Those who put the ball in the back of the net often get the lion's share of the publicity. However, all involved in college soccer know that a team can't be successful without those hard working, team oriented and talented players whose contribution doesn't always show up in the statistics. These are the guys that hold teams together, that take the level of play of the team to the next level. You can't win consistently without these guys. They set the pace. As one of the top coaches in the country stated, "we would not be having the season that we are having without these players." College Soccer News looked around the country in an effort to identify and recognize several players that are difference makers but who don't always get recognized beyond their own team for the contribution that they make.
Nick Lima – Junior – Defender – California – Tireless might be the best word to describe Lima. No one is going to out work him. He travels up and down the sideline at speed creating situations on the offenside side of the ball in which the Golden Bears have a numbers advantage to wreak havoc on opposing defenses, providing plenty of good service for California's strikers while also having consistently displaying the pace to get back to take care of business on the defensive side of the ball. Lima appeared in nineteen consests as a substitute as a freshman and has been a starter for the past two seasons. Lima shows up on the stats sheet with two goals and four assists to date this year but what he contributes is much greater than that.
Kyle Martin – Senior – Midfielder – Xavier – Martin began making an impact at Xavier back in 2013 when as a result of two injuries he was thrust into the starting lineup. The Musketeers went from an 0-2 start in which they were scoreless in their inital season as a member of the Big East Conference to six consecutive wins. He has remained a starter as a defensive center midfielder every since then and has been a mainstay in Xavier's recent emergence nationally. He sits in front of Xavier's back four and quielty but consistently connnects pass after pass and wins tackles. Martin is described by Xavier head coach Andy Fleming as "the best recovring midfield defender in transition I've ever coached." Martin is a quiet leader who leads by example. Fleming added, "If we were able to sign guys to contract extensions we would sign Kyle to a lifetime deal. He will be missed."
Mitchell Taintor – Senior – Midfielder – Rutgers – Taintor has been a starter since arriving on campus as a freshman in 2012. Taintor gives it his all and then some on both sides of the ball. He is involved in every aspect of the game whether it's generating chances on offense, making things happen in transition, or shoring up the defense. He has contributed three goals and four assists and was recently named an All-Big Ten Second Team seletion. Taintor's role as a co-captain and team leader, the impact he has played in the maturation of the Rutgers program over the past few seasons, the composure he brings to the pitch in clutch situtations, and the example he sets make him a special player worthy of recognition.
Colin Marz – Senior – Midfielder – Coastal Carolina – Martz is a warrior. After missing the last fifteen games of the 2014 season due to an ankle injury, he returned in 2015 to add defensive stability and consistency to the Coastal midfield. His role has varied somewhat based on the makeup of the Chanticleer's opponent, but he is the guy who is often responsible for marking the oppositions top midfield attacking player and disrupting opposing set pieces in the box. Martz's abilty to win balls in the air has been very instrumental to Coastal's defensive presence and his play often generates a quick and very productive Chanticleer couter attack.
Brad Ruhaak – RS Junior – Defender – Akron – Ruhaak, who hails from Akron, has been a rock solid member of an Akron backline that has recorded seven shutouts to date. He is a former walk-on who didn't travel with the team his first two seasons in the program and appeared in only three games as a redshirt freshman. However he stuck with it and as a result has been a starter for the past two seasons and a key contributor who has added a ton of value not to mention grit and determination to a very talented Akron team that is having another very good season.
Connor Klekota – Senior – Midfielder – Notre Dame – Klekota did not see any action his freshman season but has been a starter and key member of the Irish lineup the past three seasons. Klekota is the kind of player who makes those around him better. The Irish center midfielder is a team player who gives it is all on every play. A tireless worker and a pace setter whose presence adds a lot of tangibles as well as the very valuable intangible factors that a team must have in order to prevail in the close contests.
