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Clemson 2017 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School:  Clemson 
Conference:  Atlantic Coast
Coach:  Mike Noonan –  8th Season  
2016 Record:  14-4-5 overall   4-1-3 Conference 
2016 Final Season Ending National Rank: NSCAA 5, College Soccer News 6
Key Losses from the 2016 Team:  Forward Austin Burnikel (5g, 1a), midfielders Thales Moreno (2g, 2a) and Alex Happi (4g, 2a), defenders Aaron Jones (3g, 4a) and Inman Mafi (0g, 2a)

Five Year Win Total:

2012 –  6

2013 – 11

2014 –  12

2015 –  17

2016 –  14

2016 goals scored and goals against:  32/17
Key 2016 statistic:  The Tigers faced twelve teams that finished inside the top 25 teams in the country in the final RPI

Background: Clemson is a tradition rich program. The Tigers have thrived under the direction of head coach Mike Noonan who took over the reigns of the program in 2010 after a successful fifteen year tenure as the head coach at Brown. Clemson is 73-47-26 during his seven year tenure to date.

The Tigers have been to the NCAA Tournament a total of twenty-nine times including the last four years in a row. Clemson won the National Championship in 1984 and 1985. They have advanced to the College Cup (Final Four) a total of eight times with the most recent being the 2015 season when they also advanced to the national championship match. 

The Tigers have played their way into the Elite Eight a total of fourteen times with the most recent being the 2016 season. They have been the ACC Champions a total of fourteen times with the most recent being the 2015 season.

In 2016, Clemson had signature regular season wins over South Carolina, Providence, Creighton, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and Louisville. They advanced past Syracuse and Boston College in the ACC Tournmanent before losing to Wake Forest in the championship match.  

They were subsequently awarded the number three seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament and advanced past in-state foe South Carolina and Albany before their season ended when they were upset 1-0 in the friendly confines of Historic Riggs Field by number six seeded Denver University.

Clemson was ranked as the number five team in the country by the NSCAA in their season ending 2016 poll and the number six team in the nation by College Soccer News. 

Forward Diego Campos (6g, 4a) and midfielder Oliver Shannon (1g, 6a) were named to the 2016 All-ACC Second Team. Defender Patrick Bunk-Anderson (0g, 4a) was named to the All-ACC Third Team. Midfielder Tanner Dietreich (1g, 1a) and defender Malik Mabye (2g, 1a) were named to the ACC All-Freshman Team and were College Soccer News All-Freshman Team selections.   

Number starters returning in 2017:  Eight 

Offense:  Last year Clemson found the back of the net a total of thirty-two times with twelve different players contributing a goal. Seven of the twelve who scored at least one time last year are slated to return in 2017.    

The Tigers will enter the 2017 season without three of their top four goals scorers from the 2016 season. Losses due to graduation that impact offensive productivity include forward Austin Burnikel (5g, 1a), midfielders Alex Happi (4g, 2a) and Thales Moreno (2g, 2a) and defender Aaron Jones (3g, 4a) . 

The good news is that senior forward Diego Campos (6g, 4a) who was Clemson's top goal scorer last year returns. Campos has been an impact player since arriving on campus in 2014 out of Montverde Academy and should continue to be a force on the offensive side of the ball for Clemson in 2017. He will no doubt attract a lot of attention from opposing defenders and will be a very tightly marked man in 2017. That means other goal scorers will have to step forward to take some of the pressure off Campos in order for the Tigers to have the balanced and multi-dimensional attack they will need to prevail against top level competition.

Senior forwards Grayson Raynor (2g, 3a) and Saul Chinchilla look to be the most likely candidates among returning players to add additional firepower to the attack. Both have a lot of experience under their belts. Chinchilla, like Campos, came to Clemson in 2014 out of Montverde Academy  

Forward Michael Ille who played with Atlanta United and is ranked by College Soccer News as the number forty recruit in the class of 2017 looks to be among the newcomers with the potential to contribute immediately to the offense.

Senior Oliver Shannon (1g, 6a) who has been a starter for the past three seasons, senior Michael Melvin (0g, 2a) who appeared in twenty games last year, and sophomore Tanner Dietrich (1g, 1a) who had an outstanding freshman season during which he displayed a ton of versatility are among returning midfielders who should play key roles in 2017.

