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Clemson 2014 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School – Clemson
Conference – Atlantic Coast Conference
Coach – Mike Noonan (5th Season)
Background – The Tigers continued their upward climb in 2013 with a 11-7-3 overall record and a 5-4-2 mark in conference play. The eleven wins were the most the Tigers had recorded since the 2006 campaign. The five wins in ACC play were the most the Tigers had secured since the 1998 season. Clemson had signature wins over Virginia and North Carolina and was awarded an at-large berth in the NCAA Tourney returning to the field for the first time since the 2006 season. Their season came to an end when they they were topped by Elon in a heartbreaker in the the first round of the NCAA Tournament in a contest that was decided by penalty kicks. Graduate student midfielder Thomas McNamara was named a Second Team All-American by the NSCAA and a Third Team All-American by College Soccer News.  It was a banner season for a tradition rich program that made another step toward restoring its competitive standing in the ACC and on the national scene.  
Offense –  The Tiger offense showed a renewed sense of urgency and spark last year that Clemson will seek to build on in 2014. Senior midfielders Manolo Sanchez (5g, 3a) and Ara Amirkhanian (6g, 3a) are among the key returning players on the offensive side of the ball. Junior forward T.J. Casner (3g, 2a) who netted several big goals last year should be in the hunt for additional playing time in 2014.  Forward Diego Campos out of the highly regarded Montverde Academy may be the most intriguing newcomer. Campos is a dynamic goal scorer with the potential to make an immediate impact. Sophomores Austen Burnikel (0g, 2a) and Kyle Murphy and junior Iain Smith (1g, 1a) are among forwards who will be in the hunt for a greater role in 2014. Midfielders junior Paul Clowes (0g, 2a), a former Manchester City FC Youth Academy player and sophomore Alex Happi (1g. 0a) out of Montverde Academy will control the center of the park for the Tigers. Sophomore Thales Moreno (2g, 1a), junior Richard Robinson and sophomore Iman Mafi who transfers in from Gardner-Webb where he was a member of the Big South All-Freshman team last year are among other midfielders who will vie for playing time. Incoming freshman midfielder Gerald Vargas is a blue chipper out of Montverde with the technical ability and tactical quality needed to compete for playing time. Freshman midfielder Saul Chinchilla, another Montverde product, also looks to be in the mix.  The bottom line is that Noonan and company will have a lot of different lineup combinations and the flexibility to present opponents with several different systems of play. Clemson showed improvement in 2013 in their ability to finish scoring oppotunities but this remains an area where the opportunity for additional improvement exists. The Tigers will enter the 2014 season with a very athletic group of midfielders who look to be the center piece of the offense.  The ability of the guys up-top to add an additional dimension to the attack looks to be the X-Factor on the offensive side of the ball.       
Defense – If everyone stays healthy the backline will be a team strength with seniors Phanuel Kavita and Amadou Dia returning along with junior Kyle Fisher who was a 2013 All-ACC Third Team selection.  Newcomers Michael Melvin, Tyler Rider, and Grayson Raynor should add depth in the back line or in the midfield. Clemson returns redshirt sophomore Andrew Tarbell and redshirt junior Chris Glodack in goal giving the Tigers what may be the most competitive starting goalkeeper position battle in the country.  

Newcomers – Four and A Half Star Recruiting Class 

Diego Campos – Forward – Costa Rica – Montverde Academy – Ranked as the number 48 player in the class of 2014 by College Soccer News.  Netted 25 goals as a junior in high school and 37 goals as a senior.  

Saul Chinchilla – Midfielder – Costa Rica – Montverde Academy – Netted 15 goals as a junior and 12 goals as a senior.  Ranked as the number 39 player in the class of 2014 by College Soccer News.  

Gerald Vargas – Midfielder – Costa Rica – Monteverde Academy – Named the 2013 M.A.S. T. Most Valuable Player.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 49 player in the class of 2014.  Scored nine goals as a junior and twelve goals his senior season.  

Michael Melvin – Defender – Ponte Verdra, Florida – Neese High School – Played for Jacksonville United FC.  Played for the Orlando Development Academy.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 64 player in the class of 2014. 

Grayson Raynor – Midfielder – Greenville, South Carolina – Riverside High School – All-Region selection.  Plays for CESA 95 Premier.  

Tyler Rider – Defender – Greenville, South Carolina – J.L. Mann High School – All-Region selection in 2012 and 2013.  Played for CESA 95 Premier.  Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 124 player in the class of 2014. Team captain. 

Inman Mafi – Midfielder – Grimstad, Norway – Dahiske Viderregaende Skole – Sophomore transfer from Gardner-Webb.  Named to Big South All-Freshman Team. Netted three goals and contributed one assist last year at Gardner-Webb.

Reed Cawthon – Forward – Windemere, Florida – First Academy High School – Florida Boys High School 1A Player of the Year and Central Florida All-Area Player-of-the Year.  Netted 37 goals his senior season.  59 career goals.  All-State selection. Played for FC America.  

Prognosis for 2014 – The really good news is that Noonan will have the luxary of working with nine returning starters and a top ten recruiting class that includes four players ranked by College Soccer News as among the top 150 players in the class of 2014. Clemson enters the 2014 season with a team that for the first time in many seasons has the talent, experience, and depth to be considered a legitimate contender for the Atlantic Coast Conference crown.  The bad news is that Noonan will have to figure out how to replace the many tangibles and intangibles that All-American Thomas McNamara brought to the table last year. McNamara was clearly a game changer for the Tigers despite the fact that he only had a one year tenure at Clemson. He clearly was the Tiger's go-to guy in 2013 with seven goals including 4 game winners and a team high eight assists, The Tigers also will miss midfielder Jack Metcalf who was a 2013 All-ACC Third Team selection and four year starter.  Seniors Manolo Sanchez and Ara Amirkhanian will figure prominently in the Tiger attack but the ability of junior T.J. Casner, freshman Diego Campos or someone else to add additional offensive punch up-top could ultimately determine the level of success that Clemson enjoys in 2014. The defense which held opponents to a total of only twenty goals last year while posting eight clean sheets looks to be very solid. The Tigers will again face the challenge of another difficult ACC schedule and a non-conference slate that includes the likes of Providence, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, and South Florida. Noonan has silenced the naysayers who felt it would be a long time before Clemson would be able to turn the corner and get back into the NCAA Tourney field.  Clemson may not yet be the team to beat in the ACC but it is clear that they now have the personnel on board with the talent and competitive mentality needed to climb upward in the ACC and the potential to make their presence known annually on the national scene.      


Posted in 2014 Team Reviews

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