By IVES GALARCEP
When a plethora of top underclassmen left college soccer for pro contracts last winter, the initial concern was that there wouldn’t be much elite talent returning to the college ranks in 2013. The reality is that you can make a strong argument that the upcoming season will feature even more top-flight talent than last year.
Led by Maryland forward Patrick Mullins and Georgetown’s Steve Neumann, the SBI College Pre-Season All-American Team is a pro scout’s dream, with elite level players at a variety of positions. And while some of the players on the team have MLS Homegrown Player ties, the rest are among the leading candidates to be the top players chosen in the 2014 MLS Draft.
Whether it is UConn goalkeeper Andre Blake, or young Maryland forward Schillo Tschuma, our All-American selections could make up a bulk of the Generation adidas signings by MLS this winter.
Here is the SBI College Pre-Season All-American Team:
SBI COLLEGE PRE-SEASON ALL-AMERICAN TEAM
ANDRE BLAKE, Goalkeeper, UConn
Jamaican shot-stopper has the size and athleticism to eventually be a top pro. The 6-foot-4 junior has already been called up by the full Jamaican national team and is coming off a sophomore campaign that saw him post 12 shutouts and earn first-team All-American honors.
ERIC MILLER, Defender, Creighton
Injuries have mired Miller’s college career, but the U.S. Under-20 fullback is still one of the most talented players in the nation, and if he can stay healthy, he could very well play himself into a Generation adidas contract.
SEBASTIEN IBEAGHA, Defender, Duke
After turning down repeated offers from the Houston Dynamo to sign as a Homegrown Player, Ibeagha returns to Duke for his senior season and remains the top centerback in the nation. The 6-foot-1 standout is a former U.S. Under-23 pool player and the reigning ACC Defender of the Year. He could also see some time in midfield this season.
KYLE VENTER, Defender, New Mexico
This year’s MLS Draft class is stacked at centerback, and few prospects are more highly-regarded than the 6-foot-3 senior. A third-team All-American in 2012, Venter is on the short-list for the MAC Hermann Watch List, and will be key for a Lobos squad that will be looking to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
AXEL SJOBERG, Defender, Marquette
The 6-foot-7 native of Sweden turned heads in the Big East with his dominant play in the air, and his nose for the goal as he finished among the team’s leaders in goals scored. He is impressively agile for his height and will be drawing the eye of several pro scouts as he tries to help the Golden Eagles win the Big East title.
DYLAN MARES, Midfielder, Indiana
It might seem like forever again, but it was only three years ago when Mares was an impressive freshman playmaker helping lead Louisville to the NCAA title game. A torn ACL in 2011 sidelined him, but he came back strong in 2012 for the Cardinals, leading a strong push in the NCAA Tournament. Now, after transferring to Indiana and joining an already loaded Hoosiers midfield, Mares will have every opportunity to show why he is considered the best playmaker in the nation.
JARED WATTS, Midifelder, Wake Forest
You will be hard-pressed to find a more imposing defensive midfield presence than Watts, a former U.S. Under-17 National Team player who has been a first-team All-ACC selection two years running. The 6-foot-1 midfielder is capable of contributing to the attack, but it is his ability to dominate the middle of the field that makes the senior a highly-rated pro prospect.
STEVE NEUMANN, Midfielder, Georgetown
When Neumann dropped a hat-trick on Maryland in the NCAA Tournament, he ceased to be a secret on the national stage and promptly found himself on draft boards across MLS. Though he didn’t leave school early, Neumann now returns with a chance to not only help the Hoyas win a national title, but secure his own place as a potential MLS first-round pick. Capable of playing on the wing in a 4-5-1, or as a second striker, Neumann should thrive in 2013.
SCHILLO TSHUMA, Forward, Maryland
There may not be a more dynamic forward in the nation than Tschuma, who may not have gotten as many headlines as his strike partner at Maryland, but is widely-regarded as one of the very best pro prospects in the nation. Tshuma’s strength and pace make him a scout’s dream, and with a loaded Terps attack around him, Tshuma should improve on the 10 goals he produced as a freshman in 2012.
PATRICK MULLINS, Forward, Maryland
After passing on an MLS offer to return for his senior season, Mullins returns to the Terrapins as the nation’s most highly-rated player, and a skilled attacker capable of creating chances and finishing them as well. He doesn’t boast the speed of Tshuma, but is nifty in the penalty area, and has a nose for goal that can’t be taught. His 17 goals and 10 assists in 2012 were outstanding, but he could be a 20-10 player this season.
BRANDON ALLEN, Forward, Georgetown
If a physical forward is more your cup of tea, then look no further than the imposing Allen, a bull up top who has a way of imposing himself on opponents. The New York Red Bulls Academy product notched an impressive 16 goals as a freshman, a number that should increase in 2013.
Tyler Miller (Northwestern); Kevin Cope (Michigan State), Christian Dean (California), Boyd Onkwuonu (North Carolina), Javan Torre (UCLA); Pedro Ribeiro (Coastal Carolina), Alex Martinez (North Carolina State), Nikita Kotlov (Indiana), Mamadou Diouf (UConn), Robbie Kristo (Saint Louis)
Spencer Richey (Washington); Mikey Ambrose (Maryland), Grant Van De Casteele (Notre Dame), Ben Sweat (South Florida), A.J. Cochrane (Wisconsin); Robbie Derschang (Akron), Chris Ritter (Northwestern), Romena Bowie (VCU); Will Vitalis (Louisville), Sean Okoli (Wake Forest), Reinaldo Brenes (Akron)
What do you think of our Pre-Season All-American Team? Who are you happy to see make the team? Who do you feel should have been mentioned here that was not?
Share your thoughts below.