University of Portland 2017 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School:  University of Portland
Conference:  West Coast Conference 
Coach:  Nick Carlin-Voigt - Second Season
2016 Record: 12-5-2 Overall - 6-1-0 in conference play
2016 Final Season Ending National Rank:  NA
Key Losses from the 2016 Team:  Midfielders Eddie Sanchez (6g, 7a) and Geoffrey Dunn (2g, 0a) and defenders Conor Johnson (2g, 1a) and Dirk Van Der Velde (1g, 0a) due to graduation.  

Five Year Win Total:

2012:  7

2013:  9

2014: 4

2015:  3

2016:  12

2016 Goals Scored and Goals Against: 36 goals scored and 18 allowed
Key 2016 Statistic:  Portland was the 14th best team in the country in 2016 with an average of 1.89 goals scored per game.  

Background: Portland has a storied soccer tradition going back to the Clive Charles era from 1986 through 2002 during which time the Pilots advanced to the College Cup (Final Four) in 1988 and 1995.

The program bounced back in 2016 under the direction of first year head coach Nick Carlin-Voight to post a 12-5-2 overall record with a 6-1-0 mark in WCC play after going 9-11-0 in 2013, 4-11-4 in 2014 and 3-12-3 in 2015. The six wins in league play were particularly noteworthy considering the fact that Portland managed a total of only one win in conference play in 2014 and 2015.

The Pilots won the WCC Conference Title in 2016 for the first time since the 2008 season and returned to the NCAA Touranment for the first time since 2009. Their very promising and encouraging 2016 season included a seven game winning streak which was the longest the program has had since the 1995 campaign.

The support and excitement surrounding the program at Portland was reflected in the fact that 4,362 fans were on hand to witness the Pilots' final regular season contest at Merlo Field last year.  

The Pilots' 2016 season came to an end when they were topped by New Mexico in penatly kicks in the first round of the NCAA Tournament after the contest was scoreless at the end of regulation and overtime.

Portland has won the WCC Championship a total of six times in the history of the program and has made a total of fifteen appearances in the NCAA Tournament. 

Midfielder Eddie Sanchez (6g, 7a) was a 2016 College Soccer News Third Team All-American. Sanchez was also named an NSCAA All-Far West Region First Team selection, the WCC Player of the Year, and was an All-WCC First Team selection.

Forward Benji Michel (10g, 4a) was a 2016 All-Far West Region Third Team selection, the WCC Freshman of the Year, and an All-WCC First Team selection. Back Kris Reaves was an All-Far West Region Third selection and a All-WCC First Team honoree.

Paul Christensen was named the 2016 WCC Goalkeeper of the Year and was an All-WCC Second Team selection.

Midfielder Matthew Coffey and defender Lionell Mills were 2016 WCC Honorable mention while Michel and midfielder Gio Magana-Rivera were named to the WCC All-Freshman Team. 

Coach Nick Carlin-Voight was named the 2016 WCC Co-Coach of the Year. 

Number Starters Returning in 2017:  Seven  

Offense: Last year Portland averaged 1.89 goals per game which ranked them among the top twenty teams in the country in that category. With three of their top five goal scorers slated to return, the Pilots have the potential to be a difficult team for opposing defenders to contain in 2017.

Of course, one of the players who does not return is midfielder Eddie Sanchez (6g, 7a) who was a four-time WCC First Team selection. Filling the gap that his departure creates on the offensive side of the ball will not be easy. However, not impossible for a team that returns its top goal scorer and three other players who scored three or more goals last year. 

The offense will again rely heavily on the productivity of sophomore forward Benji Michel who had a banner freshmanch  season but will now face the challenge of having defenders focus more on him due to the departure of Sanchez. Senior Erik Edwardson (4g, 1a) who played in eithteen contests with two starts last year is among other key returning forwards who will likely have the opportunity to play a greater role in 2017.

A very solid contingent of midfielders are slated to return along with several newcomers who could contribute. On paper at least, Carlin-Voight will have a lot of lineup options in the midfield. Redshirt senior Mathew Coffee (3g, 1a), senior Brandon Zambrano (0g, 2a), juniors Shane Aranda (0g, 1a) and Malcom Dixon, and sophomores Gio Magana-Riveria (3g, 0a), Rey Ortiz (2g, 3a) and Billy Garton are among returning midfielders.

Defense: The Pilots held opponents to a total of eighteen goals last year which equated to an average of 0.95 goals allowed per game.  Portland was the 40th best program in the country in 2016 in regard to that important statistiic.

Departures due to graduation include backs Dirk Van Der Velde (1g, 0a) and Conor Johnson (2g, 1a) who were starters and defensive midfielder Geoffrey Dunn (2g, 0a).

The good news is that senior back Kris Reaves who was a 2016 All-WCC First Team selection and junior Lionell Mills return along with veteran senior netminder Paul Christensen who was the 2016 WCC Goalkeeper of the Year. Christensen had a goals against average in 2016 of 0.91 while posting a total of seven shutouts.

Junior back Jabari Newton who transfers in from Memphis could challenge for a starting job in the back while 6' 4'' freshman center back Luca Defreitas-Hansen who played for the Weston Academy is among the newcomers who could earn playing time as the season progresses.  

Newcomers:

Coach Carlin-Voight stated, "We brought in committed players who love the game and have a burning desire to improve. Everything here revolves around our team values that drive our habits."  He added, "We have a good core of our team returning and these new additions to our program will help push the competitive spirit of the group as we chase championships and pursue excellence both on and off the field."