Sophomores Michael Swift who saw action in seventeen contests last year and Harrison Kurtz who appeared in fifteen games also return to vie for minutes in the midfield along with junior Johnny Heckman (0g, 1a) who was on the pitch in eight contests in 2016.

Defense:  Departures due to graduation include backs Aaron Jones (3g, 4a) and Inman Mafi. Jones was a starter in 2015 and 2016 after transferring in from Georgia State. Mafi transferred to Clemson after playing one season at Gardner-Webb. He was a starter in 2014 and 2015 but his playing time was limited to only six contests in 2016 due to injury. 

Returning starting backs who figure to again play a prominent role in 2017 include junior Patrick Bunk-Anderson (0g, 4a) who has two years of starting experience under his belt and sophomore Malik Mbaye (2g, 1a) who had a very impressive freshman season.  Redshirt sophomores Andrew Burnikel  (1g, 1a) who appeared in twenty games last year and Trey Langlois (1g, 0a) who played in seven should also be in the mix in the back. 

Junior Ximo Miralles returns to give Clemson a very capable and experienced presence in goal. Miralles posted a 0.72 goals against average last year and recorded ten shutouts 


Coach Noonan stated, "We are very excited about our additions today. Each one of them adds positional strength to our roster. Through the recruiting process we have come to learn how committed they are to adding to the great foundation we have in our program."

Clemson's recruiting class took a bit of a hit when highly regarded midfielder Devin Vega out of FC Dallas decided to take his game to the professional ranks after inititally committing to go to Clemson. There appears to be a good likelyhood that additional players beyond those initially announced may join the class. 

Michael Ille – Midfielder – Atlanta, Georgia – Played for Atlanta United Youth Academy. Attended USA U-19 National Team Camp. 

Quinn McNeill – Midfielder – Greenville, South Carolina – Played with five-time South Carolina State Champion CESA. 2015 Disney Showcase Best 11. 

Kristian Shkrell – Midfielder – Bedford, New York – Played for U-18 Everton FC Westchester Academy. 

Daniel Kuzemka – Goalkeeper – Clifton, Virginia – Played for Bethesda SC. USSDA Academy Captain. ODP Regional and State Team member. 

Progonis for 2017:  A lot of very good things have been happening at Clemson since Noonan took over the reigns of the program in 2010. For starters they are once again a cohesive and focused program that reloads rather than rebuilds which bodes well for continued success in 2017. 

Clemson will enter the 2017 season facing the conventional losses and voids to plug due to graduation. A very solid contingent returns for a team that looks to be very stong down the spine with Ximo Miralles returing in goal, Patrick Bunk-Anderson and Malik Mbaye in the back, Oliver Shannon in the midfield and Diego Campos up-top.

It is also a plus that the Tiger sophomores, particularly Mbaye and Tanner Dietrich, who played a lot of minutes last year as freshmen should experience the bump in play that goes along with having a season under their belts.

However, Clemson will enter the 2017 campaign with unanswered questions when it comes to the fringes where the Tigers will have to rely on youthful talent that is still developing. That task becomes even more daunting due to the highly competitve schedule Clemson will face and the parity that exists in the Atlantic Coast Conference which had an NCAA record nine teams receive bids to the NCAA Tournament last year.   

On the offensive side of the ball the major challenge will be finding other sources for putting the ball into the back of the net other than Campos who will likely be a tightly marked man. In addition Campos will have to understand that opposing defenses will focus on him and be prepared to step up and perhaps adjust his game.

In the past Noonan has utilized transfers on occassion, as he did in the case of defenders Aaron Jones and Inman Mafi, to successfully fill voids that have existed. That option is still not out of the question and remains a possiblity as it relates to additional firepower on the offensvie side of the ball should a suitable solution present itself.

The productivity of returning senior forwards Grayson Raynor and Saul Chinchilla who are very capable finishers looks to be a critical success factor in 2017. 

Clemson allowed a total of seventeen goals last year while effectively deploying a bend but don't break style of defense. Assuming they can avoid injuries, the Tigers look to have the experience returning in the back and in goal to further enhance and solidify their effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball in 2017.

The 2016 season was another banner season for Clemson but it was not supposed to end the way it did with the number three seeded Tigers being topped at home in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament preventing them from making a return trip to the College Cup and a shot at a National Championship.

As a result you can expect Clemson to be motivated and hungry to take things at least one step further in 2017 than they did in 2016. 


Posted in 2017 Team Reviews

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