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The Impact of Shots, Shots Against and Total Shots Ratio in College Soccer by Louis Joslyn, Nicholas Joslyn and Mark Joslyn

The Impact of Shots, Shots Against and Total Shots Ratio in College Soccer 

Without question the publication of Michael Lewis’s seminal book Moneyball, which examined the data analytic approach of the Oakland A’s baseball team, advanced interest in the use of statistical analysis in professional sports

While slower to recognize the value of analytics, many professional soccer clubs now embrace the “big data” movement (Anderson and Sally 2014).  Yet so far, below the pro level, where the vast majority of players and coaches perform, analytics is largely absent.  We hope to demonstrate the value of analytics by utilizing typical box score metrics available at all levels of college soccer.    

Shots

Because there are many more shots than goals, and good fortune is often the antecedent of goals (Anderson and Sally 2014), shots are a more stable and reliable measure to evaluate team performance (Grayson 2012a). To examine shots in the college game, we collected 2014 data from the NCAA web site that provides season box score team totals for the three men’s soccer divisions (NCAA 2014).  Data was gathered for 205 teams in Division 1, 204 in Division 2* and 406 in Division 3.

*Division 2 had three teams listed - Pureto Rico Mayaguez, Pureto Rico Rio Piedras, and Sioux Falls that did not provide data. 

 

Table 1.  Mean Team Shots and Standard Deviation for NCAA Men’s Soccer 2014 Season

Division          Shots per game          Std. dev

     1                          12.4                        2.1

     2                          13.4                        2.6

     3                          13.6                        3.3

Table 1 shows that average team shots per game were remarkably similar across divisions.  Division 1 teams took 12.4 shots, Division 2, 13.4 and Division 3, 13.6 shots per game.  The standard deviation, however, which is a measure of how widely teams are spread across the distribution of shots per match, is notably higher in Division 3. For example, St. Scholastica outpaced other Division 3 teams at 26 shots per match while Iowa Wesleyan was last at a curious .83.  Simon Fraser topped Division 2 at 23 shots per game and Dominican of California recorded the fewest shots at 7.1.  Wofford enjoyed the highest average in Division 1 at 18.2 while Howard produced a low of 6.4 shots per game. 

Shots and Shots Against

Manufacturing a high number of shots is perhaps desirable but shots should be considered in relation to the opponents’ offensive efforts.  Table 2 shows the relationship between shots per game and shots against.  We use correlations between shots and shots against to establish the direction and strength of association.  Correlations range from -1 to +1.  The closer the correlation to +1 or -1, the stronger the association between shots and shots against.  If the correlation is close to 0, there is little to no relationship between shots and shots against. A negative sign suggests that greater numbers of shots per game are associated with fewer shots against.  That is, the more a team shoots, the less shots for the opposition.The -.44 correlation for Division 1 suggest a moderately negative relationship.  However, in Division 2 and 3, the correlations are notably stronger yet still negative.

Table 2.  Correlations between Team Shots and Team Shots Against- 2014 Season  

Division          Correlations between Shots and Shots Against     

     1                                             - . 44   

     2                                             - . 63

     3                                             - . 62

By comparing shots to shots against, we draw two conclusions.  First, across three Divisions, high shot teams concede on average significantly fewer shots.  Second, the stronger correlations between shots and shots against in Division 2 and 3 suggest a greater number of extreme cases.  That is, significant disparities between average shots and shots against are more prevalent in Division 2 and 3 – thus greater shot imbalance among teams.   The substantially weaker correlation exhibited in Division 1 implies relatively greater shot balance, where shots and shots against are more equally distributed across teams.  

The Consequences of Shots and Shots Against

Shots naturally represent offensive chances; they bring to mind aggressive movement forward and frequent access to the final third.  Shots against, by contrast, denote defense and how well or poorly it performs.  An obvious question concerns the impact of shots and shots against. 

Do these measures influence the bottom line – wins? 

Our approach to this question is first to examine the teams that produced the most shots and those that conceded the fewest and compare their win percentages. 