Kevin Capelao - Midfielder - Lisbon, Portugal - International School of the Hague - A four-time selection to the All-ISST European Team, and twice named to the Top XI of the Tournament.

Luca Defreitas-Hansen - Defender - Weston, Florida - Played for the Weston Academy. Participated in U.S. Soccer National Team Training Camps. Played for the Region 3 ODP team.

Easton Embley - Midfielder - Layton, Utah - Layton High School - Two-time 5A All-Area Selection. Desert News 5A First Team and the Salt Lake Tribune 5A Second Team. Played for Utah ODP team and the Region IV ODP team. Played club for La Roca.

Iray Hamuli - Forward - Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo - International School of the Hague - Played for Velo U-19. Selected to the ISST Division One European Soccer Tournament All-Star Team in 2015 and 2016.

Jake Kemhadjian - Midfielder - Encino, California - Played with Real So Cal. Played sixteen goals with the U-16 team and eleven goals with the U-18's. 

Jason Manning - Midfielder - Calabasas, California - Agoura High School - Played for Real So Cal Academy. Netted forty-eight goals in three seasons. 

Jabari Newton - Defender - Oakland, Florida - Montverde Academy - Junior transfer from Memphis where he made twenty-one starts in two seasons. 

Jason Romero - Forward - San Jose, California - Evergreen Valley High School - Transfers in from UCLA with one season of eligibility remaining. Appeared in eleven contests and netted two goals. An NJCAA Division I First Team All-American and ACCAC Division I Player of the Year for Pima CC where he socred thirty-two goals and contributed twelve assists.

Lucas Van Eynde - Midfielder - Antwerp, Belgium - International School of the Hague - Played for Quick19. Three-time selection to the All-ISST European Soccer Tournament. 

Caua Soares - Midfielder - Montverde Academy - Florida 

Prognosis for 2017: What a difference a year can make. The progress Portland made during Nick Carlin-Voight's rookie season at the helm of the program was both significant and impressive. The Pilots upped their overall win total from three in 2015 to twelve in 2016 and went from last to first in the West Coast Conference with six wins in conference play in 2016 as compared to none in 2014 and only one in 2015.

The success that Portland enjoyed in 2016 was important for Carlin-Voight because it enabled him to establish his own identity and to convey that the program was back on track. The first step in the development of a positive change in the culture of a program always begins with the players buying into the coach's approach. It was clear that took place at Portland last year. 

The 2016 season created a solid foundation upon Portland can build and that bodes well for the future of the program. Chances are pretty good that Portland will be a stronger team in 2017 than in 2016. A solid core of players return supplemented by a recruiting class that has been ranked by College Soccer News as the fifth best in the country.

It is also a plus that Carlin-Voight and his staff will enter the 2017 season with a year of experience under their belts. The initial transition challenges that accompany any coaching change are now in the rear view mirror.

Nonetheless the West Coast Conference race will again be closely contested in 2017 with a great deal of parity in the conference. It is important to note that the conference race went down to the wire in 2016 and that Portland had to top Saint Mary's in their final regular season contest in order to secure the WCC title and punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Replacing what midfielder Eddie Sanchez, who had twenty-eight career goals, brought to the table on the offensive side of the ball will be difficult. The best solution is continued improvement in the play of every returning midfielder. In particular, sophomore Gio Magana-Rivera and redshirt senior holding midfielder Matthew Coffey look to among the returning linkmen who will have to assume greater responsibility and play key roles.  

Sophomore forward Benji Michael is a crafty player and difference maker but he will be a tightly marked man in 2017. Michael will be called upon to again be a key factor in the offense. He has game changing ability but his dominance alone will not get the Pilots to the next level. Senior forward Erik Edwardson can help in that regard by adding balance to the attack. 

Some of the newcomers will also need to add an additional dimension to the offense. Senior forward Jason Romero who transfers in from UCLA and freshman midfielder Jason Manning out of the Real So Cal Academy are among the likely candidates to do just that.

One of the reasons for Portland's improvement in 2016 was their play on the defensive side of the ball. That will again be a crucial factor in 2017. In 2016 the Pilots allowed a total of eighteen goals as compared to thirty-six in 2015 and twenty-nine in 2014.

The return of back Kris Reeves who played two seasons at Wake Forest before transferring in last year and junior back Lionel Mills along with senior goalkeeper Paul Christensen provides stability to the defense. Christensen has been the starter between the pipes for the past three seasons. Reeves, Mills and Christensen are solid players who will give the needed glue to the defense and set the pace. However, some new and perhaps untested faces will be called upon to step in and fill the voids in the backline that exist due to graduation.

Junior outside back Jabari Newton, who transfers in from Memphis, is among the newcomers who will arrive on campus with plenty of competitve experience and therefore should compete for a starting role out of the gate.   

Expect the Pilots to again be in the thick of the WCC race in 2017. They will enter the sesaon with their sights set on another bump in their win total and a repeat invite to the NCAA Tournament.

Excitement for the program is growing fueled by the fact that Portland significantly exceeded expectations last year. Clearly no opponent will look past them in 2017 as they might possibly have last year.

The Pilots will no doubt be a competitive team in 2017 and will enter the season with plenty of momentum. Some prominent pieces are in place and they will have the benefit of adding a talented recruiting class with several members that may contribute immediately.

Portland has a ton of potential but it is hard to envision the Pilots taking another signficant step forward in 2017 unless several players emerge to add balance to the attack and there is continued improvement on the defensive side of the ball. 

It will be interesting to see what they do for an encore in 2017.