For the second part of this College Soccer News MLS prospects series, we will focus on the underclassmen players who MLS could possibly look to sign to Generation Adidas (GA) contracts. Since 2001, MLS has signed an average of 10 players per year to a GA contract, but this number has definitely decreased recently. In the past two years the league has signed 7 each year, but this year’s number is supposed to be the lowest in the program’s history. We will analyze some of the top available underclassmen who the league will likely target for these sought after deals.
*Georgetown defender Joshua Yaro, considered a top 3 pick, has already denied his GA contract and announced he will return for his junior year with the Hoyas.
Generation Adidas Big Board
1. Cyle Larin (UCONN): The Canadian forward has all the tools that MLS scouts look for at the next level, but sources have told College Soccer News exclusively that Larin will look to play in the Netherlands instead of MLS. This wouldn’t go over well with MLS as Larin is the big name on the board. Regardless, if plans fall through in Europe, the Huskies striker would be a lock as a top 3 pick. Despite a slightly disappointing campaign following his phenomenal freshmen season, Larin’s potential puts him in a class of his own. He possesses the size, pace, and touch for a forward that is hard to find for a player coming out of college.
2. Cristian Roldan (Washington): Roldan, a creative playmaker, is an essential signing for MLS, especially since Yaro decided to stay at Georgetown. Last year the Huskies maestro denied MLS’ Generation Adidas contract offer to return for his sophomore season. Roldan, a magician with the ball at his feet is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch due to explosiveness and vision. Like Larin, all eyes were on Roldan this year, and the midfielder many times was followed all over the field for 90 minutes. Despite this special treatment, the NSCAA Third-Team All American still performed welland should be a top 10 pick if he decides to sign.
3. Alex Bono (Syracuse): Bono, a junior goalkeeper, endured a stellar campaign leading the Orange to a Sweet 16 appearance while only allowing 12 goals all year. The Syracuse net-minder is one of the three finalists for the Hermann Trophy award, an impressive feat, especially for a goalkeeper. If the 1st team All-American wins the award, he would be the first goalkeeper to do so since former US National Teamer, Brad Friedel in 1992. Bono has rare combination of size at 6’3” and quickness that puts him over many goalkeepers at the college level. If Bono signs a GA contract, he’ll be the first goalkeeper taken.
4. Michael Amick (UCLA): Amick, a Third Team All-American once again had a solid season for the Bruins, leading the back line on the way to a College Cup final. The sophomore center back has been a fixture with the U.S. youth national teams throughout his youth career and it’s no surprise he has thrived under Jorge Salcedo. Amick is versatile enough to play anywhere in the defensive line and may even be more of an outside back at the next level. Amick may not have the same ceiling as some of the other guys on the list, but like Eric Miller, a GA signing from last year, he’s a guy that could be develop into a very good MLS player.
5. Abu Danladi (UCLA): Danladi, the second fprmerGatorade National Player of the Year had a standout freshman campaign with the Bruins, recording 5 goals and 6 assists. The 5’10” forward out of Ghana’s Right to Dream program has the speed and overall athleticism to compete at the next level, but will need to develop in the right system. I personally feel he would benefit from another year in college to help mature his game, but there’s no doubt he has loads of potential. There’s rumors that MLS has offered Danladi a GA contract already and if he decides to sign, expect the College Cup finalistto be a first round pick.
6. Omar Holness (North Carolina: Holness (2g, 7a), an electric midfielder for the Tar Heels should be a top priority to sign for MLS before Europe comes calling. The 1st team All-ACC honoree has matured dramatically since his sophomore campaign and will only get better. The electric central midfielder was an integral part to North Carolina’s run in the NCAA tournament stepping up and at many times dominating the midfield. After starring with Jamaica’s youth national team setup, Holness received a cap with the full Jamaican National Team this past September only adding to his resumé. Holness would be a first round pick.
7. Tanner Thompson (Indiana) Sophomore- Midfielder
8. James Moberg (Washington) Junior-Midfielder
9. Guillermo Delgado (Delaware) Sophomore-Forward
10. Connor Donovan (North Carolina) Freshman-Defender
11. Jacori Hayes (Wake Forest): Sophomore- Midfielder
12. Patrick Hodan (Notre Dame): Junior- Midfielder
13. Emil Ekblom (Syracuse): Sophomore- Midfielder
14. Brandon Vincent (Stanford): Junior- Defender
Stay tuned for the final part of the series regarding potential college homegrown signings this offseason
In the immediate aftermath of the University of Virginia men’s soccer team’s national championship celebration, Jorge Salcedo’s criticism of the Cavaliers’conservative tactics was questionable. As others have pointed out, the best course of action for the UCLA coach may have been to credit the winner and blame himself for his inability to figure out U.Va. coach George Gelnovatch’s strategy, no matter how much Salcedo disagreed with it. In fact, given the talent disparity between the two teams in the title game, I’d be shocked if Salcedo didn’t have a premonition this could happen. The pack-it-in-your-own-box tactic is, after all, the oldest underdog trick in “Coaching Elite Soccer for Dummies,” if there was such a title.