The comparisons in Table 3 show that Creighton allowed the fewest shot attempts while producing the highest win percentage in Division 1 at 79.5%.  Wofford was best at generating shots but ranked 47th in win percentage at 63.9%. Similarly, in Division 2, Southern New Hampshire held opponents to fewest shots ranking 4th in win percentage at 90%.  Simon Fraser led in shots per game yet ranked 42nd in win percentage at 66.7%. Division 3 does not follow the pattern.  Methodist held teams to fewest shots but ranked 24th in win percentage while Saint Scholastica was first in shots but 4th in win percentage.

In general, Table 3 suggests that limiting the offensive chances of competitors produces more wins than generating the most shots.   

Table 3.  Most Shots, Fewest Conceded and Win Percentage – NCAA Men’s Soccer 2014             

            Division          Most Shots             Win %    Fewest Shots Against    Win %

            1                      Wofford                   63.9        Creighton                        79.5       

            2                      Simon Fraser           66.7        Southern NH                   90.0     

            3                      St. Scholastica        87.0         Methodist                       79.4            

We next used a more sophisticated statistical method called regression analysis to assess the effects of shots and shots against on win percentage.  This technique allows us to predict the win percentage of teams based on offensive and defensive shot measures, and determine which measure is the strongest predictor.  Regression analysis yields estimates that translate one additional shot per game, and one fewer shot against, into an increment of win percentage.  In this way we are able to determine how much each measure impacts win percentage while controlling for the impact of the other measure.

Results show that in Division 1, manufacturing one more shot per game was worth an additional 2.8 percent for a team’s season winning percentage.  Conceding one fewer shot per game increases winning percent by 3.3.  The difference, .5, represents the larger impact of the defensive measure – conceding fewer shots.  For example, if a team was able to reduce the number of shots against per game by two, win percentage for season would increase 6.6 percent – for a 20 game season this is equivalent to one more win.   

Additional analyses showed a nearly identical effect in Division 2.    One more shot per game in Division 2 increases winning percent for the season by 2.8 and one less shot conceded raises win percentage by 3.4 percent. 

For Division 3, shots and shots against contributed about equally to win percentage.  One more shot per game increases season win percent by 2.1, and one less against enhances winning by 2.4 percent.

Our analyses, then, points to the importance of tactical balance between offense and defense, but slightly favors defense:  It is better to concede one less shot than to produce one more.

Total Shots Ratio

It appears that successful teams shoot a lot and hold their opponents to fewer shots as well.  Analysts applied this logic in developing a measure called Total Shots Ratio (TSR), which is a difference ratio of shots and shots against (Goodman 2013; Grayson 2012b).  The measure is expressed as the ratio of shots a team takes versus the number of total shots. 

The equation, Total Shots For/ (Total Shots For + Total Shots Against) is a simple way of quantifying how frequently a team shoots compared to their opponents.  A ratio of .5 means the teams are matching shots, whereas a value over or under .5 indicates one team outshooting the other. 

Total Shot Ratio and Win Percentage

Figure 1 (below), which depicts the relationship between TSR and winning percentage in D3, shows that larger TSR values are in fact associated with higher winning percentages.  The correlation is very strong and positive at .83, nearly the same as in D2 .80 and a bit weaker in D1 .72.  The upper right quadrant of Figure 1 includes winning programs that also maintain high TSR values.  It is in this quadrant that the vast majority of NCAA D3 tournament teams are located – NCAA tourney teams colored in red.  The percentage of teams that qualified for the tournament possessing TSR values of .5 or higher, and winning 50 percent plus, are in fact striking across all Divisions – D3 92%, D2 95% and D1 75%.  The teams in the upper left quadrant of Figure 1 are likely successful counter attack teams, losing the shot contest but nevertheless winning the game. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusions

We draw several conclusions from the analyses. 

First, team shots per game were remarkably similar in the three college divisions.  In terms of shot production, a college soccer fan would experience comparable games across divisions.  However, the spread between the best and worst shot producing teams was largest in Division 3. 

