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College Underclassmen Headed To The Pros - The Impact Of Their Departure

The impact of players leaving early to enter the professional ranks may not be as great in college soccer as it is in college basketball but it still can present a challenge for college soccer coaches who have to fill a gap a little sooner than anticipated.  On the other hand it is a plus on the recruiting trail when a coach can say that his program offers a springboard to the professional ranks and can back it up with examples.  

Knowing when a player might elect to leave early is not always predictable.  Early departures to enter the professional ranks in addition to losses due to graduation can have a significant impact on a team.  Throw in an unexpected injury and a team that might otherwise appear to be loaded can suddenly be in in a rebuilding mode.  It goes without saying that those players who sign a Generation adidas contract or a Homegrown contract are talented players. 

College Soccer News took a look at Walker Zimmerman, Andrew Farrell, Mikey Lopez, Jason Johnson,  Eriq Zavaleta and Jason Brown who have signed Generation adidas contracts and DeAndre Yedlin, Wil Trapp, Bradlee Baladez, and Dillon Serna who  have inked Homegrown contracts to examine the impact that their early departure may have on the 2013 college soccer season.   

Walker Zimmerman - Sophomore - Defender - Furman -  Zimmerman signed a Generation adidas contract and was the number seven pick in the SuperDraft.   The Paladins will miss the presence of the  6’3” center back  on both sides of the ball.  Furman has a soccer rich tradition so it is not surprising that the school attracts top notch talent.  Zimmerman arrived in Greenville in 2011 as the marquee player in Furman’s thirteen member 2011 recruiting class that was ranked by College Soccer News as the fifth best in the nation.  

Zimmerman made an impact from the get-go as a key part of the 2011 Furman squad that was 14-4-4 overall and earned the program’s eighth NCAA tournament berth.  In 2012 Zimmerman was named a First Team All-American by College Soccer News and a Second Team NSCAA All-American. 

However the Paladins who had entered the 2012 campaign with high expectations finished the season with a 12-4-3 overall record and failed to earn an invite to the NCAA tournament when they were upset in the quarterfinals of the Southern Conference tournament. 

Furman will enter the 2013 season with a solid core of players led by midfielders Martin Ontiveros (8g, 9a) and Michael Gandier (5g, 1a) but the early departure of  Zimmerman (6g,  3a) and the graduation of center back Nicky MacKain will leave a pretty big gap on the defensive side of the ball that Furman head coach Doug Allison will have to address.  The graduation of forward  Coleton Henning (8g, 1a) also leaves some big shoes for the Paladins to fill on the offensive side of the ball.

Andrew Farrell - Junior - Defender - Louisville -  Farrell pinned a Generation adidas contract and was the number one pick  in the 2013 SuperDraft.  The 2012 Big East Defensive Player of the Year and NSCAA and College Soccer News First-Team All-American  added athleticism, toughness and tenacity to the Louisville defense during his three-year tenure as a Cardinal. 

Ferrell was part of three very productive seasons at Louisville.  The Cardinals advanced to the national championship match in 2010 and to the Elite Eight in NCAA tourney play in 2011 and 2012.  Farrell, whose stock rose in part due to his effectiveness as a center back, right back or defensive midfielder, anchored a 2012 Louisville defense that held a very competitive slate of opponents to a total of twenty-two goals. 

Under Ken Lolla the Cardinals now fall into the category of programs that reload rather than rebuild.  However, Lolla will have a lot of reloading to do heading into the 2013 campaign.  In addition to the departure of Ferrell, the Cardinals will also be without starting defender Brock Granger due to graduation as well as midfielders Paolo DelPiccolo (0g, 6a), Greg Cochrane (6g, 3a), and Ryan Smith  (4g, 2a).  Add midfielder Dylan Mares (7g, 6a) who has transferred to Indiana to the mix and you get the picture.  Midfielder Will Vitalis (4g, 7a) and defenders Luis Ramirez and Daniel Keller are among the returning players who provide a foundation to build upon in 2013.

Mikey Lopez - Sophomore - Midfielder  - North Carolina -  Like other sophomores who have signed Generation adidas contracts, Lopez  hit the ground running at the collegiate level. He played a key role in UNC’s run to the national title in 2011 and was named the ACC Freshman of the Year and a College Soccer News First Team All-Freshman selection.  He continued to impress in 2012 and was a College Soccer News Third Team All-America selection and a Soccer America MVP First Team selection.  

