent frosh class is coming in headlined by US U-17 standout Ellis McLoughlin, a Seattle native. The firepower is not UW’s problem, however, as it is Ty Harden (the standout LA Galaxy centreback) and Matt Fischer (who wears a Seattle Sounders uniform now) who have to be replaced in order for the Huskies to improve their inter-conference record this season and move farther than the 2nd round in the NCAA Tourney. If Washington can fill their shoes – expect a damn good run.
18) 19-20-18 Towson [15-2-3]
An often overlooked squad based in Maryland, these guys certainly know how to play. This year’s Tigers will most likely not reach their 15th place ranking of 2006, but help is on the way to prove me wrong. Top 100 Recruit Scott Horta is on his way in to support a crew consisting of senior Nigel Marples, junior midfield standout Patrick Healey, and senior Sebastian Haensel who looks to regain his 2005 striker form. Towson could have a good year if they are all on the same page, but outdoing last year seems unlikely.
19) 20-24-16 North Carolina [11-6-3]
Always somewhat in the shadow of a dominant women’s soccer program, the Tarheel men are making a leap of their own as they look to gain their 9th straight bid to the NCAA Tournament this coming season. Their offense is what needs to improve as the defense has a capable leader in Andre Sherard, who sits on the shortlist for Hermann Trophy possibilities for this upcoming season. The loss of Michael Harrington and Corey Ashe to the professional ranks will hurt but a strong incoming freshman class (ranked #11) and honest competition in the ACC will help the team acclimate.
20) 20-23-17 UNC Greensboro [16-8-1]Senior defender David Worthen is ready to lead a Randi Patterson-less squad into a year of the unknown. Unknown, you say? Why so? Not only is the high-scoring Patterson gone, but so is Michael FitzGerald (signed with Wilmington of USL-2), Scott Jones (FC Dallas), and Mike Richardson (Charleston, USL-1). Together, they counted for 35 goals and 21 assists last year. Team-wise, that is 35 goals out of 50 and 21 assists out of 41. Those are negative numbers. In consolation, their incoming freshman class was ranked in the Top 40 again and one veteran remains in the form of Thomas Campbell (7 g, 2 a). Why did the NSCAA put them in the Top 25? We will soon find out – I predict the Spartans are on their way out though.
21) 20.5-22-19 Saint Louis [13-5-2]
The long-time hotbed of American soccer is happy to welcome UNM transfer Brandon Barklage into the fold. Add that to key returnees: First Team All-Atlantic 10 midfielder Eric Sweetin, trusty fullback Calum Angus, and the A-10 Rookie of the Year in defender Rob Viviano and you have yourself a great back half. Little scoring was done last year by the returning striker options, but then again not much was done by last year’s striker corps either. Instead, they shared the goods with no person scoring more than 5. A team mentality is good, but a selfish personality might be what the Billikens need this year to push forward.
22) 21.5-21-22 Old Dominion [14-6-2]
The Monarchs return a great back four led by seniors Yomby William and David Horst, as well as a midfield headlined by senior A.J. Kulp. That senior presence will be vital this year in the quest to win the CAA (semifinalist’s last year) and move on farther than the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tourney. Soph GK Evan Newton looks to make it even harder for opponents to put one in, but the real test will be finding the right weapons to provide the goal support. Especially since both goalscorers in Zachary Kinney and Edson Elcock (Kansas City) have moved onwards. Both Evan Newton and David Horst were voted MVP of the PDL season in their respective positions as they played during the summer with the PDL squad Hampton Roads Piranhas. If the striker situation is remedied, they could contend but expect them to crash out of the Top 25.
23) 22-19-25 Lehigh [15-2-3]
The Mountain Hawks of Bethlehem, PA would love to improve upon an unprecedented Sweet Sixteen run in the NCAA Tourney and with their returnees, it looks as if they could do so. Their strongest asset – defense – takes a hit in the form of the graduated All-American John O’Reilly and Joe Verdi. Starting goalkeeper Jim Morahan also graduates after a 0.49 gaa kind of year. Where the defense is lacking, the midfield will have to fill in as all four starters return. No extreme standouts on this team as the emphasis is on playing cohesively. Joe Taranto – a Virginia transfer – had a great first year with the Hawks last year scoring 8 goals, while Kyle Evans – an Ocean City product – will look to improve on his assist count and potential as Lehigh tries for an even better performance this year.
24) 26-24-28 Harvard [14-5-0]
The Crimson return a lot more than just Andre Akpan, although last year’s freshman of the year, U-20 WC all-star, and Pre-Season All-American certainly made a humongous impact on the game. It was Harvard’s year last season as they won the Ivy League outright for the first time in 10 years and earned an outright bid to the NCAA tourney, beating Binghamton 2-1 only to succumb to the firepower of UCLA, 3-0. Akpan’s surrounding cast will have to play to his level and the leadership will come from the team’s only two seniors, Adam Hahn and Matt Hoff. Add them to a potent one-two punch of striker Akpan and midfielder Michael Fucito (who was All-Ivy last season) and you’ve got a foundation to build around.
25) 28.5-25-32 UConn [10-7-2]
Julius James flirted with the pros and then stuck around to lead a trio of hard working seniors with hopes of a Big East title ahead. Nine starters remain and depending on how their youth crop turns out, UConn could field a dynamic and interesting team this season. The Huskies need to find answers in the midfield as Toni Stahl and Dori Arad might not be the answer, but a O’Brian White provides the scoring punch needed (as he has each of the past two previous seasons) to do something in the Big East. Expect them to get lost in the crowd.
Also receiving votes: Creighton, Fairfield, Stanford, Ohio State, UIC, South Carolina, Rutgers, Rhode Island, San Diego State, Winthrop, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Tulsa