Second, the data showed that shots and shots conceded were significant predictors of win percentage.  Shots conceded were a slightly better predictor, especially in Division 1 and 2.   Conceding 1 less shot per game increased win percentage to a greater extent than producing one more shot.  We now have estimates of the expected increase in win percentage given a specific coaching adjustment.  If a D1 coach, for example, adjusts defensive tactics for the coming season, and his/her team concedes three fewer shots per game as a result, while maintaining typical shot production totals, win percentage would be expected to increase by nearly 10 percent – equivalent to 2 games for a 20 game season.  Conceding three less shots a game is no easy task, but the payoff is considerable. 

Third, TSR, which is the share of total shots one team produces,is a powerful predictor of season win percentage.  TSR outperformed the singular measures that comprise it (shots and shots against), and among other box score metrics that precede goals – corners, saves, fouls - it is the most potent predictor of win percentage.The idea is straightforward:  Good teams shoot a lot, and they keep their opponents from shooting.  Given these results, it may be tempting to increase TSR by encouraging more shooting, or perhaps recruiting players that take every shot opportunity.  Shot volume matters, but TSR speaks to more than quantity.  Rather, we believe TSR is a reflection of a team’s control of play.  Shooting more than opponents generally implies control, and meaningful attacking possession.  TSR may then be an indicator of possession.  

We cannot test this assertion directly.   Unfortunately NCAA box scores do not include a possession statistic.  However, we can examine whether possession is related to TSR at the pro level.  For the 2014 MLS season we collected data from WhoScored.com and calculated the correlation between team possession percentage and TSR.   A significant positive correlation of .62 was discovered.  MLS teams that were excellent possession sides were also able to outshoot their opponents – exemplars were Sporting KC and LA Galaxy.  In the Spanish top flight La Liga, the correlation was even higher at .81.  Barcelona and Real Madrid maintained both possession and TSR levels higher than 60 percent.  Finally, in EPL’s 2013-14 season, the association between possession and TSR was .82. Manchester City ranked first in TSR and possession.  This evidence strongly supports our contention that TSR evokes control of play and indeed possession.  Though the correlation between TSR and possession is not a perfect one, especially in MLS, in the absence of a possession statistic college coaches may turn to TSR as a useful proxy. 

Finally, private firms such as Opta and Prozone are using technological advances to collect and maintain large inventories of advanced player and team data for professional clubs.  These data likely strengthen the role of statistical analyses for on and off the field decisions. 

By comparison, NCAA box scores are rudimentary and do not include such valuable metrics as shot location, possession, clearances, tackles, interceptions, to name a few.  While we analyzed team box score totals for the entire season, individual match data offers greater variation of key metrics.  However, collecting and coding well over 15,000 box scores represents a significant challenge.  It is precisely these types of barriers, - the resources required and expertise needed – that deter some programs from pursuing analytics (Hanlon 2015).   Here we offered several metrics that can be quickly calculated from box scores and used to evaluate divisions, teams, and tactics. 



About the authors:

Louis R. Joslyn played soccer at Simpson College where he was a Capital One CoSIDA Division 3 Men’s Soccer Academic All-American in 2014 and 2015. He is currentlypursing a PhD in Bioinformatics at the University of Michigan.

Nicholas J. Joslyn is currently a Junior Captain on Simpson College men’s soccer team and is pursing a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Mathematics.  

Mark R. Joslynis a Professor in the Political Science Department of the University of Kansas and was the Baldwin Kansas High School Boys Soccer Coach from 2010 through 2014.


Mark R. Joslyn can be contacted at the Department of Political Science, 1541 Lilac Lane, 504 Blake Hall, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66044 or via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  


References

Anderson, Chris and David Sally.  2014.  The Numbers Game:  Why Everything You Know about Soccer is Wrong.  Penguin Books. 

Goodman, Mike.  2013.  “What is Total Shots Ratio?  And How Can It Improve Your Understanding of Soccer?”  Grantland.com Accessed here: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/what-is-total-shots-ratio-and-how-can-it-improve-your-understanding-of-soccer/

Grayson James.  2012a.  “How Quickly Do Advanced Metrics Regress to their Final Values.”   James Blog.  Accessed at: https://jameswgrayson.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/how-quickly-do-the-advanced-stats-regress-to-their-final-values/

Grayson, James.  2012b.  “Another post about TSR”  James Blog.  Accessed at:  https://jameswgrayson.wordpress.com/2012/07/15/another-post-about-tsr/

Hanlon, Michael.  2014.  “Current Practices and Perceptions of Notational Analysis among United States Soccer Coaches.”  Soccer Journal.  Vol. 60, No. 1 p. 56-64.

