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Fab Freshmen heating up the college scene

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The stars in college soccer used to be juniors and seniors. Guys who bided their time to make an impact. Freshman were relegated to backup roles and spent time coming off the bench but that model is changing, and quickly.

Whether you're a smaller school like College of Charleston, or a national power like Akron, freshmen are playing key roles at top teams across the country.

Here are five freshmen enjoy stellar rookie seasons on the college level who we can see eventually making the transition to the pros:

Kees Heemskerk- Goalkeeper, College of Charleston

A product of Amsterdam, Kees Heemskerk is fast establishing a reputation as a goalkeeper no one wants to face.

"The experience he brings is tremendous," Charleston coach Ralph Lundy said. "He makes the right decisions and all the players have really come to feel great about playing in front of him."

The 19-year old spent seven years in Amsterdam at the Ajax Academy and played at dozens of youth tournaments around Europe. He was named top goalkeeper at the 2008 Groenlo International tournament in Holland. So far this season, Heemskerk has been the only goalkeeper to play for Charleston and holds a miniscule 0.62 goals against average.

"In the U.S. it comes down to players knowing how to read the game," Lundy said. "We look at guys like Tim Howard and he's an amazing athlete and so is Kess. But Kess puts himself in a position where he doesn't need to dive across goal to make the save, he's already there."

Patrick Mullins- Midfielder, Maryland

Mullins started the season coming off the bench for Maryland. That's changing quickly.

The 18-year-old native of New Orleans has thrived in the ultra-competitive ACC, scoring four goals and providing four assists while averaging only 37 minutes a game.

"He's been really consistent for us," said head coach Sasho Cirvoski, who has moved Mullins up to a starting role thanks to his hot start. "He was a spark plug coming off the bench."

When Mullins scores, it's usually in big spots. He netted a goal against Duke and scored the game winner over then No. 2 Connecticut.

"He's scoring off of everyone. He's actually a natural left-footed winger but we've been playing him up as a forward and he's been a goal-scoring machine," Cirvoski said. "He's really improved since he's come here. When he came to one of our camps I noticed a few deficiencies in his game like his work rate and keeping his emotions in check. He could have been offended or he could have chosen to improve and he focused on improving."

Darren Mattocks- Forward, Akron

When Teal Bunbury made the jump to the pros last season, Akron head coach Caleb Porter was left with a void at striker. Enter Darren Mattocks, a Jamaican forward who has lit up the college ranks with a deadly combination of speed and finishing.

"We needed a player that could score goals and stretch defenses," Porter said. "We really hit the jackpot."

Mattocks has 12 goals through 14 games, including a hat trick against Buffalo. Mattocks' speed, touch and finishing ability will attract interest from scouts at the next level.

"You really need freshman to come in and make an impact and Darren has," Porter said but is quick to caution against Mattocks leaving after his freshman season. "It's sort of rare to see that. We won't hold him back but he's the first to admit he needs to improve."

Keyln Rowe- Midfielder, UCLA

"World class." That's how UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo describes his freshman midfielder.

The 18-year-old Washington native has accounted for 17 points, six goals and five assists, this season for the No. 11 Bruins. He's distinguished himself from what was considered the top recruiting class in the nation.

Rowe's speed and finishing ability make up for his 5'8, 150 lb. frame. On Oct. 18, he scored a golden goal in the 105th minute to defeat then No. 13 California on the road.

"You rarely see a goal of that quality in college soccer," Salcedo told the UCLA Daily Bruin. "It was an absolutely fantastic finish."

Those kind of clutch goals and fantastic finishes are fast becoming the norm for Rowe.

Perry Kitchen- Midfielder, Akron

Already highly touted thanks to his stint with the national team youth circut, Kitchen has solidified his place in a highly competitive Akron lineup.

"We lost Blair Gavin early to the pros. We needed someone that could do the dirty work and could be a ball winner," Porter said. "He's a warrior. He does all he little things right and when you get a lot of people forward you've got to have guys in the back-part of your team.

Normally dropping deep as a midfielder, Kitchen has contributed on the offensive front, scoring four goals. He's currently a member of the U-20 national team, an experience Porter says helped Kitchen make an immediate impact against big opponents.

"To him it's not that big of a deal to play against Wake or UNC," Porter said. "Most freshman don't get experiences like that coming into college."



  1. This is true, but that is an extra 3-4 years that they are not at their prime. The will be in top form by age 22-24 which gives them a maximum of 8 years unless you’re a freak like Ryan Giggs

  2. I take it you are an ex-D1 player who did nothing with his life. I go to every IU soccer match and am an avid fan, but we will not see one player go to europe or play for the USMNT like we may have in the past. Players will play for the MLS, but the MLS is bush league.

  3. I think the insinuation is’nt that Tim Howard reads the game poorly; rather Howard does’nt read the game as well as Kess.

  4. Interesting insinuation by Lundy, coach at Charleston. He’s pretty clearly saying that Tim Howard (e.g.) reads the game poorly and relies overly on athleticism.

  5. Not everyone is an early bloomer. NCAA soccer is excellent for late bloomers. They’ve been passed over for all professional opportunities because many of the players weren’t good enough at age 13-14 to get fast tracked. A lot changes in 3-4 years. So, those who develop late have an avenue in NCAA soccer. Every year a couple of MLS revelations come out of the NCAA.

  6. I wanna c u play D1 soccer, wait i wanna c u play JC soccer. Seriously what you just said is ignorant. Watch college soccer it is probably more competitive and of better quality then you think.

  7. Which makes you stupid, adam, for your incorrect usage of dumb. Dumb means mute, a word you may wish to employ before you next choose to belittle a poster for having a difference of opinion. Renew your certification as Grammar Police as well.

  8. Let’s face it! Who cares? If you’re playing college soccer you are not a star! If your that good you would be recruited when your 13-14 years of age.

  9. that should say “will Porter … and make the jump to MLS?” … not a declaration that he definitely will. sorry. typing to fast.

  10. so. how many of these freshman make the jump to MLS next season especially with the expanded rosters almost assuredly being specifically for young talent?

    exciting times for MLS. maybe tough time to be a college soccer coach. after a few seasons of losing his best freshman and sophomores every year Porter will say “screw it, if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” and make the jump to MLS coach.

  11. not as big of a surprise as you make it out to be, honestly. Kids are coming into their freshman year with more and more high level training and experience, and more and more players are leaving school earlier for MLS. I count fifteen players drafted in the past two seasons in the first round of the MLS superdraft who would otherwise still be in school. it used to take a season or two for a freshman to acclimate to the college game, but now the high level of prep work and competition as a teenager is making it easier it’s the same thing as in NCAA basketball. more and more Freshman come in with the training and sophistication to play, and more and more sophomores are leaving for the pros. you never see a four or even three year all-american anymore.


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