College Soccer's Most Technical and Entertaining Players - Looking to Break Into The Professional Ranks - by Dela Agbotse

Soccer players in America are synonymous with being strong, fast and fit. Some might go as far as saying technique is not emphasized as much as it should be through the various youth ranks and through college soccer. The likes of Clint Dempsey and more recently Jack Harrison have shown that technical ability does exist at the college level. However, opinions vary in regard to the extent to which college soccer provides the platform that players need to continue to develop and master their technique.

Very few players in American college soccer possess the technical abilities of the following players.

Harry Cooksley -  England/St. John’s University 

The 6 foot 3 attacking midfielder from England, who is a product of Reading United's youth program, has had somewhat of a rocky career so far. Cooksley turned his sights stateside after failing to make the ranks in the English leagues and at St John’s University he has flourished. The Big East Midfielder of the Year and 2017 Third Team College Soccer News All American will look to terrorize defenders in the MLS in the coming months.  With his skill, size and vision, he is a sure first round pick. The English playmaker has 10 goals 14 assists since breaking onto the D1 scene in 2016 at St. John’s.  Prior to that he played for two seasons at Limestone College where he scored 17 goals and contributed 12 helpers.  


Gordon Wild - Germany/University of Maryland

Wild started off playing soccer for a local club in his native Germany until he was 14, after which he enrolled in the youth academy at Mainz in the Bundesliga, however Wild struggled. Later, he joined Wehen Wiesbaden, a third tier team in Germany before eventually heading to America to pursue the American dream. Wild had a banner season in 2015 at USC Upstate in the Atlantic Sun Conference where he netted a total of 16 goals and shared the 2015 national scoring title.  He then transferred to Maryland in 2016 where he found the back of the net a total of 17 times for the Terps and was a was a sure first round pick, with a chance of signing a Generation Adidas deal had he opted to leave school early. However, he decided to stay another year.  Wild is hands down a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft, with 38 goals and 9 assists since setting his sights stateside. Wild’s combination of technique and ruthless finishing touch have not gone unnoticed by MLS scouts. It won’t be long till Wild is a staple in MLS and American soccer.

Francis Atuahene - Ghana/University of Michigan)

Pace, power, skill and an eye for the goal sets Atuahene apart from any player in college soccer. The Ghanaian is built for the MLS. A product of the Right to Dream academy in Ghana, he will soon be joining fellow standout Right to Dreamers Abu Danladi and Josh Yaro in the league. Atuahene is in his junior year with the Wolverines of Michigan. The hype is not without merit as Atuahene has 24 goals and 9 assists in three seasons in Ann Harbor under Coach Shaka Daly.  Not only are his stats impressive considering his injury problems thus far this season, but his blazing pace and knack for goals puts the Ghanaian in the running as the leading contender to sign a Generation Adidas contract. Atuahene could very well be the first player chosen in the 2018 MLS Draft.


Handwalla Bwana - Kenya/University of Washington

Bwanna, who is an an absolute joy to watch, is a product of the Seattle Sounders youth program, He has emerged as a strong candidate for a homegrown deal with the Sounders in the upcoming season. Bwanna has a unique story of going from refugee camps in Kenya to being one of the brightest prospects in college and American soccer. Deadly on set pieces, smart and confident on the ball, the Kenyan might be considered a bit undersized due to his frail nature.  However, there is no question in regard to his skill and technical ability which will translate well at the pro level. At only 18,  the slight framed Kenyan wonder boy has 12 goals and 13 assists in two seasons so far at Washington.


Jon Bakero - Spain/Wake Forest University

The son of Barcelona legend Jose Mari Bakero, the diminutive forward took a different route towards the pro game than his father. Bakero grew up in Spain, and attended the famed LaMasia, before embarking on his American dream. Wake Forest which boasts a great soccer program and a great academic reputation was his destination. In Barcelona he had a narrow vision towards becoming a professional soccer player but when things didn’t work out he set his sights stateside with a broad vision of the future which consisted of excelling athletically and academically. Bakero found the back of the net 16 times and contributed 14 assists for the Demon Deacons in 2017 to conclude his tenure in Winston-Salem with 37 career goals and 26 career assists. Bakero has established himself as one of the most technical players in the country and has been a huge part of Wake Forest’s resurgence in the college game in the last three years. His close control and eye for goals will translate well into the MLS as he is projected to be a top 5 pick in the 2018 MLS draft.  Bakero would certainly have plenty of good advice on being a pro from his legendary father.

Jon Gallagher - Ireland, Notre Dame

The Dundalk, Ireland native played in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy with Beachside SC.  He had 39 goals and 15 assists over his college career at Notre Dame and has shown a flair for the dramatic with five of his team-leading 13 goals in 2017 standing up as game-winners. Prior to college, Gallagher had trials with Juventus FC, Marseille, Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers. The highly rated Gallagher is one of the most lethal strikers in the college game, with the kind of composure Berbatov would be proud of. Look for him to be among the first taken off the board come draft day.  With the tenacity and skill Gallagher possesses and the experience he gained at Notre Dame under the guidance of Bobby Clark, making an immediate impact in the MLS shouldn’t be a problem.