Lopez, the fourteenth player selected in the 2013 SuperDraft, combines his soccer skills with a work ethic that takes his game to an even higher level.  He set the pace for the Tar Heels in 2012 and leaves some big shoes to fill.  North Carolina head coach Carlos Somoano will also be without goalkeeper Scott Goodwin who was a College Soccer News and Soccer America MVP Second Team selection, defender Jordan Gafa, and midfielder Cameron Brown.  

Forwards Rob Lovejoy and Andy Craven, midfielder Andy Garcia, defenders Boyd Okwuonu, Jordan McCrary, and Jonathan Campbell are among a solid nucleus of returning players. 

Jason Johnson - Junior - Forward - Virginia Commonwealth University - The striker was the number thirteen pick in the 2013 SuperDraft and became the first player in VCU history to sign a Generation adidas contract.  VCU head coach Dave Giffard stated, “Obviously, we are happy for JJ.  This is something that has been a dream for him since he arrived at VCU two and a half years ago.” 

Johnson scored a total of 25 goals and contributed 10 assists during his three seasons in Richmond.  He improved yearly under Giffard’s tutelage and was named the 2012 Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Year.  Johnson played a key role in VCU’s twelve win 2012 season that earned the Rams a berth in the NCAA tourney for the first time since the 2004 season. 

Johnson’s departure leaves a gap to plug but the future looks bright at VCU with a solid core of players slated to return including Romena Bowie, Devon Fisher (6g, 1a), Mario herrera Meraz (6g, 8a), Kharlton Belmar (6g, 3a), Dennis Castillo (6g, 0a) and keeper Andrew Wells.

Eriq Zavaleta - Sophomore - Forward - Indiana  - Zavaleta inked a Generation adidas contract and was the tenth overall pick in the SuperDraft.   To say that Zavaleta was an impact player at IU is an understatement.  As a freshman in 2011 he was a unanimous pick as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and was an All-Big Ten First Team selection.  He was also a College Soccer News First Team All-Freshman selection.  In 2012 he played a huge role in Indiana’s run to the national championship putting the ball in the back of the net a total of eighteen times.  He was a 2012 College Soccer News First Team All-American and NSCAA Third Team All-American.  He also performed well as a center back as a U.S. National  team member which helped fuel the fire about where he should play at the next level.   

Zavaleta’s departure will leave a huge gap for coach Todd Yeagley to fill.  Zavaleta, like Andrew Wenger who was named both the ACC Offensive Player of the Year and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year during his four year tenure at Duke, has the athletic ability and the mentality to excel anywhere on the pitch.  Some tried to minimize the impact of Zavaleta’s offensive productivity by saying that many of his eighteen goals in 2012 were at close range.  Point taken, but that’s a little like faulting Indiana’s sophomore All-American basketball player Cody Zeller for scoring a lot of points close to the bucket.  Both Zavaleta and Zeller have the ability to light up the net in their respective sports on a consistent basis and both are the type of players that can put a team on their back and take it to the next level. 

The bottom line is that IU is a program that has many talented players but a good case can be made that Zavaleta was the difference between the Hoosiers being a very good team in 2012 and a national  championship team.  Nikita Kotlov (9g, 4a) and Femi Hollinger-Zanzen (4g, 1a) look to be among returning players who Yeagley will likely count on to help fill the gap in 2013.  Junior transfer midfielder Dylan Mares from Louisville will also add offensive punch.  

DeAndre Yedlin - Sophomore - Defender - Akron  - Yedlin inked a Homegrown contract with the Seattle Sounders.  He was a an All-Mid-American Conference First Team member in 2011 and 2012 and a College Soccer News All-Freshman Team selection in 2011.  During his two year tenure in Akron the Zips advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in NCAA tourney play twice.  His early departure along with the loss of back Chad Barson and goalkeeper David Meves due to graduation creates a gap in the Zip defense that new head coach Jared Embick must address.  The good news is that the cupboard is not bare with backs like Bryan Gallego and Andrew Souders slated to return to provide a good foundation upon which to rebuild. 

