By CARL SETTERLUND
Georgetown men’s soccer coach Brian Wiese has turned the Hoyas into a national power the past few seasons, but he thinks this year’s squad might be his best yet.
That’s a tall task considering Georgetown made a fairy-tale run to the NCAA Division 1 College Cup final in 2012 and last year graduated BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year Steve Neumann, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft by the New England Revolution.
Not to worry, though, as the Hoyas — who are ranked No. 2 in the country in SBI preseason Top 25 — return three players on the Hermann Trophy preseason watch list.
“If I’m looking at this group relative to any of the teams I’ve coached, I think this team has the potential to be the best,” said Wiese, now in his ninth season at Georgetown.
“But, I’m saying that going into the first game of the year, so that’s just potential. You have to be able to manage the highs and lows of the season and grow through the season.”
Junior forward Brandon Allen, the BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, is hoping to improve on a 2013 campaign in which he led the Hoyas with 11 goals, four of them game-winners.
Neumann’s 10 goals and six assists last season will be hard to do without, but Wiese said he thinks that void can be filled by sophomores Alex Muyl and Brett Campbell. Muyl appeared in all 21 games last year and led the team with nine assists, while Campbell’s role is set to increase.
“That’s a tough one,” Wiese said of losing Neumann. “Stevie made Brandon’s life a lot easier and Brandon made (Neumann’s) life a lot easier, so I think they complemented each other well. Brandon’s maturity as a player is going to be tested — how he adapts to new players around him.”
Allen and Muyl are two of Georgetown’s players on the Hermann Trophy preseason watch list, while the third, sophomore defender Joshua Yaro, might be the best of the bunch.
The 5-foot-11 Yaro, who moved to the California from Ghana in 2009, is considered one of the best pro prospects in the college game. Wiese called him “a special talent” and “the fastest player I’ve ever seen on a soccer field.”
Providing a bit of leadership to a back line made up entirely of sophomores and juniors will be senior goalkeeper and captain Tomas Gomez, who was voted the BIG EAST Preseason Goalie of the Year — and with good reason. The 6-foot-2 keeper played in every game in 2013, managing a 0.44 goals against average as the team cruised to a Georgetown-record 14 shutouts.
“Tomas is as good as anyone out there,” Wiese said. “But I think we’re spoiled with a back four in front of him that’s as good as any in the country.”
After the fanfare of the Blue and Gray’s 2012 College Cup appearance, Wiese said there was a lot of attention on last year’s team, but they’ve since been able to refocus.
The Hoyas will need to be at attention as their early-season non-conference slate is one of the toughest in the nation.
Georgetown opens up it’s 2014 campaign today on the road at Indiana, which will be a rematch of the 2012 national title game. Two days later, the Hoyas will face last year’s national champion, Notre Dame.
“We’ll certainly be tested by enough challenging fixtures to see where we are,” Wiese said.
Other non-conference games of note include a three-game home stretch in mid-September against Wisconsin, Virginia Commonwealth and the University of California-Irvine.
Most anticipated of them all, however, might be a Sept. 30 game at Maryland, which will be the first time the two rivals have met since the Hoyas knocked the Terrapins off in penalty kicks in an all-time classic national semifinal in 2012. Maryland will play at Georgetown in 2015.
“The proximity of the two schools and the nature of the two programs makes it a fun game to play,” Wiese said. “I think our fans and Maryland’s are excited that it’s something they’ll be seeing.”
In BIG EAST play, Georgetown and defending BIG EAST tournament champion Marquette come into the season tied atop the league rankings, receiving 75 points apiece in the BIG EAST preseason coaches poll. The Hoyas, however, received five first place votes to the Golden Eagles’ four.
The two finished tied for the 2013 regular season league title, but the Blue and Gray crashed out in the BIG EAST tournament semifinals, losing to Providence College in penalty kicks. Georgetown has won three of the last four regular season titles, but never won the BIG EAST tournament.
“That’s something this team would love to achieve and make a little history for the club in the process,” Wiese said.