Charlotte - Four Star Recruiting Class - Charlotte is in the midst of the most successful run in program history. As a result interest in the men's soccer program and expectations are at an all time high.
Any doubts that may have existed about how Charlotte would fare when the 49ers made the transition from Jeremy Gunn who was the head coach from 2007 through 2011 to Kevin Langan who assumed the helm of the program last year have disappeared.
Since Langan has been associated with the program good things have been happening at Charlotte. When he became the associate head coach at Charlotte under Gunn in 2009 the 49ers had an eleven win season and returned to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 1997. In 2010 Charlotte had a sixteen win season and in 2011 they captured the attention of the college soccer world when they advanced all the way to the finals of the College Cup. In 2012, Langan's first as the 49ers head coach, Charlotte was 15-4-3, won the regular season Atlantic 10 title, and earned an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament. They subsequently toped UAB in a first round match in the NCAA Tourney before their season came to an end when losing on the road 1-0 to number three seed Georgetown.
Charlotte will move from the Atlantic 10 Conference to Conference USA in 2013. With seven starters returning the 49ers will enter the season as one of the frontrunners in the conference. Charlotte previously played in Conference USA from 1995 through the 2004 season before joining the Atlantic 10 Conference. The move is driven by the fact that Charlotte has added a football program. Conference USA members in 2013 in men's soccer will include Charlotte, Marshall, New Mexico, Tulsa, Florida International , Florida Atlantic, South Carolina, UAB, Old Dominion, and Kentucky.
The 49ers will enter CUSA in 2013 without the services of five seniors from the 2012 team but plenty of players of importance return supplemented by an impressive recruiting class that will provide both immediate and long range assistance. The seniors who must be replaced include Donnie Smith who was the 2012 Atlantic 10 Midfielder of the Year, midfielder Owen Darby, midfielder Isaac Caughran, forward Jennings Rex who had a team leading eleven goals last year and defender Aaron Weldon. Langan stated, "These five seniors have been a phenomenal group of players. They've completely transformed this program and they leave behind a great tradition of success."
Langan will welcome a nine member recruiting class to Charlotte that includes junior forward Monbo Bokar and sophomore midfielder Conor Agnew who transfer in from North Carolina State. Both have the potential to contribute immediately. Forward Hans Horner who is ranked by College Soccer News as among the top 150 recruits coming out of the class of 2013 and midfielder Eduardo Iturbide who played with Charlotte Soccer Academy and NSCAA High School All-American Brandt Bronico who played with the NC Fusion Academy team are among the incoming freshmen who should be in the hunt for playing time. Regarding the recruiting class Langan stated, "This group will strengthen the program at every position and will immediately compete with the core group of returners for playing time."
Junior Giuseppe Gentille (9g, 7a), a 2012 NSCAA All-Mid-Atlantic Region First Team selection, returns to lead the 49er attack up-top. Gentille is a prime timer with two very successful seasons under his belt. He will be joined by sophomore Kyle Parker (2g, 2a) who appears ready to build on the experience he gained last year and by junior transfer Monbo Bokar who could be a big difference maker for Charlotte in 2013. All three are very capable finishers and will give Charlotte a forward line that should be very productive.
The midfield requires some reloading and depth could prove to be a problem. Redshirt senior center mid Tyler Gibson (3g, 6a), a 2012 All-Atlantic 10 first team selection, returns to set the pace. Gibson is an impact player who adds another dimension to the 49er attack. Seniors Will Mayhew (1g, 3a) and Aidan Kirkbride (2g, 3a) will also play key roles in the Charlotte midfield. Redshirt junior Dominic Bonila also looks to be in line for a greater role in 2013. Juniors Robby Thomas and Jeremy Dennis are among other returning linkmen who look to be in the mix.
Last year Charlotte held opponents to a total of nineteen goals. The backline looks to be a team strength in 2013 with senior Thomas Allen (2g, 1a), a 2012 All-Atlantic 10 First Team selection, redshirt senior Anthony Perez (2g, 1a), sophomore Biko Bradnock-Brennan , redshirt sophomore Nick Barnhorst (0g, 2a), and junior David Mayer returning.
Redshirt senior Klay Davis, a 2012 All-Atlantic 10 First Team selection, returns in goal. Davis will anchor what should again be a very solid 49er defense. Last year Davis he had a 0.79 goals against average and recorded 8.5 shutouts. Sophomore Austin Pack who appeared in two contests last year is among other returning netminders.
Charlotte had a very productive spring season in which they were 6-0-1 against a competitive slate of opponents. Success in the spring does not always translate into a successful season but the fact that the 49ers outscored opponents fourteen to one was clearly a positive sign. The participation of transfer Bokar in the spring season was another positive take away since he is now familiar with Charlotte's system of play.
The 49ers are hungry for continued success. The trip to the College Cup in 2011 woke up a program that many have long considered to be a sleeping giant. The starting eleven looks to be very strong heading into the 2013 campaign but depth is a potential concern since Charlotte has a lot of yet to be proven talent on board.
The 49ers should have another double digit win season in 2013 but the length of their season will likely depend on the extent to which some new faces are able to contribute.
Conor Agnew - Midfield - Fort Mill, South Carolina - Nation Ford High School - A sophomore transfer from North Carolina State. where he started eleven games last year. North Meck USSF Academy.
Monbo Bokar - Forward - Monrovia, Liberia - Jordan High School - A junior transfer from North Carolina State. Had 19 starts in 31 games at N.C. State. Played for CASL USSF Academy team.
Brandt Bronico - Midfield - High Point, North Carolina - Wesleyan Christian Academy - NSCAA High School All-American. All-State. Played for NC Fusion USSF Academy team.
Ryan Enriquez - Defender - Southwest Ranches, Florida - Cypress Bay High School - Played for Weston USSF Academy.
Matt Gerrish - Defender - Chapel Hill, North Carolina - East Chapel Hill High School - Played for Triangle United Soccer Academy. Two-time All-Conference selection. Region III ODP team.
Hans Honer - Forward - Charlotte, North Carolina - Vance High School - Rated by CSN as the #123 player in the class of 2013. Played for Charlotte USSF Academy for three years.
Eduardo Iturbide - Midfield - Charlotte, North Carolina - Ardrey Kell High School - Played for Charlotte USSF Soccer Academy.
Maximilliano Rodriguez - Midfield - San Antonio, Texas - Earl Warren High School - Played for Classics Elite USSF Academy. Conference Player of the Year in 2011.
Justin Savinon - Goalkeeper - Wilmington, North Carolina - Ashley High School - Wilmington Star News Player of the Year. Member of the Region III ODP team. Played for the Cape Fear Soccer Club.