Selemani: the Peppers of other football [via MGoBlue]
[Ed-Seth: Michigan's soccer program has been climbing the sport's ranks in fits and starts. Last year was a bit of a fit, but this season could well be the start of something big after the Wolverines brought in a monster recruiting class, highlighted by the nation's 3rd best prospect whom most expected to be going pro. MGoSoccer correspondent Andy Schreur, who has covered the USMNT for Yanks-Abroad, met with Michigan's head coach to discuss the class and upcoming season].
Coach Chaka Daley begins his third year in charge of the Michigan Men’s Soccer Program with arguably the strongest recruiting class in the program’s 14 year history. The class, featuring seven freshmen and one transfer is ranked 2nd in the country by TopDrawerSoccer.com.
|Michigan Soccer 2014 Schedule|
|Aug 29||Home||FIU (L, 0-1)|
|Sep 16||Home||Bowling Green|
|Sep 28||Home||Penn State|
|Oct 1||Home||Western Michigan|
|Oct 7||Home||Notre Dame|
|Nov 2||@||Michigan State|
|Nov 5||Home||Ohio State|
|Big Ten Tourney||Nov 8, 9, 14, 16|
|NCAA Tourney||Nov 20, 23, 29, Dec 5|
|College Cup||Dec 12, 14|
Michigan finished last season with a 8-7-3 record and lost in the Big Ten Tournament to Indiana 2-1 in extra time.
Recruits: Michigan didn’t have to go far to find perhaps their most exciting incoming freshman in Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Ahinga Selemani, who is a powerful center forward and expected to contribute right away. Selemani is on the U-18 National Team currently and was also in the U-17 Residency program and is ranked at the #3 player in the country by collegesoccernews.com and plays with the Columbus Crew Academy.
Coach Daley on Selemani:
He’s a center forward, he’s powerful, athletic, goal-scorer and one of the young, exciting talents in the country. He’s had kind of a whirlwind tour going around with the National Team and the Residency down in Bradenton and being all over the world at such a young age, he’s come back and realized, I think what some people don’t when they leave Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor’s a great city and you don’t realize what you have until you leave it. He was really invested in coming to Michigan.
Included in the incoming class are New York Red Bull Academy players Billy Stevens and Evan Louro, two of the top prospects in the country. Louro, a 6’3 goalkeeper, is expected to challenge Redshirt Senior Adam Grinwis for the starting job. Stevens is a central defender who has played on the U-14 and U-15 US National Team’s and could also see significant playing time as a true freshman. Daley:
Evan Louro is the New York Red Bull #1 and in (National Team) Residency with Ahinga as well. He’s arguably the best goalkeeper of his class coming out. His potential, I think, is limitless. He’s got a really high ceiling and he will complete with Adam Grinwis who is an outstanding goalkeeper as is a fifth year senior. I think Evan will come in and compete with him early in his college career, and that makes it exciting right away to have that kind of competition from a freshman and a fifth year guy.
Stevens, a captain in the New York Red Bull Academy, is a central defender who will likely have an immediate impact of Michigan’s projected 4-3-3 formation. Daley:
Billy Stevens is a central defender and captain of the U-16 Red Bull’s National Academy Champions. He was one of the captains of the U-18 Red Bull team, who was ranked #1 for much of the season this year. We’re excited to have his leadership, personality, grit and soccer IQ joining our team. We think he’s certainly a foundational player for the future.
[After the jump: raiding Ohio, season preview.]
Daley has also targeted Ohio in addition to the east coast and managed to snag the best two Ohio high school players in the past two years, both of whom play for the Columbus Crew Academy. Daley:
In two years, we’ve gotten the two best players out of Ohio. Last year we got the best player in Ohio, Rylee Woods and this year we got Nate Kohl, which both are Columbus Crew guys, training with the first team type of guys. They are young products that we are certainly excited about.
Woods started 15 matches in his freshman season at left back and is expected to start again this season. Kohl is coming off knee surgery and has played for the US National Junior Teams in the past. He was ranked at the 23rd best player in the country by CollegeSoccerNews.com out of high school.
Schedule: Michigan’s schedule also offers them some big challenges, which Daley was looking for. Matches on the 2014 schedule include defending National Champion Notre Dame and Runner-Up Maryland. The addition of Maryland into the Big Ten instantly improves the conference’s profile and competitiveness. Maryland has won three NCAA Tournament Titles, most recently in 2005 and 2008. Incredibly, since 1994, they have only missed the NCAA Tournament once, in 2000. They are the back-to-back ACC Conference Tournament and Regular Season champions. Michigan welcomes the Terrapins to Ann Arbor on Friday, September 12th. Daley again:
You could argue that the (Big Ten) could be top league in the country. The way you value your league is based on not so much the top teams but the bottom of the league. Adding Maryland, the team with the most pedigree in the last 15 years in college soccer to the Big Ten, and Rutgers with that history which Dan (Donigan) is trying to bring back to the fold makes our league competitive with the ACC, without question.
Additionally, Michigan plays at Wisconsin, Michigan State and Akron in October while they will host 2012 National Champions Indiana on October 26th.
Michigan’s youthful attack will be bolstered by veterans James Murphy, whose wonder goal last year even elicited a comment from Thierry Henry. Murphy and Team Captain Tyler Arnone are expected to anchor Michigan’s midfield this season. Arnone, a Red Shirt Senior from upstate New York, was a First Team All-Big Ten player each of the last two seasons and the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year in 2013. Arnone also lead the team with five assists last season.
Daley expects Michigan to play in a 4-3-3 formation and having experienced midfielders and returning defenders will take some pressure off a young and talented forward corps during the long season.
We’re going to rely a lot on guys that are excellent leaders and founding fathers since we’ve been here. Like Tyler Arnone, who is our captain and Grinwis and Marcos Ugarte, who is a transfer from Providence. They’re doing a great job already of leading the group to be prepared for the rigors of a tough season. We also know that if we don’t challenge ourselves, we won’t be prepared for the end of the season. In order to complete for championships, you need to challenge yourself in and out of conference. With the RPI, I used to be on the National Search Committee, so I understand how that works. It’s been certainly exciting to put the schedule together and I’d rather be playing SMU and Florida International the first weekend than someone else.
Expectations are high around Michigan soccer with the strength of the recruiting class and key contributing returners. Daley purposely scheduled a difficult schedule to test his players and take Michigan’s Soccer program to national prominence.
We’re certainly trying to push the envelope with these young guys. They’re going to grow as a result of the experience of playing these big teams and they’re going to fall down but they won’t break because they have great character and resilience and it’s going to be a very exciting time for Michigan soccer over the next few years.
Daley remains confident that he’s put the right players in place and execution will rest on his shoulders going forward.
For me personally, it’ll be the best collection of players I would have ever coached. Is it going to be the best team? That’s the way we need to now function and grow.
Michigan's pre-season concluded with an exhibition against 14th ranked Louisville, a 1-0 Michigan win through a 28th minute goal from Selemani.
Michigan officially kicks off their season on Friday, August 29th at home versus Florida International at 4pm.