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Akron 2014 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School – Akron
Conference – Mid-American Conference
Coach – Jared Embick – (2nd Season)
Background – In his first season as the Akron head coach Jared Embick guided the Zips to a 17-4-1 overall record with a 5-1-0 mark in conference play.  Akron was once again the dominant team in the MAC winning both the regular season and tournament titles and was also a force on the national scene. The All-MAC First Team included eight Akron players and Aodhan Quinn became the ninth consecutive Akron player to be named the MAC Player of the Year.  Akron earned its seventh consecutive invite to the NCAA Tournament (one of only eight programs that have done so) and topped Indiana in the first round before losing 1-0 to Marquette in the second round. Four Akron players, seniors Robbie Derschang, Eric Stevenson, Aodhan Quinn, and Reinaldo Brenes, were selected in the MLS SuperDraft and junior defender Bryan Gallego signed an MLS Homegrown Contract making it the sixth consecutive season that at least one Akron player was drafted or signed a Homegrown Contract.  The NSCAA named Quinn a First Team All-America selection, Gallego a Second Team All-America selection, and Brenes as a Third Team All-America selection. College Soccer News named Quinn a First Team All-American and Gallego a Second Team All-American.  The Zips were ranked as the number fifteen team in the final season ending College Soccer News National Poll and the number seventeen team in the nation in the final season ending NSCAA Poll. Akron has the highest winning percentage (.828) in the NCAA since the 2006 season.  
Offense – Five of Akron's top six goal scorers from the 2013 team were seniors who have graduated.  Those five players accounted for 27 of the 33 goals the Zips scored last year.  Sophomore midfielder Adam Najem (4g, 9a), senior defender/forward Saad Abdul-Salaam, and sophomore forward Ismail Seremba (1g, 2a) are the only returning players who scored a goal or contributed an assist last year.  Najem is a prime timer who will no doubt play a key role in Akron's offense in 2014.  Redshirt freshman forward Sam Gainford from England who was ineligible to play last year but is now eligible is among other players who should add offensive productivity in 2014.  Junior transfer forward Sean Sepe, an All-Big East Second Team selection last year at St.John's, is a goal scorer who looks to be a great additioin to the Zip attack. The fact that Sepe has already enrolled and able to participate in the Spring Season will facilitate his transition to Akron.  Sophomores Seremba and Riley Grant are among other returning forwards who will seek to play a greater role in 2014.  Junior Clint Caso who saw action in sixteen games last year and sophomore Osas Malkin who saw action in two contests are among returning midfielders.  Freshmen Jesse Garcia, Richie Laryea, and Nathan Quirk should also be in the hunt for minutes in the midfield.     
Defense – Sophomore Victor Souto, who is among the top defensive midfielders in the country, returns to anchor the Akron defense.  Junior Andrew Souders is a lock down defender who will also play a key role in the Akron defense in 2014.  Ditto that for senior Saad Abdul-Salaam who will likely be the starting right back. Adbul-Salaam has the ability to push forward to add an additional dimension to the offense.  Junior Phil Fives and sophomores Louis Cross, Brett Gravatt,and Brad Ruhaak are among returning backs who will seek to assume a greater role in 2014. Freshmen Bryce Cregan and Niko Devera are among the newcomers who should compete for playing time in the back from the get-go. Junior Jake Fenlason and sophomore Fernando Pina return to give the Zips two experienced goalkeepers.    

Newcomers –  Four Star Recruiting Class  

Coach Embick stated, "We are thrilled about the potential of this class.  After losing six starters, we needed to bring in a strong class that has the skill and ability to play Akron Soccer and I believe we have achieved that.  The fall can't get here soon enough."

Bryce Cregan – Defender – Dallastown, Pennsylvania – Dallasown Area High School – Played for PA Classics.  Member of several U.S. Youth National Teams.  Currently a member of the U.S. U-17 National Team.  NSCAA Youth All-American.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 52 player in the class of 2014.

Rich Laryea – Midfield – Toronto, Ontario – Dante Aligheri Academy – Played for Sigma FC.  Played with the Canadian U-18 Men's National Team.  

Nathan Quirk – Forward – Liverpool, England – Liverpool Academy – Played with Liverpool Academy U-18 team.  

Sean Sepe – Forward – West Islip, N.Y. – West Islip High School – Junior transfer from St. John's where he was a 2013 All-Big East Second Team selection.  Scored six goals and contributed three assists in 2013.  

Stuart Holthusen – Forward – Wellington, New Zealand –  Played for the Wanderers SC.  Started three contests for New Zealand in the 2013 U-17 World Cup.  

Jesse Garcia-Aguilar – Midfield – Portland, Oregon – Century High School – Played for Portland Timbers Academy.  All-Conference selection.  

Nate Shultz – Forward – Cleveland, Ohio – Mayfield HIgh School – Played for INternationals SC.  Netted 36 goals during three seasons for Mayfield High School. Region 2 ODP team.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 101 player in the class of 2014.  

Niko De Vera – Defender – Camas, Washington – Camas High School – Played for the Portland Timbers Academy – Netted 19 goals in two seasons at Camas.   

Anthony Macchione – Forward – Camas, Washington – Camas High School – Played for the Portland Timbers Academy.  2011 Oregon ODP team.  Region IV ODP team member in 2012.  Played for Timbers' reserve club.

Ezana Kahsay – Defender – Buffalo, New York – International Preparatory School at Grover – Scored 55 goals and added 45 assists during four year tenure at International Preparatory School.  

Elliott Rubio – Goalkeeper – Chicago, Illinois – Highland Park High School – Played for the Chicago Magic SC.  Starting keeper for Chicago Magic U-18 team.  Four-year team captain.  

Shane Wiedt – Defender – Akron Ohio – Archbishop Hoban High School – Played for Internationals SC.  Two-time All-Conference selection.    

Prognosis for 2014 – The Zips look to be a young but very exciting and capable team in 2014. One of the biggest storylines at Akron heading into the 2014 season, as it has been for the past several years, is the talent that they must replace due to graduation and/or the departure of players who have elected to leave early to enter the professional ranks.  So let's address that issue up-front.  The Zips lose six starers including three NSCAA All-American selections. That is a concern since it means that Akron has a ton of talent to replace.  The good news is that Embick and his staff will have a solid foundation of returning players to build on (Najem, Souto, Souders, Abdul-Salaam, Fenlason, Pina) along with a very good twelve member recruiting class with players like forward Sepe and back Cregan that should be able to contribute immediately. Perhaps no team in the country will be more heavily favored to win its conference in 2014 than Akron. However, a wait and see approach remains in terms of whether or not this relatively young team will be able to sustain the same level of success in 2014 on the national scene that they have enjoyed in the recent past. For Akron to do that some new faces are going to have to come up big particularly on the offensive side of the ball.    
Posted in 2014 Team Reviews

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