New England Soccer Today

Gettin’ Schooled

Later today, NCAA Tournament finalists UNC-Charlotte and North Carolina wil play for the prestigious College Cup. To give us a better glimpse of what occured during the tournament, Brian O’Connell caught up with Revsnet founder and college soccer expert Mike Marshall to discuss this weekend’s slate of matches, as well as college soccer at large.

Brian: Although we’re on the verge of crowning a new NCAA champion today, what results during this year’s tournament really surprised you?

Mike: It wasn’t a huge upset, but I was surprised that Louisville knocked out Maryland so easily. I watched Louisville play earlier this year, and I thought they played terribly, and they’d really played mediocre soccer for most of the year. But that game served as a reminder that they were still a really talented team who were capable of playing well on their day.

Last year, Akron was a team loaded with talent, and it paid off with the tournament championship, not mention a bevy of SuperDraft selections. Which of this year’s tournament teams reminds you the most of last year’s Akron team?

Mike: Well, they’re not last year’s Akron team, but the closest thing to that team in the Final Four is probably North Carolina. Billy Shuler, Enzo Martinez, and Matt Hedges could all go in the Top 10, and there are a couple of other younger players on the team that I think have a chance to be pretty high picks in future drafts.

Today’s final appears to be a classic David versus Goliath showdown, with Charlotte in the role of David. Is there any chance of Charlotte actually emerging from Sunday’s final as king of the hill?

Absolutely. I’d be a little surprised (…although certainly not shocked) if Charlotte won the whole thing.

From New England, we had UConn, Providence, BC, Brown, Dartmouth, and Fairfield all make it to the tournament this year. Which of these schools impressed you the most, whether it be the way they played or the kind of record they put together?

I have to tip my hat to Ed Kelley at Boston College, who kept the Eagles in the Top 20 for most of the year in the toughest conference in the country, and got all the way to the ACC Championship game before losing to North Carolina. I don’t think this was one of Kelley’s most talented teams, and they still managed to play an attractive brand of soccer.

Which New England-based players opened your eyes this year?

I think BC’s Kyle Bekker had by far, his best season at the Heights. UConn’s Andrew Jean-Baptiste followed up his impressive freshman campaign with an even better sophomore season that saw him named Big East Defender of the Year. And if I had to pick a third player that opened my eyes this year, I’d go with Brown Senior midfielder Rob Medairos, who’s sort of a poor man’s Chris Armas.

If you’re Mike Burns or Jay Heaps, which player or players have you’ve been keeping an eye on during the Final Four and now today’s final to help improve the Revs next year?

If I’m Burns or Heaps, I’m there to watch three players – UCLA’s Kelyn Rowe, and the North Carolina duo of Enzo Martinez and Billy Schuler. That’s it. Those are the only three that should even enter into the discussion with pick #3. Rowe is shifty, highly-skilled midfielder who is UCLA’s offensive spark plug. Martinez is the same sort of player for the Tar Heels… a little bigger and better defensively, but in my mind, he doesn’t have quite the skill or vision of Rowe. Schuler is kind of a poor man’s Taylor Twellman in that he’s really athletic and he’s an excellent finisher, but he’s also inconsistent and he’s had some significant injuries at a fairly young age.

Speaking of Schuler, and highly-touted college strikers in general, let me ask you this: as someone who knows both the college game and MLS, why do so many top-notch college strikers fall short in MLS?

If I had the definitive answer to that question, I’d be an MLS General Manager. The simple answer is that the college game isn’t the pro game. In the college game, you can be really successful by being bigger or stronger or faster or smarter or more skilled than your opponent. But in MLS, you’ve got to bring multiple skills to the table. The proverbial one trick ponies that can occasionally look dominant in college rarely find success in MLS.

Who do you have coming out on top later today?

North Carolina’s got the most talent from top to bottom, so they’d have to be the favorites.

One Comment

  1. ABU

    December 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Great article! It’s nice to get some insight into the college game.

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