Salcedo shouldn’t have been the one making this point. But that doesn’t mean he was wrong. He brings up a dilemma that’s been had before in sports, and is particularly pertinent in American soccer: Is winning ugly worth the cost?
The obvious answer seems to be yes. But let’s consider what “cost” really means. Soccer is a sport that is trying desperately to gain popularity in the U.S., and the biggest obstacle is that Americans find it boring. It’s not just a lack of scoring; it’s a lack of action. Beyond the ball rarely finding the net, it’s is often not even in anyone’s possession.
This is particularly true of American soccer. In more soccer-savvy countries, the sport is much more watchable. There is up-and-down action, with creative footwork and passing on nearly every possession. And these possessions, compared to U.S. soccer, are less transient. You don’t see Gelnovatch’s tactic employed to nearly the same degree, because opposing offenses are simply too creative for such a deeply defensive approach to pay dividends.
In the U.S., boring tactics can win – but does this hurt soccer’s popularity?
In other words, how much are the leaders of American soccer responsible for improving the sport’s aesthetics? Do prominent leaders of U.S. soccer, such as the coach of a leading college program like Gelnovatch, have a responsibility to play the game in an exciting way to help the sport grow?
Let’s put this another way. Other than UVA fans, did anyone truly enjoy the flow of the game between the two teams? Soccer purists surely didn’t, as evident from the comments from Salcedo and the in-game commentary from ESPNU analyst Taylor Twellman, who was practically seething over UVA’s unwillingness to attack before finally acknowledging in the final minutes that Gelnovatch’s yawn-inducing plan had worked. And for soccer critics, many of their preexisting reasons for their distaste – no scoring, no action – could only have been confirmed by the game. There may have even been disgust with a sport in which a team could win a national title while hardly trying to score.
Gelnovatch’s tactic was advertised on national TV, and it surely fed the negative American stereotypes of the sport. And not only that; success breeds copycats. The more often this strategy works, the more it will be employed by other coaches, thus perpetuating the stereotypes even further.
That this tactic could spread is doubtless the fear of every believer in the power of youth soccer. The way that the U.S. can compete with the elite countries, the common logic goes, is by allowing our young, developing players the same creative leash that the Europeans give theirs. But if bunker-in-and-wait strategy gains popularity, it could have the opposite effect, discouraging development of the attacking creativity that the U.S. lacks on the international stage.
Reasonable arguments against “winning at all costs”have been tested before in more popular arenas. Remember the old criticisms of 1990s Duke men’s basketball by North Carolina fans? Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Tar Heels would point out, doesn’t ready his players for the pros like Dean Smith. His tactics, UNC fans would charge, might be conducive to winning, but less so for developing talent. That’s why a higher proportion of Michael Jordans and Vince Carters (NBA stars) came out of UNC, while more Trajan Langdons and Christian Laettners (NBA busts) went to Duke.
A decade-plus earlier, it was Smith taking heat for using the “Four Corners” offense to stall away wins with his team in the lead. That may have been the biggest reason why, in 1985, the NCAA instituted a shot clock.
Gelnovatch would likely see this as a point in his favor; we are, after all, talking about hall-of-fame basketball coaches.
But is soccer, given its need for growth, a different animal?
Of course, for any coach, winning is the top priority. But, I believe it’s reasonable to say, style points can be relevant – particularly as U.S. soccer leaders try to raise the sport’s national profile, which I imagine Gelnovatch must care about to some degree.
So, is Gelnovatch’s attitude of “win at all costs” the right one? Or is Salcedo’s desire to “blast” Virginia’s tactics, while ill-advised in coming from the losing coach, a valid argument?
In a pivotal period for the popularity of American soccer, this is a topic worthy of discussion.
Virginia 0 - UCLA 0 (OT) - The Cavaliers prevailed 4-2 in penalty kicks to claim the 2014 National Championship after the contest was scoreless at the end of regulation and two ten minute overtime periods.
