One week removed from College Cup, it is time to take a look back at the 2010 season. Here are some of my thoughts on the season with a brief look to the future:
The Zips Grab Their Crown:
If you buy into the words of Caleb Porter, you were led to believe the Akron Zips were the top team in the country the last two seasons. On December 12, Porter and the Zip faithful claimed the hardware to back up that statement.
Akron lifted the trophy following a 1-0 victory over Louisville at Harder Stadium in the College Cup final for their first championship in school history. The lone strike came from New England Revolution Academy product, Scott Caldwell. The sophomore midfielder picked up the Most Outstanding Player on offense for his play during College Cup. His game-winner came on the end of a personal best five goals in seven games.
It was quite a month for the Caldwell family as a week earlier, his sister, Amy, reached the College Cup with the women’s Boston College team before falling to Stanford in the semifinal.
The Value Of Recruiting:
Following the title game, Caleb Porter gleefully spoke about the early days with Anthony Ampaipitakwong. He thanked the senior playmaker for making the leap of faith to commit to Akron and Porter’s vision.
Ampaipitakwong was the first chip for the Zips. He was the piece that allowed assistant coach Jared Embick and Porter to sell their program to future stars. Prior to the season, Embick told goal.com that the toughest part about recruiting “was getting the first national team player.” After that, Akron could count on other national teamers following the lead- especially those from Ohio. Three out of the six current verbal commits for the recruiting class of 2011 hail from Ohio.
Widely regarded as some of the top recruiters, it is interesting to see that five of Akron’s six recruits from the class of 2011 are from MLS academies, perhaps an indication that MLS academies are securing the top talent in their respective areas for their youth teams.
Prior to Porter grabbing the reigns at Akron, current Louisville Coach Ken Lolla put in the foundation for success at the Ohio school, a point that was not lost on Porter who gave plenty of thanks to the former tactician for the Zips during the post-game press conference. Lolla’s work gave Porter and his staff the foundation they needed to pitch Akron to a quartet of MLS players and plenty more in the pipeline including the prized jewel in Ampaipitakwong.
Now, Lolla is working on a different long-term goal, his own NCAA title. It is very rare to see a team get to the College Cup for the first team and walk away with the title. Louisville, with (likely) nine starters returning, are going to be even more dangerous next year if the stars align and the Cardinals make it to Birmingham in December.
Going, going, GONE!
Speaking of lost players after this season, there will be a few teams hit with stars exiting early for the professional stage. While the final Generation Adidas list has not been released, names are slowly trickling out.
Last Tuesday, D.C. United signed Maryland sophomore defender Ethan White. The center back started and played in 43 of a possible 46 games during his team at College Park. The three he missed were due to injury this season. Prior to Maryland, White played with the D.C. United Academy and was signed under the homegrown player rule.
White is not alone in leaving College Park early, junior keeper Zac MacMath is also on the way out the door according to a report in the Washington Post.
The bad news is not solely reserved for the right coast; UCSB will also see two early exits from their ranks. Head coach Tim vom Steeg told Mark Patton of the Santa Barbara News Press that junior midfielder Danny Barrera is exploring professional options. Barrera was not on the initial Generation Adidas list and will likely be looking for work abroad.
Also taking the early train, junior midfielder/defender Michael Tetteh. Vom Steeg told Patton that Tetteh will take a Generation Adidas contract if offered one, the Ghanaian was on the original list and a likely first round pick in the draft next month. The quartet will likely be joined by between four and six other early jumpers in the coming weeks prior to the MLS SuperDraft in January.
The mantra by UCSB since last season was finally achieved on the national stage during College Cup. The picturesque weather and enormous attendance numbers (9,672 for the championship game) portrayed the coastal school in the most flattering light.
While much of the talk from the local beat writers surrounded the possibility of Santa Barbara assuming the role as permanent host to the event, NCAA still has a lot of options to weigh before possibly contemplating that decision in February.
However, this conversation might have been quite different if College Cup had happened a week later at UCSB. Goleta has been covered in rain all weekend with nearly five inches over the course of 72 hours. Not quite the same as snow, but definitely not as ideal weather as last weekend. Apparently, timing is everything- even in soccer heaven.
Go West, Young Man:
Caleb Porter repeatedly said he would have no problem with UCSB playing the role as the home for the College Cup in the future. He concluded with, “I love California.” He loves the Golden State so much that he is going to make the journey out to the Pacific Coast again in 2011 to play UCSB in early October.
Joining Akron in the journey west will be West Virginia in 2011; Coach Marlon LeBlanc tweeted that his Mountaineers will also be playing in front of the tortilla-tossing crowd.
RPI- College Soccer’s BCS?
Speaking of the Pacific schools, there was plenty of complaint about the RPI at the beginning of the post-season. The majority of that came from the UC Irvine Anteaters who enjoyed a successful season with 14 wins, a Big West regular season title and national rankings in the top ten for the majority of the year but were left with a shortened season as they never received an invite to the Big Dance.
ESPN LA’s Scott French laid out the basis of Irvine’s argument last month: here.
As good as Irvine was this year, they really do not have the validity in their complaint that they probably believe. They only played three out-of-conference road games this season (UNLV, Drake, and Sacramento State). The Anteaters went 1-1-1 in those games. Hardly a resounding success given none of those teams were ranked at the end of the season and only one made the tournament.
Not to be an NCAA apologist - the system is far from perfect - but let’s not go overboard harping on the system when they may not have been that far off with the field this season.
At the very least, the Big West and UC Irvine will be given an RPI boast next year with UCSB’s challenging schedule. Perhaps this will help the Big West pick up a secondary berth into the NCAA tourney next fall.
End of the year stats:
Penn State junior forward Corey Hertzog led the nation in points per game (2.09), total goals (20), and total points (46). Duke sophomore striker Ryan Finley led the nation in goals per game (0.94).
High Point University’s Scott Rojo led the nation in assists per game (0.85) and tied for the lead in total assists with Penn State senior Matheus Braga (17).
None of the chart toppers made the finalist list for the MAC Hermann Trophy. That honor was bestowed on Will Bruin, Colin Rolfe, and Darlington Nagbe with the winner to be announced on January 7. The trio are all juniors, meaning it could be another year of the strikers terrorizing defenses; however, Nagbe and Bruin were on the initial MLS Generation Adidas list and could be lured to depart their universities a year early.
J.R. Eskilson is the Youth Soccer editor at goal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NCAAsoccer