Lewis, Michael.  2003.  MoneyBall:  The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.”  W.W. Norton & Co. New York.   

NCAA 2014.  http://www.ncaa.com/sports/soccer-men/d1


 

PODCAST: Chris Grassie (Marshall)

New Marshall head coach Chris Grassie joins the show this week to talk about moving from one of the top Division II programs in the country to take over the Thundering Herd program.

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This week's guest is new Marshall head coach Chris Grassie. Grassie helped make the University of Charleston a national Division II power winning six-straight conference titles and making two appearances in the NCAA championship game. Grassie talks about the transition between Division I and Division II, and why he thinks there isn't that much difference between the two. He also gives insight into his approach on scheduling and long-terms goals for the program.

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An Early Look At The 2017 Front Runners

The 2017 season is months away but it is never too early to begin thinking about the teams that look to be top contenders. Recruiting classes are still taking shape across the country and its possible that transfers could occur that might change the landscape. But for now the ten teams listed below, which are for the most part the usual suspects, look to either be among the frontrunners or at the very least well positioned to build on the success they enjoyed in 2016.


Stanford - Climbing a hill presents one set of challenges.  Remaining on top of it presents a different set of challenges. A three-peat in 2017 is a tall task to accomplish but it is not out of the question. The Cardinal are slated to return a solid core of players including ten starters from the 2016 team that won the National Championship for the second consecutive season.

Foster Langsdorf (15g, 2a) and Corey Baird (4g, 6a) who are three year starters return to power the Stanford attack up-top. They work together as well as any forward combination in the country. Back Tomas Hillard-Arce (4g, 2a) and goalkeeper Andrew Epstein who also bring three years of starting experience to the table return to anchor what should be a very solid Cardinal defense. Drew Skundrich (4g, 3a) is among a solid group of very capable returning midfielders.

Last year the Cardinal played well in the early going but they lacked the edge and perhaps focus they needed to prevail against several top level opponents. The fact that they had key gaps to plug due to departures contributed to the fact that they didn't seem to fully gel as a team until a few weeks into the season. That should not be a problem in 2017.  However, the X-Factor in 2017 may be the degree to which Stanford remains hungry for continued success because that will have a big impact on whether or not they have the edge, focus and toughness needed to win another Pac-12 Title and contend for the national championship.  

It is an understatement to say that the Cardinal will have a huge target on their chests anytime they take the field in 2017. They will have to bring their A game or something close to it anytime they take the field.  Stanford seemed to learn that the hard way last year when they were upset by San Francisco.  The good thing though is that they did learn from it and that loss proved to be a turning point in their season.  While having a target on your back is a nice problem to have, it underscores the need for Stanford to have a mindset of continued improvement, focus, and big play ability on both sides of the ball in 2017. 

The bottom line is that Jeremy Gunn will enter his sixth season as the Stanford head coach with a team that looks to be as talented and experienced as any in the country. The Cardinal will remain the team to beat until someone else proves otherwise.


Maryland - The Terps will enter the 2017 season without one of the best 2016 senior classes in the country that included Cody Niedermeier, the Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year, Alex Crongnale who was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as well as backs Chris Odoi-Atsem and Suli Dainkeh.  Accordingly, Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski has some vacancies to fill on the defensive side of the ball.  However, that task is made last daunting since Maryland always has a talented pool of players on board that are eager and ready to assume a greater role. The Terps will therefore be reloading and not  rebuilding in 2017. 

The situation is very different on the offensive side of the ball where a solid contingent of proven goal scorers are slated to return including All-American forward Gordon Wild (17g, 5a), forwards Sebastian Elney (3g, 4a) and D.J. Reeves (3g, 6a) and midfielders Amar Sejdic (9g, 9a), Jake Rozhansky (3g, 8a), and Eryk Williamson (3g, 5a).

