Northwestern 2015 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School - Northwestern
Conference - Big Ten
Coach - Tim Lenahan (15th Season) 
Background - Any meaningful reference to the history of the men's soccer program at Northwestern has to be divided into before Lenahan and after Lenahan. Tim Lenahan became the Northwestern head coach in 2001. To put things into perspective the Wildcats were winless in 2000 and a non-factor in the Big Ten Conference race not to mention the national scene. That is no longer the case. Under Lenahan, Northwestern has progressed from wishing, to believing, to expecting to contend for the Big Ten Title and a berth in the NCAA Tourney. In 2004 the Wildcats earned their first invite to the NCAA Tournament. In the fourteen seasons that Lenahan has been at the helm of the program Northwestern has been an NCAA Tournament team nine times including eight of the past nine seasons and the past four seasons in a row. Under Lenahan's direction the Wildcats have won both the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles and are now an annual contender for the conference title and solidly planted on the college soccer map on the national scene. In 2014 Northwestern was 9-4-6 overall with a 4-1-3 mark in Big Ten play. Tyler Miller was named the 2014 Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year and back Nikko Boxall was named the Big Ten Defender of the Year. Forward Joey Calistri and midfielder Cole Missimo were All-Big Ten Second Team selections. Forward Elo Ozumba and midfielder Sam Forsgren were 2014 Big Ten All-Freshman selections. Miller was named an All-American by the NSCAA and College Soccer News. Boxall was an NSCAA All-American.   
Offense - Senior forward Joey Calistri (6g, 2a) who has led the Wildcats in scoring for the past three seasons and is a three-time All-Big Ten selection returns to give Northwestern a prime timer up-top. Calistri will likely be a tightly marked man so others will need to add balance to the attack. Junior Mike Roberge (3g, 2a) and sophomore Elo Ozumba (0g, 4a) are among other returning forwards who should figure prominenly in the Wildcat attack. Senior midfielder Cole Missimo (5g, 4a) is back to add additional punch to the offense and to set the pace in the midfield. Junior Jeff Hopson (1g, 2a), redshirt senior Layth Masri who missed the last two season due to injury, and sophomore Sam Forsgren (1g, 2a) are among other returning linkmen who also look to be in the mix. Junior Brandon Medina (1g, 5a) was expected to play a key role in the midfield but a torn ACL may keep him on the sidelines in 2015. Highly regarded freshman midfielders Shannon Seymour and Camden Buescher are soccer savvy playmakers with the potential to contribute immediately.   
Defense - Last year Northwestern was tenacious on the defensive side of the ball allowing a total of twelve goals including only seven in Big Ten play. To maintain that level of productivity in 2015 will require a total team effort. Goalkeeper Tyler Miller and back Nikko Boxall will not be easily replaced. In addition the Wildcats will be without backs Peter Beasley and Grant Wilson due to graduation. However a solid group of backs return led by junior Nathan Dearth (0g, 1a) and senior Henry Herrill (1g, 1a) who were starters last year. Senior Sagar Jambusaria, junior Drew Rosenberg (0g, 1a) and redshirt freshman John Moderwell who missed the 2014 campaign due to a broken foot should also be in the mix in the back. Freshman back Cameron Mardan is among the newcomers who likely would have competed for minutes but a torn ACL will probably keep him out for the season. Senior Zak Allen who started five games in 2013 when Miller was injured returns in goal. 

Newcomers - Three and a Half Star Recruiting Class 

Camden Buescher - Midfielder - Toledo, Ohio - St. John's Jesuit High School - Four year starter in high school. First Team All-State. District and Conference Player of the Year. Played club for Pacesetter FC. Ranked as the number 140 player in the class of 2014 by CSN. 

Emmett Gordon - Midfielder - Brookline, Massachusetts - Belmont High School - Three-year starter in high school. Netted 17 goals and contributed 10 assists his senior season. All-League. Played for Valeo Futbol Academy. 

Cameron Mardan - Defender - Irvine California - Northwood High School - Led high school team in scoring as a freshman. Three-year starter for Strikers FC Academy. Three-year starter in Northern Ireland Milk Cup. 

Ben Miller - Defender - Woodbury, Minnesota - Woodbury High School - First Team All-State. 2014 Minneapolis Star-Tribune All-Metro First Team. Played for the Minnesota Twins Stars Academy. 

Jake Roberge - Defender - Murrysville, Pennsylvania - Franklin Regional High School - Four-year starter in high school. 2014 Tribune-Review Player of the Year. First Team All-State. Played for Beadling Soccer Club.

Shannon Seymour - Midfielder - Bourbonnais, Illinois - Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School - Starterd as a freshman at Lake Forest Highs School. Played with Chicago Fire Academy for five seasons. Invited to U-18 men's national team domestic camp in 2014.  Ranked by CSN as the number 64 player in the class of 2014. 

Robbie White - Goalkeeper - Glen Ellyn, Illinois - Glenbard West High School - All-Conference at Glenbard High School. Played with Chicago Fire Academy. Also played with Glen Ellyn Lakers FC.    

Prognosis for 2015 - Overcoming the departure of a 2014 senior class that made four NCAA Tournament appearances and won both the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles during their tenure in Evanston is a challenge but Northwestern is now a program that reloads rather than rebuilds so there is reason for optimism heading into the 2015 season. Forward Joey Calistri gives the Wildcats a seasoned finisher as does midfielder Cole Missimo but others will have to step forward to add diversity to the attack and take some of the pressure off them. Junior Mike Roberge and sophomore Elo Ozumba are among returning players who could help do this. The midfield looks to be strong and experienced led by senior Massimo who has upped the level of his play yearly and junior Jeff Hopson who was a starter last year. The Northwestern front six should be particularly dangerous out of the counter attack. The return of a healthy Layth Masri in the defensive midfielder role is a big plus. His presence on the pitch should also enhance the Wildcats ability to maintain possession in the middle third. The backline and the play in goal creates a question mark heading into the 2015 season due to the gaps that exist due to graduation. Northwestern played everyone close last year in large part because of their tenacity on the defensive side of the ball. Whether they can continue at the same level in that regard in 2015 remains to be seen. The competition in the Big Ten which had six teams in the NCAA Tournament field last year will again be fierce in 2015. There is no single dominant frontrunner and there are no more easy matches in conference play. If there is not a significant drop off on the defensive side of the ball and if there is improvement in productivity on the offensvie side of the ball then Northwestern should once again hold their own in conference play in 2015. A ten or more win season and another berth in the NCAA Tournament are realistic goals but for now it is difficult to predict anything beyond that.     

 

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