Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The NCAA Men’s College season kicks off on Friday night, with a large contingent of players who starred in the PDL this past summer getting ready to represent their college programs in the pursuit of the College Cup. After an exciting summer of soccer across North America, we take a look at who to watch out for this fall.
Carolina Dynamo – Boyd Okwuonu, North Carolina
Okwuonu played a major role when available for the Dynamo this summer, also splitting time with the U.S. U20 National Team as they competed in the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland and international friendlies with Chile and Uruguay. The versatile defender showed his speed down the flank in the PDL Championship Game, where he played at right back for the Dynamo, but is just as comfortable in the center of defense, where he is expected to start for the defending national champion Tar Heels this season.
Portland Timbers U-23s – Mark Sherrod, Memphis
A candidate for PDL Rookie of the Year, and an All-League selection, Sherrod had a standout summer in the Pacific Northwest as he recorded nine goals and five assists for the Timbers U-23s, helping them reach the playoffs after one season’s absence. The powerful striker is hoping to replicate his outstanding redshirt sophomore season when he scored 19 goals in 18 games for the Tigers, which landed him on this season’s preseason MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List
Reading United – Greg Cochrane, Louisville
Cochrane was a stalwart for United as it reached the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season this summer, earning All-Eastern Conference honors as his side conceded the fewest goals in the Mid Atlantic Division. Cochrane logged 2,144 minutes for the Cardinals last season, the second-most on the team, and the preseason No. 7 is looking for as consistent a performance this fall as he enters his senior season.
Michigan Bucks – Adam Grinwis, Michigan
The PDL’s Goalkeeper and Rookie of the Year will have a big role to play if the Wolverines are to return to the NCAA Tournament in Chaka Daley’s first season in charge. Grinwis split time in goal with the University of Charleston’s Sean Teepen in the PDL regular season, but played in the majority of the Bucks’ big games throughout the season, including their U.S. Open Cup victory against the Chicago Fire and both of their PDL Playoff contests. Grinwis will get an early chance in the spotlight this season, with the Wolverines’ opening game of the season at the University of South Florida being broadcast on Fox Soccer Friday night.
Ventura County Fusion – Gyasi Zardes, CSU Bakersfield
The Roadrunners are ranked No. 17 by TopDrawerSoccer in their preseason rankings, and a big reason why is Zardes, who had a standout sophomore season last fall with 18 goals. Zardes then had a strong summer for the Fusion, earning All-Western Conference honors after scoring eight goals for the Southwest Division champion, with the 6-foot-2 forward’s combination of power and speed a handful for most defenses. While New Mexico is the favorite to win the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, the Roadrunners are expected to challenge, with Zardes leading the charge.
Portland Timbers U-23s – Eric Miller, Creighton
As with Carolina’s Boyd Okwuonu, Miller’s time with the Timbers U-23s was limited due to time spent with the U.S. U20 National Team, but the central defender was an automatic starter for Portland when available, playing the full 90 minutes in each of his six appearances. Miller was part of a standout defense last fall for the Bluejays, who led the nation with a 0.21 goals-against average as they reached the national semifinals. Starting this fall ranked No. 3 in the nation, another national title run is expected.
Real Colorado Foxes – Kyle Venter, New Mexico
A key component for the Lobos as they completed an undefeated regular season in 2011, Venter also had a big role for the Foxes as they reached the playoffs for the second time in club history. The strong center back made 11 appearances for the Foxes this summer, playing more than 900 minutes, after a 2011 college season that saw him named to the NSCAA All-America Second Team. With the Lobos aiming to advance further than their trip to the Sweet Sixteen this season, Venter be expected to be at the top of his game.
New Orleans Jesters – Patrick Mullins, Maryland
Named to the ACC All-Conference Second Team last fall, Mullins will look to pick up where he left off for the Jesters this summer as he begins his junior season with the Terrapins. The New Orleans native had seven goals and an assist for the Jesters in 12 appearances, following his six goals and three assists for Maryland last fall, and is a prime candidate to replace the production of Casey Townsend, now in Major League Soccer, having been named one of the team’s captains this offseason.
Sounders FC U23 – DeAndre Yedlin, Akron
A PDL All-League selection, Yedlin had a standout summer for the Sounders U23, marshalling their defense as the club claimed the Western Conference Championship. Now back with the Zips, the same is expected of the sophomore, with the Zips aiming to build on their run to the Sweet Sixteen a season ago and get back into the national title picture. Yedlin will have help from one of his Sounders teammates, with Aodhan Quinn also expected to play a key role after recording 10 assists a season ago.
FC London – Jordan Ayris, Fairfield
The MVP of the PDL Championship Game, Ayris is hoping to lead the Stags back to the NCAA Tournament after a standout summer that saw the sophomore earn All-Central Conference honors after recording 23 points in 11 games, including nine goals. The Stags are expected to get tough competition from Iona in the MAAC for a place in the tournament, but Ayris will also be expected to step up in a pair of tough non-conference matches against No. 24 Boston College and No. 6 New Mexico.