The Terps were head and shoulders above everyone else at the conclusion of regular season and conference tournament play in 2016. They were unbeaten for the first time since 1968 with a 18-0-2 season after winning the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. They were ranked the number one team in the country by everyone and were awarded the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

However, success breeds high expectations and success is something that Maryland has had plenty of under Cirovski. Ultimately seasons at Maryland are judged by how far the Terps advance in the NCAA Tournament. As a result when the Terps were upset by Providence 5-4 at Ludwig Field in the NCAA Tournament it took some of the glitter away from what was otherwise an outstanding season. The fact that Providence came from behind to win after Maryland was ahead 4 to 1 in the second half put the outcome of the contest in the surreal category. 

No matter how you spin it, the 2016 campaign was a "what it might have been" type season for Maryland. While Cirovski and the Terp players will likely be eager to put the way their season ended in the NCAA Tournament in the rear view mirror and move forward, it will no doubt sting for a while and leave a bitter taste in their mouths. That in turn will create focus and make Maryland a very motivated and determined team in 2017.  It may take a few contests for the Terps to gel as a team in 2017 but when they do they should be very good.


North Carolina - Seven starters are slated to return from the 2016 team that was 14-3-4 overall and advanced to the College Cup where the Tar Heels were edged 10-9 in penalty kicks by Stanford in a contest that easily could have gone the other way. In addition a very talented group of very capable players return who look to be ready as well as eager to earn a starting role.  This group includes members of the 2016 recruiting class that was ranked by College Soccer News as well as others as the best incoming class in the nation.

Veterans Zach Wright (5g, 7a) and Alan Winn (3g, 4a) along with Nils Bruening (8g, 1a) who was a starter last year return to give the Tar Heels another potent offense. A very talented group of midfielders will also be on hand including highly regarded sophomores Cam Lindley (0g, 7a) and Maurico Pineda (4g, 1a) who now have the added advantage of a year in Chapel Hill under their belts.

The defense which was among the best in the country last year, as reflected in the fact that they only allowed a total of ten goals, will have job openings that must be filled due to the graduation of backs Colton Storm and Tucker Hume. However Carlos Somoano has a solid foundation upon which to build on with back Alex Comsia and goalkeeper James Pyle among those slated to return.

Somoano, who is the active leader in winning percentage among Division Division I head coaches, will enter his seventh season at the helm of a program that has been a top ten ranked team eight of the last nine years.  The competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference will again be fierce but all signs point to another top ranking and a lot of wins once again in Chapel Hill in 2017.


Denver - Past success is no guarantee of future success.  However, it is a solid predictor particularly when it involves momentum which Denver certainly has plenty of after recording a total of thirty-nine wins over the past two seasons including an historic 2016 campaign in with the Pioneers were 20-1-3 overall and advanced to the College Cup for the first time in the history of the program.

Jamie Franks has some gaps to plug on the defensive side of the ball due to the graduation of All-American back Reagan Dunk (0g, 5a) and the decision of center back Kortne Ford (5gm 2a) to leave early and forgo his senior season to enter the professional ranks. The Pioneers also will be without midfielders Sam Hamilton (0g, 9a), Karsten Hanlin (5g, 8a) and Chandler Crosswait (1g, 5a) due to graduation.

On the plus side of the ledger Andre Shinyashiki (9g, 5a) and Blake Elder (7g, 2a) return up top to spearhead the attack along with midfielder Alex Underwood (3g, 5a).  Defensive midfielder Graham Smith (3g, 3a), back A.J. Fuller (1g, 0a) and netminder Nick Gardner, the 2016 Summit League Goalkeeper of the Year, are among those who will anchor the defense. 

Denver may not enter the 2017 campaign with as strong a team from top to bottom as they have had  the past two seasons. However this is a program with a winning culture and a mindset of individual and team accountability which are key intangibles.  Despite the gaps to be plugged, the Pioneers have sufficient talent, depth, and momentum to remain on the short list of top contenders in 2017. 


