Articles

Articles

College Soccer News - "Up Close" with Adam Zundell

Welcome to the first-ever "Up Close" feature on College Soccer News. Some of these shows will be recorded video interviews, some of them will be audio, but the goal of the show will always remain the same: to bring the voices of the game -- players and coaches -- straight to you, unfiltered. The show is just another layer of coverage provided by College Soccer News.

Part 1

Part 2

We hope you enjoy this first installment, and please feel free to recommend guests for future shows at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or on Twitter @azundell or @csoccernews

Florida Freshman Savannah Jordan Making An Impact - By Amy Farnum Patronis

At the first University of Florida women’s soccer meeting this fall, players were asked to partner up and interview each other, then describe their teammate to the rest of the group.

Freshman Savannah Jordan was depicted as “a goal scorer who was willing to sacrifice her body to get scrappy goals.”  It didn’t take long for Jordan to live up to the billing.

The native of Fayetteville, Ga., sparked the Gators’ to a pair of season-opening 3-1 victories over Florida Gulf Coast and Oregon State with five goals in two contests -- a legendary performance in her collegiate weekend debut.

Jordan netted two scores against FGCU, and followed it up with a hat trick versus Oregon State, earning National Player of the Week honors from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America on Monday.  She is only the third Gator freshman in program history to tally three goals in a game, and only the second Florida freshman to score two goals in a collegiate debut and first to accomplish the feat since 1995.

“I think a lot of (her opportunities came) because opponents were keying on players like (junior midfielders) Annie Speese and Havana Solaun, and that opened her up a bit because she was playing under the radar,” UF head coach Becky Burleigh said.  “She’s obviously not under the radar anymore.”

“I was just hoping to go out there and perform, whether it was scoring goals or assisting or having a presence in the game that could help the team win,” Jordan said.  “I never expected to have such a big weekend.  Once I got one in the first game, it opened up the gates a little bit and helped me relax.”

Jordan’s teammates were not so surprised at her immediate impact.

“I expected it,” Speese said. “Savannah came in this spring and she is just a natural goal scorer.”

While her two goals against FGCU were unassisted, Jordan took full advantage of the help she received from four different players en route to the hat trick against the Beavers.

“Nobody scores goals without people giving them great assists or without us creating opportunities, and I think Savannah is well aware of that,” Burleigh said.   “She’s had some great play around her but her part in that is she is putting herself in good positions to score goals.  When she gets those opportunities, for the most part, she’s finishing them. Goal-scoring is one of those things that are contagious.  Once you get a little confidence and feel like you can score, you feel like you can score a little more.”

Jordan, who graduated from Whitewater High School in December 2012, enrolled early at Florida in January, giving her the chance to take part in spring practice with the Gators.

“I think it definitely gave me a head start,” Jordan said.  “In the spring, it was easy to get to know the girls and gel with the team.  It was a big advantage for me coming into the fall because I was already used to playing with them and the system our team plays.”

“It definitely helped her to get used to the speed of the college game and to become sociallyintegrated with the team,” Burleigh said.

Jordan may have not started playing soccer until she was 13, which is considered late in youth soccer circles, her experience competing in martial arts sparring allowed her to catch up pretty quickly on the pitch.  She captured three gold medals in martial arts sparring at the U.S. Junior Olympics (2003, 2004, 2005) and earned a second-degree black belt in Korean-style Martial Arts, Taekwondo – all between the ages of 11 and 13. 

“I think the aggressiveness has carried over a little bit,” Jordan said.  “When you’re sparring and fighting in a sport, it brings that side of you out.  I also think the martial arts need a lot of self-discipline and that has helped my composure in soccer as well.”

While Jordan gave up competing in martial arts when she began playing soccer, the training has undoubtedly played a part in her approach on the field. 

“She’s really strong physically and she’s sophisticated in terms of her movement,” Burleigh said.  “A lot of it has to do with your starting position and your willingness to get yourself in the fray.  She invites physical contact and that is a goal-scoring trait.”

Jordan and the No. 8 Gators will face an early test as they host No. 3 Florida State on Friday.  From now on it will be tough for Jordan to slide under the radar, especially against FSU head coach Mark Krikorian and the Seminoles.

“She’s a good player,” Krikorian said.  “We know her fairly well.  She’s a good forward and good in front of the goal.  She’s a tough competitor.  We know she’s capable of scoring goals as she showed last weekend.”

But that won’t stop Jordan from trying to remain a go-to player for the Gators.

“As a freshman, it is a big step to take, but the first weekend gave me a little bit of confidence to keep pursuing that job this season,” Jordan said.