Wil Trapp - Sophomore - Midfielder - Akron  -  Trapp signed a Homegrown contract with the Columbus Crew.  Defensive midfielders with the right combination of talent, mental toughness, and physicality are not easy to come by.  Trapp had what it takes in all areas and was an impact player from the get-go.  He arrived at Akron with an impressive resume that included being named the NSCAA National High School Player of the Year.  Trapp more than lived up to expectations.  He was named the Mid-American Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2011 and an NSCAA Third Team All-America selection in 2012. 

No matter how you spin it the 2013 season will be a year of transition for Akron.  How that shakes out in terms of wins and losses remains to be seen.  New head coach Jared Embick takes over the reigns of the program from Caleb Porter with high expectations but the very real challenge of filling a lot of very real gaps.   

Bradlee Baladez - Junior - Forward - South Carolina -  Baladez is the latest in a solid contingent of South Carolina players under the direction of head coach Mark Berson who have gone on to play in the MLS.   Baladez signed a Homegrown contract with FC Dallas.  Baladez was an All-CUSA selection during each of his three seasons at South Carolina.  He played a key in the Gamecock attack scoring a total of 17 goals and contributing 8 assists.  During his tenure in Columbia the Gamecocks earned invites to the NCAA tourney in 2010 and 2011. 

Berson faces the challenge of getting South Carolina back on track and into the NCAA tourney in 2013.   Midfielders Braeden Troyer (3fg, 1a) and Jeffrey Torda (2g, 3a) are among key returning players.   Defender Mike Mangotic is among the players lost due to graduation. 

Deshorn Brown - Junior - Forward - UCF - Brown was one and done at UCF electing to sign a Generation adidas contract after a one year stay in Orlando in 2012 during which he scored thirteen goals and contributed three assists for the Knights.  He was the number six player selected in the 2013 SuperDraft becoming the first player from UCF to ever be drafted in the first round.  Prior to 2012 he had a highly successful two year tenure at the University of Mobile where he was a two-time NAIA All-American First Team selection.   

Under the direction of head coach Bryan Cunningham UCF is a program on the rise as reflected in the fact that the Knights earned at-large invites to the NCAA tourney in both 2010 and 2011 and advanced to the second round of play.  UCF was in somewhat of a rebuilding mode in 2012 due to the graduation of the likes of Kevan George and Warren Creavalle at the end of the 2011 campaign. 

Brown was recruited to add an additional dimension to the UCF  offense in 2012 and he did just that.  However the expectations for a dynamic duo up-top between Brown and McKauly Tulloch (5g, 1a) who netted fifteen goals in 2011 never fully materialized and the Knights fell short of a return trip to the NCAA tourney with an 8-7-3 overall record.    

UCF will begin play in the Big East Conference in 2013 which looks to be a plus for the program.  However, the departure of Brown clearly takes a big bite out of UCF’s offensive arsenal heading into 2013 that must be addressed.  Forward Omar Vallejo is among the players that Cunningham will likely look to for offensive firepower in 2013.  The Knights also must replace veteran center backs Andrew Quintana and Ben Hunt due to graduation. 

Dillon Serna - Freshman - Midfielder - Akron - After a one year tour of duty at Akron,  Serna signed a Homegrown contract with the Colorado Rapids.  Serna followed in the footsteps of  fellow Akron underclassmen sophomore DeAndre Yedlin and sophomore Wil Trapp who also signed a Homegrown contract in 2013 and elected to forgo further years of collegiate eligibility.   

Serna’s (2g, 8a) departure occurs after an impressive  2012 campaign in which he was named the Mid-American Conference Co-Newcomer of the Year Newcomer  and was a College Soccer News First Team All-Freshman selection. 

Akron is clearly well versed in the process of losing key players early to enter the professional ranks which is a plus on one hand but it can present a challenge as far as team chemistry is concerned.  In addition to the departure of Yedlin, Trapp and Serna the Zips will be without the services of midfielder Scott Caldwell, defender Chad Barson, goalkeeper David Meves and forward Thomas Schmitt (8g, 3a) due to graduation.   

New head coach Jared Embick has his work cut out for him but with the likes of Reinaldo Brenes (11g, 2a), Aodan Quinn (4g, 3a), Robbie Derschang (1g, 4a) and Eric Stevenson (7g, 5a) slated to return the cupboard at Akron is far from bare.