Virginia - A relatively young Virginia team had a successful but not vintage season last year during which they were 11-4-5 overall with a 3-2-3 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play.  The Cavaliers were awarded the number twelve seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced past Vermont before their season came to an end in the Sweet Sixteen when they lost 1-0 on the road to eventual national champion Stanford. 

George Gelnovatch will enter the 2017 season with almost everyone back from the 2016 team including nine players that were regularly in starting roles and others who had a lot of minutes. With the exception of an inexplicable and embarrassing 6-1 thumping from Louisville in late September, Virginia played everyone close. That contest actually proved to be a wakeup call and gut-check of sorts for the Cavaliers who then rolled out a ten game unbeaten streak that included wins over  North Carolina and Notre Dame before losing to Louisville again 1-0 in the ACC Tournament.

Midfielders Pablo Aquilar (7g, 2a) and Jean-Christophe Kofi (1g, 2a) and forward Edward Opoku (6g, 2a) are among returning players who should add to the Cavalier offense in 2017.  Goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell,  right back Bay Kurtz, left back Robin Afamefuna, and center back Sergi Nus are among a very solid core of returning defenders who should hit the ground running.

Last year Virginia tallied a total of twenty-nine goals to average 1.5 goals per game. Gelnovatch has indicated that adding additional pop on the offensive side of the ball is among his priorities heading into the 2017 season. It appears that he will be adding several new faces who should be able to contribute in that area. If Virginia can up their productivity on the offensive side of the ball and eliminate the lapses in play that hurt them at times on the defensive side of the ball last year they should be very competitive in 2017.  At Virginia there is never a question in regard to the level of soccer talent. The best Cavalier teams in the past have been the ones that have combined their talent with mental toughness.

A young Virginia team showed a lot of grit as the season progressed last year which is an indication that with a year of experience under their belts they could be very good in 2017.  If everything falls into place, look for the Cavaliers to win the close contests in 2017 that eluded them in 2016. 


Wake Forest - You don't win thirty-six contests and go 11-1-4 in the highly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference over a two year span as the Demon Deacons have without having a lot of things going for you.  

Wake Forest will enter the 2017 season with seven starters back in addition to sophomore goalkeeper Andreu Cases Mundet who played in eight contests last year including several crucial games down the home stretch when he was called upon by Bobby Muuss to replace veteran All-American netminder Alex Ferrell who had to sit out several contests due to a knee injury.

The Demon Deacons will discover what life is like in 2017 without All-American midfielders Ian Harkes (5g, 4a) and Jacori Hayes (8g, 3a).  Harkes and Hayes were impact players during their four year stay in Winston-Salem and will not be easily replaced.

Senior forward Jon Bakero (7g, 4a) and sophomore midfielder Ema Twumasi (6g, 4a) are very capable goal scores who will be among those counted upon to help fill the void their departure creates on the offensive side of the ball.  

The Deacons should once again be very strong on the defensive side of the ball with senior back Kevin Politz along with juniors Lou Gdula (0g, 2a) and Sam Raben who were starters last year slated to return. Cases Mundet gained valuable playing time last year that should enable him to hit the ground running in goal.

Wake Forest may need a few contests to fully gel as a team due to the departures but once that has occurred it is highly likely that Muuss will once again field another highly ranked and very competitive team.


Clemson - The Tigers will welcome back eight starters from the 2016 team that was 14-4-5 overall, earned the number three seed in the NCAA Tournament, and advanced to the Elite Eight. 

Forward Diego Compos (6, 4a) returns to power the attack.  A balanced and experienced midfield that includes Oliver Shannon (1g, 6a), Michael Melvin (0g, 2a), Grayson Raynor (2g, 3a), Saul Chinchilla and Malick Mbaye (2g, 1a) who had a banner season last year as a freshman will be strong and quick.  

Ximo Miralles who had a 0.72 goals against average last year returns to anchor the defense along with very capable backs junior Patrick Bunk-Andersen and sophomore Tanner Dieterich who now has the benefit of a year of starting experience. In addition, Mike Noonan has also added another very good recruiting class.

You can count on Noonan once again fielding an extremely competitive team in 2017 for which the sky in the limit.


