2018 Team Reviews

University of Denver 2018 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School:  University of Denver  
Conference:  Summit League
Coach:  Jamie Franks - Fourth Season
2017 Record:  11-6-2 overall - 5-0-0 in conference 
2017 Final Season Ending Rank:  NA 
Key Personnel Losses from 2017 Team:

Five Year Win Total:

2013:  13

2014:  11

2015:  15

2016:  20

2017:  11

2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed:  25 goals scored - 14 goals allowed
2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed Per Game:  1.32 scored - 0.74 allowed
2017 Key Statistic:  6-6-2 against non-conference competition  

Background:  The Pioneers are an impressive 46-8-8 over the past three seasons under the direction of Jamie Franks.

Denver moved from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation to the Summit League in 2013.  The Pioneers have won five consecutive regular season Summit League titles and have won the conference tournament four out of the past five seasons. 

Denver has earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament a total of seven times including four out of the past five seasons (1970, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). 

The Pioneers were awarded the number thirteen seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2015 and the number six seed in 2016.  In 2016 Denver advanced to the College Cup for the first time in the history of the program. 

In 2017 the Pioneers were 11-6-2 overall with a 5-0-0 mark in regualr season Summit League play. They advanced past Eastern Illinois in the semifianals of the League Tournament before they were edged by Omaha in the championship match in a contest that was decided by a penalty kick shootout after it was tied 1-1 at the conclusion of regulation and overtime. 

Forward Andre Shinyashiki was named the 2017 Summit League Offensive Player of the Year.  Centerback Scott DeVoss was named the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year and freshman midfielder Jacob Stensson was named the 2017 Newcomer of the Year.  Midfielder Graham Smith was an All-Summit League First Team selection along with Shinyashiki, DeVoss and Stensson.  Midfielder Alex Underwood and back AJ Fuller were 2017 All-Summit League Second Team selections.  

Number Starters Slated to Return in 2018:  Five 

Newcomers:

Moshe Perez: Midfielder - Shim'a, Israel - Mekif Omar - Senior transfer from Colorado Mesa, 2017 United Soccer Coaches Division II First Team All-America. All-South Central Region selection.  Scored thirteen goals and had eight assists at Colorado Mesa in 2017.

Emil Fosse - Midfielder - Aalesund, Norway - Fagerlia Videregaende Skole - Played for Aalesunds FK in the Norwegian Premier League.  Transferred to SK Herd in 2017. 

Stefan DeLeone - Forward - Windsor, Colorado - Fossil Ridge High School - Played for Colorado Rapids Academy. 

Ole Berg - Defender - Oslo, Norway - Wang Toppidrett - Played for the Norwegian National School Team. Played for Valerenga IF. Three-time MVP in the Nike Cup.

Connor McWilliams - Midfielder - Littleton, Colorado - Chatfield High School - Played for Real Colorado Development Academy.  Played for Colorado Rush.

Liam Johnson - Midfielder - Golden, Colorado - Golden High School - Played for Colorado Rapids Academy.  Two-time State Cup MVP.  Played for Real Colorado. 

Callum Stretch - Defender - Encino, California - Notre Dame High School - Played for Aston Villa's Academy. Has played in the U-18 English Premier League.  Played with the Los Angeles Galaxy Development Academy.  Member U.S. U-18 National Team. 

Outlook for 2018 Season:  Expectations were high at Denver entering the 2017 season following a fifteen win season in 2015 and a banner twenty win season in 2016 that included the Pioneers first ever trip to the College Cup.  However the 2017 season didn't turn out as expected with eleven total wins, no Summit League Tournament Title, and no berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. It took Denver a while to get going last year which contributed to a season ending RPI of fifty-three that took them out of the hunt for an at-large berth.    

The vibes surrounding the program remain positive and strong but there are some unanswered questions which make the prognosis heading into the 2018 campaign somewhere between the success Denver enjoyed in 2016 and what they experienced in 2017. 

Denver's ability to recruit well has helped the program to absorb hits to the roster but nonetheless uncertainties exist due in part to the challenge of filling the voids that exist due to the graduation of midfielders and co-captains Graham Smith (3g, 4a) and Alex Underwood (3g, 2a) who were three-year starters, forward Blake Elder (2g, 0a) who was a two-year starter and outside back AJ Fuller (0g, 1a) who was a two-year starter. 

Last year Denver began the season with solid wins over non-conference foes Florida Gulf Coast and Akron but concluded the month of September with a 5-5-0 mark after unexpectedly sustaining losses to non-conference opponents UC Irvine 1-0, CSUN 1-0, Saint Mary's 1-0 and Gonsaga 2-1.  Denver improved as the season progressed whick is a plus and positive sign but their lack of big play ability and what appeared to be intensity in those early season contests was a sore point which represents an opportunity for improvement and therefore potential area of concern in 2018.  

On the plus side of the ledger, a solid necleus returns and Jamie Franks will welcome a recruting class with the potential to contribute immediately. 

Senior Andre Shinyashiki (9g, 4a), whose passion for the game is apparent in his work ethic, returns to give the Pioneers a very solid presence up-top.  He led the Pioneers in scoring last year and is the guy who will set the pace for the offense in 2018.  Shinyashiki is also among those who will be counted on to provide senior leadership.  Shinyashiki will be a tightly marked man so it is critical that another playmaker or two emerge to add diversity to the attack. Senior forward Eric Kronenberg (2g, 2a) who has been hampered with injuries at times during his career looks to be very capable of adding additional firepower to the offense.  Kronenberg is a gamer with a nose for the goal who has the potential to be a difference maker for the Pioneers in 2018. 

The midfield will require require substantial reloading due to departures.  Sophomore holding midfielder Jacob Stevenson is an exciting two-way midfielder who will anchor the center of the park for Denver.  Senior Kenny Akamatsu and sophomore Destan Norman are among returning linkmen who look to be in the hunt for additional playing time in 2018.

Senior Moshe Perez who transfers in form Colorado Mesta where he was a Division II All-Amerca selection and freshmen Stefan Deleone and Liam Johnson who have already joined the program are among several of the newcomers who look to be in the mix in the midfield. 

Redshirt centerback Scott DeVoss, a starter for the past three seasons, returns to anchor the backline.  DeVoss is a shut down defender with a work rate that is second to none.  Senior Tosh Samkange who was a starter last year will also be a key element in the Pioneer backline. Redshirt juniors Shae Smalley and Dan Mooney who participated in thirteen contests last year and redshirt sophomore Dylan Keeney who appeared in seven contests are among other returning backs.  The Pioneers also return several defenders who redshirted last year who look to be in the mix for a greater role in the back in 2018.  Freshmen backs Ole Berg and Callum Stretch are among the newcomers who look to be in the hunt for playing time.

Redshirt senior Nick Gardner, the 2016 Summit League Goalkeeper of the Year, returns between the pipes. Gardner has been the starter in goal for the past two seasons.  His presence in goal is a big plus and will add stability particularly in the early going as the 2018 team settles in and establishes its identify. 

Denver had a productive but not banner season by their on standards in 2017.  Whether or not the Pioneers will up the level of their game in 2018 will likely hinge in large part on their ability to produce the big plays on the offensive side of the ball that eluded them at times in 2017 without a dropoff on the defensive side of the ball.  Seniors Shinyashiki, Kronenberg, DeVoss and Gardner will have to lead the way but it will take a total team effort.  

It will be interesting to see if the 2018 squad begins the season with and consistently maintains the individual and team intensity as well as the growth that we expected to see in 2017. Last year's result should provide plenty of motivation.