“It’s pretty impressive, but we don’t have an expectation she will score five goals every weekend,” Burleigh said.  “At the same time, if she continues to do the little things she is doing she’s going to put herself in a great situation to have opportunities.”

The top 10 match-up between Florida and Florida State will be broadcast live on Sun Sports at 7 p.m. ET.

 


Amy Farnum Patronis is a contributing writer for College Soccer News covering Division I women's soccer.  She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

College Soccer News - Top Ten Freshmen To Watch - By Ben Roth

 

As the season quickly approaches, every player is fighting for a starting spot on their respective teams.  This task becomes even more difficult for incoming freshmen that have yet to experience the collegiate game.  This following list is made up of a special group of true freshmen that College Soccer News believes will make the biggest impact on their team this year.

Jordan Allen (Virginia):  The top rated player in this list, Allen is ranked 3rd in the country among incoming freshmen and is sure to not disappoint.  The versatile athlete played midfield for his academy, outside back for the US U-18s, but appears to be playing a role up top for the Cavaliers.  Allen has great experience with the US youth national teams, which should translate well to the collegiate game.  The Real Salt Lake academy product is equal with both feet, something that should allow him to play in any position in the front three for the Cavs.  The 2011-2012 USSDA player of the year has impressed thus far during preseason and looks poised for a starting role in the team that is ranked 14 by College Soccer News.  Expect Allen to thrive in Charlottesville and become a future homegrown player with Real Salt Lake of the MLS.


Tommy Thompson (Indiana):  Hoosier fans shouldn’t worry despite the loss of former Indiana striker, Eriq Zavaleta.  Thompson, ranked 37 by College Soccer News should be the new target man for Indiana.  The Hoosier army are familiar with big powerful forwards recently with 6’2” Will Bruin from 2008-2010 and then 6’1” Eriq Zavaleta until 2012, but Thompson brings in a different style of play to the team.  The 5’7” San Jose Earthquakes academy product is a technical and extremely athletic forward who can play with his back to goal as well as being able to beat people off the dribble.  Thompson has arguably the best midfield in the country behind him led by junior Dylan Mares and senior A.J Corrado and Nikita Kotlov who can all distribute the ball to the lone striker.  Expect Thompson to shine in Coach Yeagley’s system and be a contributor for years to come.


Adam Najem (Akron): The AK Rowdies may have found a new favorite player as Adam Najem comes onto Cub Cadet Field this year.  The New York Red Bulls academy product Najem is a real gem to watch as he combines his one-on-one explosiveness with the sleek technical aspect of the game.  Najem, ranked 19 by College Soccer News has thrived thus far for the Zips during preseason scoring two goals and recording an assist in a 4-1 rout over Marshall University.  Najem has seen time with the US youth national teams in the past and is definitely one of the Akron’s stars entering the season.  With former Akron midfielders Will Trapp and Dillon Serna deciding to leave early for the MLS, spots are up for grabs in the middle of the park.  The squad, ranked 9 by CSN needs a maestro in the midfield and Najem provides the team with a player who can set players up as well as having a knack for scoring, especially from long range. Coach Embick, entering his first season with the team wants to start off on the right foot and Najem is a player that will help them do just that. 


Alex Crognale (Maryland): It’s not everyday you see a 6’5” center back playing division one soccer…Well unless you’re from College Park.  Crognale, ranked 48 by College Soccer News has drawn comparisons to former towering Terps defenders Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson.  Head Coach Sacho Cirovski has named Crognale a starter, which says a lot coming from the Maryland coaching legend.  The Columbus Crew academy product is very athletic, great in the air, and moves very well for his size.  After last year’s loss to Georgetown, Cirovski vowed the team would be back to the College Cup and for that to happen, Crognale will need to have a stellar year defending in the top conference in the country.  If the Terrapins, ranked 3 in the country by CSN have national championship aspirations, their defense will need to perform outstanding and Crognale is exactly the piece they need to succeed.


Erik Sa (Rutgers):  The second New York Red Bulls academy product on the list, Erik Sa stays local going to the up and coming Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. Sa, ranked 23rd by College Soccer News joins the likes of sophomores Mael Corboz and Ross Tetro to form one of the most technical midfields in the country.  Head Coach Dan Donigan has brought in talented local players in hopes of making a dynasty and Sa is a major piece to his plans.  The creative midfielder, Sa captained his USSDA Red Bulls academy side during a great season, which culminated in a national championship.  Sa will make an immediate impact for this young Scarlet Knight side who looks to bounce back after narrowly missing the NCAA Tournament this past year.  The former US youth national teamer has tremendous on ball skill and will look to be a vital part of the team moving forward.  Rutgers is on the cusp of being a great team and Sa is a player that can help them get there.