FGCU - Bob Butehorn, who served as the head coach at FGCU for ten seasons, has departed to take the head coaching job at former in-state rival South Florida. However, Butehorn left new Eagle head coach Jesse Cormier, who previously served as the head coach at Vermont for thirteen seasons, with a cupboard that is fully stocked with talented and experienced players. 

Last year FGCU won a school record fourteen contests, won their fourth ASUN Championship title in the past six years, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles had a prolific and explosive attack in 2016 that produced a total of sixty-two goals. With almost everyone back, FGCU appears well positioned to build on the success they enjoyed in 2016.

Senior Albert Ruiz (22g, 5a), one of the three finalist for the 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy, is among the most effective and explosive finishers in the country. Ruiz will be joined up-top in 2017 by redshirt junior Arion Sobers-Assue (11g, 11a) who is also capable of scoring in multiples. Sophomore forward Shak Adams (4g, 0a) who saw action in every contest in 2016 as a freshman also adds yet another dimension to the Eagle attack.

The midfield looks to be talented and experienced with seniors Kamar Marriott (1g, 2a), Jiro Barriga Toyama (2g, 3a), and Robert Ferrer (3g, 4a) along with graduate student Dylan Sacramento (4g, 3a) returning. Sophomore Migel Perez (2g, 3a) who gained valuable experience last year also figures to be in the mix in the midfield.

The defense should be improved in 2017 with sophomore Jared Brown returning in goal with the advantage of a year of playing time under his belt along with senior backs Nicolas Samayoa, Eli Roubos, Caleb George, and junior Preston Kilwien.

FGCU has dominated the ASUN Conference and Butehorn did a great job of getting the program on the college soccer map from a national perspective. However, the Eagles have yet to put together a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Cormier looks to have the ingredients on board to have a good shot at accomplishing that in his first season at the helm of the program in 2017.


Louisville - The Cardinals, like just about everyone else, have some holes to plug heading into the 2017 season due to graduation.  Perhaps the most crucial one is the gap that exists between the pipes due to the departure of graduate student Stefan Cleveland who played for three seasons at Dartmouth before a one year tenure at Louisville in 2016.

The good news, and there is plenty of it, is that forward Mohamed Thiaw who was the main man in the Louisville attack last year returns for his senior season. Thiaw, who joined Louisville last year after two banner seasons at Cincinnati State Technical Community College, hit the ground running.  Thiaw made a huge impact finding the back of the net twelve times in 2016 including seven, yes seven, game-winning goals.  

Tate Schmitt (5g, 2a), Jack Gayton (3g, 0a) and Chenf Dieye (5g, 0a) are among returning players who provide Ken Lolla a solid core of midfielders around which to build. Ditto that for a backline that will feature All-American Tim Kubel (3g, 11a), Danny Reynolds and Joey Kunkel (0g, 1a). 

Lolla will likely again bring on board a recruiting class that will include several players, like Cleveland and Thiaw  last year, who will contribute immediately.

Louisville finished the 2016 campaign with a 14-6-2 overall record. They were awarded the number four seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the past seven years. The Cardinals belong in any discussion of potential top contenders heading into the 2017 season.


Butler - The Bulldogs may not contend for a national title in 2017 but they look to have the personnel and the momentum to have another very successful season.  

Nine starters are slated to return from the 2016 team that was 13-5-2 overall, won the Big East Tournament, returned to the NCAA Tournament field, and was awarded the number fifteen seed. As a result Paul Snape looks to have the talent and the experience on board needed to build on the success they enjoyed in 2016. 

Sophomores Lewis Suddick (11g, 4a) and Issac Galliford (4g, 6a) and juniors Jared Timmer (2g, 9a), Marco Charalambous (3g, 3a) and Eric Leonard (2g, 2a) are among those who will provide offensive punch for the Bulldogs. The defense should be very solid with redshirt senior goalkeeper Eric Dick and backs Joe Moulden, Alex Lehtinen, and Kieran Geldenhuys all slated to return.

The unanswered question, and it is a big one, is who will fill the void on the offensive side of the ball due to the graduation of All-American forward David Goldsmith (12g, 4a).  Solve that and opponents will find Butler to be a very difficult team to have on their dance card.