Chris Mueller -  Illinois, University of Wisconsin

An exceptional talent who will be leaving Wisconsin as one of the programs best ever players. The Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year is as technically sound as they get in the college game. What stands out when you watch Mueller play is not just his technical ability but more importantly his fearlessness in possession of the ball. Mueller had 8 goals, 11 assists, and 27 points in 2016. He also recorded 9 goals, 20 assists, and 38 points during the 2017 season. He's a natural playmaker and one of the far more underrated players in this year’s draft, Mueller will look to bring his brand of exciting soccer to a city near you.



Dela Agbotse 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. 

The Streak Continues - Stanford Wins Third Straight National Championship

Stanford 1 – Indiana 0 (OT) – One, two three.  One National Championship is an accomplishment, back-to-back National Championships is awesome, and three in a row is beyond amazing and a real tribute to the program at Stanford.  A three-peat is rarity in any sport. 

The Cardinal men’s soccer team under the direction of head coach Jeremy Gunn became the first team to secure three consecutive National Championships in a row since Virginia claimed four from 1991 through 1994.   

The fans on hand and those watching on national television began to brace themselves for the pressure of a penalty kick shootout since that looked to be where the contest was headed when the teams entered the second ten-minute overtime period with the contest still scoreless. However, the contest came to a sudden and decisive ending when Stanford midfielder Sam Werner netted the golden goal for the Cardinal in the 103rd minute of the contest when he created a turnover in the box and then chipped a shot just under the crossbar from ten yards out. 

The play began out of a throw-in deep in the attacking third of the field from Stanford freshman defender Logan Panchot to senior forward Corey Baird.  Baird one-touched the throw-in back to Panchot who back-heeled it back to Baird. Baird then sent a pass to senior Foster Langsdorf who sent it back to Baird who utilized his left-foot to send the ball into the center of the box where it was intercepted by Indiana’s Griffin Dorsey. Werner then created the turnover that led to the goal when Dorsey attempted to create a little space off the dribble to get out of harm’s way.

The National Championship took place on a cold evening in Chester, Pennsylvania at Talen Energy Stadium where a snow bank lined the field of play.  The fact that the match was scoreless at the end of regulation was not surprising due to the fact that both teams have been rock solid on the defensive side of the ball all year.  Stanford came into the match having allowed 0.39 goals per game and Indiana only 0.28 goals per game.  Both teams have done an excellent job all year, as demonstrated by the number of wins they have secured against an extremely competitive slate of opponents, of avoiding mistakes on the defensive side of the ball. 

Both sides also have also been explosive on the offensive side of the ball.  The contest had an ebb and a flow to it as both sides sought to gain a numbers advantage and pockets of space that they could exploit.  Stanford had a thirteen to five advantage in shots for the evening but neither team had a lot of success in unlocking their opponents defensive scheme and creating really dangerous scoring opportunities. 

Nico Corti had one save in goal for Stanford to record the shutout.  Freshman Trey Muse who had an impressive evening between the pipes for Indiana had a five save evening.

Werner who also contributed a goal in Stanford’s 2-0 semifinal win over Akron was named the Offensive MVP of the Tournament.  Stanford senior center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce was named the Defensive Most Valuable Player.   

It was a heartbreaking loss for an Indiana team that had its sights set on earning the programs ninth National Championship.  Regardless it was by all measure a banner season for a tradition rich Indiana program that concluded the 2017 season under the direction of head coach Todd Yeagley with a 18-1-6 overall record. 

It was a total team effort for a Stanford team that has recorded an amazing twelve consecutive shutouts in NCAA Tournament play.  The Cardinal out of the Pac-12 Conference improve to 19-2-2 and for the third year in a row remain the only team standing at the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament. 

Another very successful college soccer season from coast to coast is now history.     



Stanford and Indiana Advance To National Championship Contest

The Biggest Stage In College Soccer   

The margin for error is slight if not non-existent when the stage is the College Cup, the stakes are high not to mention the pressure, and the top teams in the country tangle with each other.  That is among the reasons why defense wins championships in all sports.  It is true that the failure to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that come a team’s way can be harmful and clearly have a bearing on the outcome of a game.  You have to score to win and at this stage no team enters a contest hoping for a scoreless contest that must be decided by a penalty kick shootout.  However, that does not change the fact that a breakdown on the defensive side of the ball can be deadly and totally change the pace of a game.  

Blue Bloods

Sometimes a Cinderella team finds a golden slipper down the home stretch of the season and plays their way into the coveted final four.  That was not the case this year as four blue bloods of college soccer (Stanford, Akron, North Carolina and Indiana) advanced to the coveted College Cup at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia.  All have offensive firepower and seek to unleash it.

Only Two Left Standing

Only Stanford (18-2-2) and Indiana (18-0-6) now remain standing on the road to the 2017 National Championship.  They will face each other on Sunday at 1 p.m. (ET) in the biggest game of the 2017 College Soccer Season. 