Alex Olofson – Senior – Midfielder – North Carolina – As a holding midfielder for the Tar Heels Olofson does not get the opportuinties to put the ball in the back of the net that others may. However, it would be a mistake to overlook the huge contribtion that he makes in terms of keeping the North Carolina midfield organized, on their toes, and in proper order. He has chipped in two goals to date and contributed three assists and is often a key part of Tar Heel corner kicks. A team does not win as many contests as North Carolina has over the past few seasons without a player on the pitch like Olofson. The impact he makes does not always show up in the stats but he clearly is a difference maker and an impact player.
Kurtis Turner – Junior – Midfield – South Carolina – Turner has been an impact player since arriving on campus from Sheffield, England as a freshman in 2013. He is a team captain and leader. Turner is the engine room for the Gamecocks and a tireless and persistent box to box midfielder. He convers the entire pitch, wins all the 50-50 balls in the air, and is a great distributor. Turner is the type of player who serves as the glue that holds everything together and makes good things happen. His contribution in that regard on both sides of the ball does not always show up in the stats but there is no doubt that he is a key force for South Carolina and is among the Gamecock players who set the pace for the entire team.
Max Rodriguez – Junior – Midfielder – Charlotte – Rodriguez who hails from San Antonio, Texas is a stalwart in the Charlotte starting lineup as a tenacious defensvie center midfielder as part of a stout 49er defense that has allowed a total of only twelve goals to date. He is an iron man and resilient player who can alwasys be counted upon to give it his all on both sides of the ball. Rodriguez was recently recognized as a Conference USA First Team selection. He understands what is role is, knows what is expected of him, and is not likely to be outworked by anyone.
Cole Seiler – Senior – Defender – Georgetown – Seiler has been a consistent starter at center back for the Hoyas since his freshman season and has played a key role in the success that Georgetown has had over the past four seasons. He is a highly regarded player but with all the talent on the Georgetown roster its might be easy to forget the impact that he has. He is a vital part of the Hoya backline and a vocal team leader as well. It would be a mistake to overlook the role he plays in holding the Georgetown backline together. Seiler has netted two goals to date including the game-winning goal in the Hoyas regular season ending 2-1 win over highly regarded Creighton to conclude regular season play with a 9-0-0 mark in Big East Conference play.
Emir Alihodzic – Senior – Midfielder – Omaha – Alihodzic who is from St. Louis, Missouri has been a stalwart in the central midfield for the Mavericks for four seasons working primarily as a defensive midfielder. He may not have the flashy stats of some of his couterparts in the country but he is an invaluable member of the Omaha team and is rarely if ever outworked on the pitch. He also has been productive on the offensive side of the ball with four goals and two assists to date. Alihodzic takes pride in his work, is a key contributer, and the type of player who leads by example. He brings the type of work ethic and committment to the team that all coaches seek when trying to put together a cohesive team in which the sum of the whole is greater that the sum of the individual parts.
Jordan Schweitzer – Senior – Midfielder – Denver – Schweitzer is a four year starter, team leader, and a highly motivated competitor who plays a key role in terms of setting the pace for the Pioneers. You would have to look far and wide to find another player who is as important to his team as Schwitzer is to Denver. His contribution may not necessarily show up in the stats but everything that he does he does well and he has had a huge impact on the success that the Pioneers have enjoyed during his tenure in Denver. Schweitzer has a great work ethic and is a team oriented player. He loves the game and it is reflected in the competitve effort that he always displays. Schweitzer is without a doubt the type of player every program needs when it comes to building and sustaining a winning culture.
Ian Harkes – Junior – Midfielder – Wake Forest – Harkes is a prime timer who was recently named a First Team All-ACC selection. The contribution he makes to the Demon Deacons goes way beyond the two assists that show up under his name in the stats sheet so far this year. He has been an impact player and starter since arriving in Winston-Salem as a freshman in 2013 when he was the only Deacon to start every game that year. He is a pace setter in the center of the park who has great touch on the ball, vision, and is a solid distributor. Count Harkes among that select group of players whose genuine enthusiasm for the game and talent raises the level of all around him and contributes to his effectiveness. He is a winner.