Expectations remain high at Clemson but the Tigers have unanswered questions that must be addressed on both sides of the ball heading into the 2019 campaign.
Departures and Gaps – Clemson will be without four seniors from the 2018 team. Departures include defenders Andrew Burnikel (2g, 3a) and Patrick Bunk-Anderson (1g, 1a), goalkeeper Jonny Sutherland and midfielder Johnny Heckman.
Opportunities for Improvement – Last year Clemson scored twenty-three goals while allowing twenty-five.
Summary – Clemson’s streak of five consectuive appearances in the NCAA Tournament ended last year with a 7-9-1 overall record and a 2-6-0 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference play. It is fair to say that Clemson had trouble capitalizing on its opportunities last year. The effort was there but the inability to finish scoring opportunites and uncharacteristic mistakes on the defensive side of the ball kept the Tigers on the backfoot for most of the season. The momemtum pendulum and standing can shift quickly in the Atlantic Coast Conference where the level of competition is fierce and weaknesses are exploited. Mike Noonan knows what it takes to prevail at the highest level and is no doubt aware of the deficiences that must be addressed for his team to get back on track. Noonan summed things up at the conclusion of the 2018 campaign when he stated, “I saw growth through a disappointing season and I am confident we will put the pieces together in the very near future.”
Noonan will have a solid group of returning players to work with who now have an additional year of experience under their belts supplemented by several newcomers with the potential to contribute. The fact that Clemson rebounded last year to defeat Syracuse and NC State in their last two regular season conference contests is a good sign.
Senior Adrian Nunez (6g, 2a) who led the Tiger attack last year returns up-top. He is the key ingredient in Clemson’s offense. Juniors Kimarni Smith (2g, 1a) and Robbie Robinson (2g, 0a) and sophomore Greyson Barber (1g, 2a) are among those who Noonan will likely look to for additional offensive punch up-top. Sophomore James Brighton who redshirted last year and redshirt junior Nate Hall (0g, 1a) are among other returning forwards who could figure in the mix.
Juniors Quinn McNeill (2g, 0a), Sindri Bjornsson and Cale Thorne (0g, 1a) are among returning midfielders. An experienced group of defenders return led by seniors Tanner Dieterich (4g, 0a) and Malick Mbaye (1g, 0a), junior Justin Malou (0g, 1a) and sophomore Charlie Arsensio (0g, 1a) who was named to the 2018 ACC All-Freshman Team and was a 2018 College Soccer News All-Freshman Team selection. Sophomore George Marks who started five contests last year, redshirt senior Nolan Lennon and redshirt senior Daniel Kuzemka are among returning goalkeepers.
Expectations are always high at Clemson. Chances are pretty good that the Tigers will increase their win total in 2019. However, with unanswered questions on both sides of the ball, there could be growing pains again in 2019. In order to get back in the mix in conferene play the attack must become more balanced and opportunistic and the defenders have to consistently play to their potential.
Judson Burns – Defender – Argyle, Texas – Played club for FC Dallas Academy.
Oscar Agren – Defender – Malmo, Sweden – Played for LBO7 in Sweden.
Adam Yorke – Forward – Redondo Beach, California – Redondo Union High School – Played for the LA Galaxy South Bay. Team captain. Two-time selection to the California-South ODP pool. All-Bay selection.
Matthew Boberg – Forward – Brownsburg, Indiana – Cardinal Ritter High School – Played for the Indiana Fire Academy for six seasons.
Philip Mayaka – Midfielder – Nairobi, Kenya – Montverde Academy
Isaiah Reid – Defender – Rock Hill, South Carolina – Played for the Charlotte Soccer Academy.
Enrique Montana III – Defender – Duvall, Washington – Played for the Seattle Sounders Academy. Played with the Tacoma Defiance.
Dylan Sullivan – Midfielder – Wappinger Falls, New York – Roy C. Ketcham High School – Played with the New York Red Bulls Academy.