Jordan Morris (Stanford):  The Cardinals pick up one of the most exciting young prospects in the country in winger, Jordan Morris.  Morris, a Seattle Sounders academy is part of Head Coach Jeremy Gunn’s incoming class ranked 11 by College Soccer News.  Morris only joined the MLS academy in 2012 and has since blossomed into a superstar.  The blazing forward has had quite a year winning USSDA National Player of the Year along with the Washington state Gatorade Player of the Year award.  The player who notched 27 goals in 28 games this past year in academy play earned a U-20 National Team call up and looks to only be getting better.  Head Coach Jeremy Gunn brings in Morris hoping to replace 2012 first team All Pac 12 forward and current MLS rookie Alex Jahn.  Morris hasn’t disappointed thus far scoring the game winner in the first preseason game against Sonoma State.  Morris will be a handful for any opposition to control and is only going to improve.  Expect Morris to be a standout for Stanford this year and if he excels a homegrown contract may be well on its way.


Billy McConnell (Indiana):  The second Hoosier on the list is hailed by current head coach Jerry Yeagley as “the top defender in his class, in the nation”.  McConnell, ranked 107 by College Soccer News has earned a starting role as center back for the defending national champions.  The PDA/Philadelphia Union academy product is part of Coach Yeagley’s freshmen class ranked 7 in the country by CSN and is expected to be a key piece of the team’s success.  McConnell will replace former captain and 2012 Big Ten All second team center defender Caleb Konstanski, as part of the defense, which only let up a conference best 18 goals last year.  The gifted athlete McConnell is very versatile as he can play anywhere in the back or at defensive mid if injuries occur in the squad.  The 5’10” freshman has seen time with the Philadelphia Union reserves and is definitely a prospect for the future.


Brody Huitema (Duke):  The Blue Devils look to have found their first true goal scoring striker since Hermann Trophy award winner Andrew Wenger.  Huitema, ranked 7 among incoming freshmen by College Soccer News combines all of what you look for in a natural number nine-type player.  The Vancouver Whitecaps academy product has good hold up play and is excellent in the air.  Huitema led all of development academy in goals with 30 goals in 29 games en route to a Finals Week appearance.  The Canadian youth international is part of head coach John Kerr’s well-rounded recruiting class ranked 22 by CSN.  Huitema’s play will be crucial to how much the Blue Devils accomplish this year.  Coach Kerr has been very complimentary of 6’1” forward using words like “driven” and “strong” to access his future star’s play.  Duke will rely on Huitema for goals this year and if the instinctive forward can find his form, the Blue Devils will be tough to stop.


Zack Steffen (Maryland): The factory of Maryland goalkeepers continues once again as head coach Sacho Cirovski brings in the top goalkeeper in the class, Zack Steffen.  Steffen, ranked 10 by College Soccer News is a physical beast in goal.  Coach Cirovski proves he has faith in the freshman as Steffen has beaten out former US youth national team starting goalkeeper and current junior Keith Cardona, who compiled only one loss last season.  Steffen himself has experience with the US youth national teams appearing at every age since U14 and even playing up in certain occasions like with the US U-20s this past year.  The FC Delco/Philadelphia Union academy standout just turned eighteen years old and therefore has time to improve, which is a scary thought.  Steffen has an extremely talented roster surrounding him, which should allow him to mature and mold into a star.  Steffen has the capability of becoming a homegrown player with the Union or his dream of becoming a professional in Europe.


Alex Muyl (Georgetown): #43 The Hoyas faithful are in for a treat as they will experience the best trio of attacking players in the country this year.  This tandem is made up of College Soccer News preseason All-Americans Steve Neumann and Brandon Allen, along with newcomer, freshman Alex Muyl.  Muyl, ranked 43 by CSN only adds to the dynamic duo, which are Allen and Neumann.  Muyl possesses strength, speed, and a wicked shot something that would benefit any program.  Muyl most recently won his second USSDA national championship in as many years, both times being the team’s leading goal scorer.  The 5’11” freshman has been part of the youth national team structure for the past three years and most recently represented the US U18s in the Milk Cup.  Despite the Hoyas’ results this preseason, Muyl has performed well and will be in the discussion for a starting role.  Whether Muyl is in the starting XI or coming off the bench behind two of the best forwards in the country, he will make an impact.  Muyl is definitely a player to watch for the #2 ranked team in the country.


Ben Roth is a contributing writer for College Soccer News.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.