Soccer can sometimes be a cruel game as the 2014 national championship game demonstrated. For starters, it is always difficult when a game of this magnitude is scoreless and has to be determined by penalty kicks. UCLA was clearly the aggressor throughout the game and got the best of the run of play and possession with a fifteen to nine advantage in shots and a seven to five advantage in corner kicks. However, both teams had three shots on goal which is a reflection of Virginia's effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball. Virginia threatened on occasion with junior forward Darius Madison in particular utilizing his speed and touch on the ball to provide the best opportunities for the Cavaliers but their attack for most of the contest was the equivalent of a one-man jailhouse break with no-one up-front to partner with on most of their counter attacks. Both Virginia goalkeeper Calle Brown who was named the Defensive MVP of the College Cup and UCLA netminder Earl Edwards Jr. each had three saves in goal.
Since Virginia never trailed in the contest they never had to chase and it enabled them to keep their focus on keeping numbers behind the ball defensively throughout the game. The Bruins were able to successfully knock the ball around for a majority of the game on the perimeter without being tightly contested but Virginia was successful in keeping them off the scoreboard as UCLA never could come up with the combination of passes needed to break down the Virginia defense. Bruin midfielder Leo Stolz often had plenty of time during the first half before pushing further up in the second stanza to play long diagonal balls designed to switch the point of attack but UCLA was never able to penetrate the Virginia defense as they effectively shut down the passing lanes and seemed content on keeping the contest scoreless and settling the outcome in a shootout. Bruin freshman forward Abu Danladi and junior forward Larry Ndjock had limited chances to finish but for the most part were tightly marked when in the attacking third and Virginia's sagging defense did an excellent job of quickly dropping back to keep the Bruins from getting a numbers advantage or of creating transitional opportunities.
On one hand you have to credit veteran Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch with developing an effective game plan that gave his players the greatest opportunity to win and the Cavalier players for executing it to perfection. On the other hand the sagging defense first Cavalier strategy didn't reflect the type of soccer that one would normally expect to see from a program with the talent level that Virginia has and no matter how you spin it this one will not go down in history as a general fan favorite. Regardless, of your viewpoint on that the Cavaliers who had to play most of the tournament without team leader senior midfielder Eric Bird showed a ton of grit, determination and organization.
Virginia claimed their seventh National Championship with their last one coming in 2009 when they topped Akron in a contest that also required penalty kicks to determine a winner. The road to the national championship for the Cavaliers included a 3-1 win over UNCW, a 1-0 win over Notre Dame, advancing past Georgetown in penalty kicks after the contest was tied 1-1 and a 1-0 win over UMBC.
Credit the Virginia backline of senior Matt Brown, senior Kyler Sullivan, junior Scott Thomsen and redshirt freshman Sheldon Sullivan along with goalkeeper Calle Brown with an outstanding effort. Todd Wharton, Sam Hayward, Patrick Foss, and Riggs Lennon converted their penalty kicks for the Cavaliers in the penalty-kick shootout.
UCLA ends another banner season with a 14-5-5 overall record. The Bruins earned their 32nd berth in the NCAA Tournament, made their 14th trip to the Final Four, and advanced to the College Cup final for the 9th time.
UCLA midfielder Leo Stolz, defender Michael Amick and forward Larry Ndjock were named to the College Cup All-Tournament team. Virginia was represented on the All-Tournament team by forward Darius Madison, midfielder Jake Rozhansky, midfielder Pablo Aguilar, defenders Kyler and Sheldon Sullivan, and goalkeeper Calle Brown.
After a 2014 season in which the unexpected seemed to be the norm at times it was fitting that two of the four teams that advanced to the College Cup (UMBC and Providence) did so for the first time. But when it was all said and done the National Championship game on Sunday matched two of the premier programs in the country in UCLA and Virginia who were on everyone's short list as potential contenders for the 2014 National Championship prior to the start of the season.
However what was unexpected and few would have predicted at the beginning of the year was that a Virginia team that is normally as good as they get in terms of taking the attack to their opponent would approach the tourney with a packed in or defense first mindset. Perhaps the answer to that is at least partially reflected in the fact that the twenty-seven goals that the Cavaliers scored in 2014 was the fewest goals of any team during Gelnovatch's nineteen year tenure to date as the head coach at Virginia. In defense of Virginia, no pun intended, the tactic they deployed became necessary due to injuries, the NCAA Tourney is all about surviving and advancing, and once the tourney gets underway when a system of play works as it did for Virginia it is not wise to change it.
Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch stated, "This one's pretty rewarding. It's hard to say more rewarding than 2009, because that was my first one (as head coach), but pretty close." Gelnovatch added, "It's not my most talented team in my nineteen years. But the team spirit and chemistry and intelligence and adaptability to tactics (of this group was) off the charts."