Iona - Three Star Recruiting Class - With success comes heightened expectations. The 2012 season was supposed to be the year that the Gaels won the MAAC Championship and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament. After a program best fifteen win season in 2011 and with seven All-MAAC players returning, Iona looked to be a team that was going to flex its muscles a bit in 2012.
Instead the Gaels took a step backward finishing with a 7-11-0 overall record and a 5-2-0 mark in MAAC play. The number four seeded Iona was topped 1-0 by number one seeded Loyola Maryland in the MAAC Tournament to conclude a season of "what might have been" well short of their goal of an MAAC Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth.
So how do you explain going from a fifteen win season in 2011 to a seven win season in 2012? From a purely statistical standpoint the answer lies in the fact that Iona scored a total of thirty-six goals in 2011 and allowed opponents to put only nineteen in the back of the net . However in 2012 offensive productivity dropped to a total of twenty-five goals while a porous Gael defense allowed opponents to score thirty-five times.
Perhaps the real explanation relates to the strength of a significantly upgraded 2012 schedule that included the likes of non-conference foes Florida Gulf Coast, South Florida, Northwestern, Northern Illinois, West Virginia and Connecticut on the road. Iona came out on the short end of each of those contests. The schedule may have been too ambitious but you have to like the competitiveness of Iona head coach Fernando Barboto who likely sought to give his talented and experienced team the opportunity to up their RPI, after a fifteen win 2011 season didn't produce an at-large berth to the NCAA Tourney, while at the same time preparing his team for MAAC play.
The goal at Iona entering the 2013 season remains winning the MAAC Championship and earning the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Gaels face the challenge of accomplishing that in 2013 without the services of forward Ansger Otto (7g, 4a), midfielders Alvaro Torrecilla (5g, 5a) and Saul Ortega (0g, 1a), defender Robbie Krohmer (1g, 1a) and goalkeeper Borja Barbero. Otto, who led Iona in goals and points last year, Torrecilla, and Krohmer were 2012 All-MAAC Second Team selections.
The good news is that a solid nucleus returns and Barbota will welcome an eleven member recruiting class to New Rochelle that includes several players who have the potential to make an immediate impact.
Senior forward Samuel Adjei (4g, 1a), who was a 2011 All-MAAC First Team selection returns to lead the way up-top. Look for him to assume a greater share of the offensive burden now that Anser Otto is no longer on the pitch.
The midfield has the potential to be very good. Senior Franklin Castellanos (2g, 6a), a 2011 and 2012 All-MAAC First Team selection, and junior Ignacio Maganto (1g, 2a), a 2011 and 2012 All-MAAC Second Team selection, return to add offensive punch in the midfield. The return of senior defensive midfielder Alex Abdalla, who redshirted the 2012 season due to a knee injury, is a huge plus. Senior center midfielder Michael Hodgen (0g, 1a) who was hampered by injury last year, senior Giovanni Tacconelli and junior Giovanni Esposito (0g, 2a) are among other key returning midfielders. Senior MJ Nestor (0g, 1a) and sophomore Dylan Cope are among others who seek to play a greater role in the midfield in 2013.
The backline is an area where the opportunity for improvement exists. Seniors Tommy Martin, Paul Traut and Keter Guischard and juniors Charlie Butte and Willya Mekolo are among returning backs. Sophomores Karlo Morell from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico and Julian Petrello from New York are competing for the vacant starting goalkeeper role. Neither saw playing time last year.
It is difficult to know what to expect from the Gaels in 2013 but it is reasonable to expect that Barboto will field a team that will be in the hunt for the MAAC title. The Gaels open the season with non-conference contests in California against UC Riverside and UC Irvine. However, the overall non-conference schedule in 2013 is much more conducive to success than was the 2012 schedule.
The level of play in the MAAC has steadily improved in recent years. This is a league that has been overlooked in the past but is starting to earn a little respect.The Gaels figure to be a tough opponent but in order to have a chance to attain their goal of winning the MAAC Championship they are going to have to show plenty of heart and turn up the intensity on both sides of the ball.
Mike Holzer - Midfield - Merzchule High School - Franklin, Germany - Transfer from UNC Greensboro where he played in eight contests last year. Played for Stuttgart Kickers Academy.
Marley McLain - Defender - Enfield, Connecticut - Enrico Fermi High School - Played for the FSA United Soccer Club.
Alex Ramos - Forward - Colts Neck, New Jersey - Colts Neck High School - Played for NJSA. Member of the US U-14 National Team.
Shakhai Trott - Defender - South Kent, Connecticut - South Kent Prep School - Played for the FC Westchester Academy. Membr of the U-17 Bermuda National Team.
Mike Gottlinger - Defender - Fort Collins, Colorado - Fossil Ridge High School - Played for the Colorado Rapids Academy.
Jonathon Proctor - Defender - Dix Hills, New Jersey - Half Hollow Hills West High School - Played for Albertson Academy.
Aaron Potter - Forward - Monroe, New Jersey - Monroe Township High School - Played for the MatchFit Soccer Academy.
Jannick Martens - Forward - Alstergymnasium Henstedt-Ulzburg High School - Played for the FC St. Paul Academy.
Taylor Dempsey - Forward - Pottstown, Pennsylvania - Owen J Roberts High School - Played for Hicksville Soccer Club. Played for Philadelphia Union Academy.
Brendan Reardon - Midfield - South Huntington, New York - St. Anthony's High School - Played for Lake Grove United.
Oscar Gonzales - Midfield - Clifton, New Jersey - Clifton High School - Played for the Red Bulls Academy Team.