Stanford Prevails

Stanford topped Akron 2-0 on Friday night to advance.  The Cardinal once again executed their game plan to near perfection by halting a very potent Akron attack by totally containing Zip forwards Stuart Holthusen and Sam Gainford.  Akron pressed the attack but they were never able to come up with the big play they needed to shift the momentum their way.

On the other hand, Stanford capitalized on the opportunities that came their way.  The deadly duo of senior forwards Corey Baird and Foster Langsdorf joined forces in the twenty-sixth minute of play to give the Cardinal a 1-0 lead. Langsdorf converted a header, his fourteenth goal of the year, after getting the angle he needed to drive a chipped ball from Baird into the back of the frame.  Credit senior midfielder Drew Skundrich with a heads up play when he contributed to the goal by blocking a pass that began the sequence.  

Langsdorf stated, “The defender had the back post cross cut off so I knew I had to get in front of my man. I’ve been playing with Corey so much, I had a feeling, he would send it right there.”   Baird did just that and Langsdorf finished it.

Redshirt junior midfielder Sam Werner netted the insurance goal for Stanford in the seventy-ninth minute of the contest when he made a nice move off the dribble to create the space and angle he needed on the left side of the box to send a left-footed shot into the upper right corner of the goal.  Skundrich was again involved in the play sending a pass down the left side of the pitch that was deflected but that Werner was able to control.  

Stanford had a nine to two advantage in shots in the first half and Akron a five to four advantage in shots in the second stanza.  Nico Corti had five saves in goal including a couple at close range to record the shutout in goal for the Cardinal.  Ben Lundt had four stops in goal for Akron.

Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn summed things up when he stated,  “We played fantastic.”  He added, “No complaints tonight, the boys were great.”  

Indiana Advances

Indiana edged North Carolina 1-0 in the second semifinal match on Friday.  As expected, this one came down to which team was able to get the edge and force the other to play catch up. 

The Hoosiers netted the big goal of the evening when senior defender Andrew Gutman found the space he needed out of a corner kick served in by Trevor Swartz to utilize his left foot to slot a shot into the back of the fame in the fiftieth minute of play. 

The Tar Heels did a good job of knocking the ball around and switching the point of attack trying to get their high-powered attack in gear but they were never able to get the extra step or put together the extra pass required to create a seam that they could exploit.  Indiana remained tenacious on the defensive side of the ball all evening consistently preventing North Carolina from getting in behind them. 

Freshman Trey Muse had two saves in goal for Indiana.  Redshirt junior James Pyle had a four save evening between the pipes for North Carolina.

Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley stated, “Team defense is one of our strongest traits.”  He added, “And, as the game went on, I felt we had to rely on that.” 

The bottom line is that the Hoosiers did just what they needed to do to earn the right to advance to the national championship match. 

Indiana vs Stanford – It Should Be A Dandy


Stanford’s ability to play direct and to utilize their athleticism out of free kicks may create match-up problems for Indiana. 

On the other hand, Stanford has not faced a backline with the combined talent and toughness of Indiana’s Grant Lillard, Andrew Gutman, Rece Buckmaster, and Timmy Mehl.

Two-time defending national champion Stanford entered the 2017 season with as much talent and experience as any team in the country.  But you had to wonder if the Cardinal would remain a hungry and focused team due to all the success they had enjoyed not to mention the fact that the odds of a third national championship seemed pretty low.  Soccer can be a cruel game so even the most die-hard Cardinal fan had to wonder in the back of their mind if fate would catch up with Stanford as it almost did in their opening NCAA Tournament contest against Pacific which was scoreless at the end of 110 minutes of play and had to be decided by a penalty kick shootout. 

But there seems to be something very special about this team that has the chance to give Stanford the trifecta they need to become the first team since Virginia did so in 1994 to win three consecutive national championships. 

Foster Langsdorf indicated there was an appetite to do that when he stated, “This is huge because this is it for me and a lot of guys here. Any chance we get to be together again is a blessing.”


Indiana entered the 2017 season with arguably the best backline in the country anchored by seniors Grant Lillard and Andrew Gutman.  However, the Hoosiers needed to add balance up-top to an attack that had become somewhat one-dimensional and therefore easier to defend. They also faced a question mark between the pipes. 

Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley added a banner recruiting class to help address the gaps but questions remained as to whether freshmen could immediately make the desired impact on the pitch and just how effectively the newcomers would merge in with returning players. 

Freshman forward Mason Toye (10g, 2a) and freshman netminder Trey Muse are among the newcomers who have made an impact.  Toye added an additional dimension up top while Muse has recorded a 0.23 goals against average.  The bottom line is that several of the newcomers have played key roles in filling the voids and the Hoosiers play as well together as any team in the country. 

Defense wins championships and no team in the country has been as solid on the defensive side of the ball as Indiana.  The Hoosier Nation is fired up about this one. 

Senior midfielder Trevor Swartz summed it all well when he stated, “When you come to Indiana, you want to win a national championship.” 

This group might just do that.