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North Carolina 2015 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School – North Carolina
Conference – Atlantic Coast
Coach – Carlos Somoano (Fifth Season)
Background – The Tar Heels have a winning tradition that includes earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament a total of twenty-two times including fifteen out of the past sixteen seasons and National Championships in 2001 and 2011.  North Carolina belongs on the short list of programs that are annually a force on the national scene. Despite the success the progam has enjoyed there was a time when the highly regarded women's program at North Carolina under the direction of Anson Dorrance overshadowed the men's program but that all changed when the men's program advanced to the College Cup from 2008 through 2011 and won the program's second National Championship in 2011. Carlos Somano took over the head coaching role in 2011 from Elmar Bolovich who had been the coach at UNC for twenty-two years and immediately put his stamp on the program with a 21-2-3 overall record and the program's second National Championship. Somano will enter his fifth season at the helm of the program in 2015 with a 61-17-13 overall record that includes trips to the NCAA Tournament in each of the four seasons he has been at the helm of the program. In addition to the national championship run in 2011, Somano also directed the Tar Heels to the Elite Eight in in 2012 and 2014. Forward Andy Craven and defender Boyd Okwuonu were 2014 NSCAA and College Soccer News All-Americans. Craven, Okwuonu, and midfielder Omar Holness were 2014 All-ACC First Team selections. Goalkeeper Brendan Moore was an All-ACC Second Team selection and forward Rob Lovejoy, defender Jonathan Campbell and midfielder Raby George were All-ACC Third Team selections. Forward Alan Winn was named to the 2014 ACC All-Freshman Team.   
Offense – The loss of forwards Andy Craven (15g, 5a), Tyler Engel (8g, 5a), and Rob Lovejoy (5g, 8a) and midfielder Verneri Valimaa (5g, 2a) who were the Tar Heels top four goal scorers last year creates a void on the offensive side of the ball. They were responsible for thirty-three of North Carolina's fifty-two goals last year. Look for the responsibility of filling the void up-top in 2015 to fall on the shoulders of sophomores Alan Winn (3g, 4a) and Zach Wright (1g, 5a). Both are very capable finishers who are likely eager for the opportunity to assume a greater role. The midfield looks to be loaded with junior playmaker Omar Holness (2g, 7a) and seniors Raby George (2g, 3a) and Alex Olofson (0g, 2a) who were starters last year slated to return along junior Warren Marshall. Incoming freshmen midfielder Matin Salas and Dominic Jensen are among the newcomers who should be in the hunt for playing time.  
Defense – The graduation of All-American center back Boyd Okwuonu who started eighty-nine contests during his four-year tenure in Chapel Hill clearly leaves some big shoes to fill but the UNC backline should still be among the strongest in the country in 2015.  The return of fifth-year senior Jordan McCrary who missed the 2014 season due to injury is a huge plus. McCrary is a prime timer with three years of starting experience under his belt.  Senior Jonathan Campbell who has been a starter the past three seasons, senior Tucker Hume, and juniors Nick Williams and Colton Storm also return. Freshmen backs Alex Comsia and D.J. Mason should be in the hunt for minutes. The graduation of goalkeeper Brendan Moore, who was the starter in 2013 and 2014, creates another unanswered but likely solvable question mark heading into the 2015 campaign. Red-shirt senior Sam Euler who played briefly in two contests last year, red-shirt freshman James Pyle, and incoming freshman Johan Welch will battle for playing time in goal. 

Newcomers – Five Star Recruiting Class 

Will Campbell – Defender – Wallingford, Pennsylvania – Strath Haven High School – Played for the Philadelphia Union Academy. Member ODP Region 1 Team.

Alex Comsia – Defender – North Vancouver, British Columbia – Handsworth Secondary/Burnaby Central – Member Canadian Men's National Team. Made nine international starts in 2014-15. Had 23 international starts during 2012-2013.

Dominic Jensen – Midfielder – Raleigh, North Carolina – Leesville Road High School – Rated by CSN as the number 50 player in the class of 2015. Played for CASL Railhawks. ODP Region III Team member. U.S U-14 National Team member.

DJ Mason – Defender – Morrisville, North Carolina – Panther Creek High School – Rated CSN as the number 40 player in the class of 2015. U.S. U-18 National Team member. Plays for CASL Railhawks. 

Alex Moztarzadeh – Midfielder – Miami, Florida – Gulliver Prep – Plays for Kendall Soccer Coalition. 45 goals and 36 career assists in high school.

Zack Olofson – Midfielder – Raleigh, North Carolina – Millbrook High School – Plays for CASL Railhawks. All-Conference during the one season he played in high school. Played for CASL Chelsea FC.

Jelani Pieters – Forward – Oswego, Illinois – Oswego East High School – Rated by CSN as the number 148 player in the class of 2015. Plays for Sockers FC. Scored 10 goals for Sockers FC in 2013 and 11 in 2014.

Mati Salas – Midfielder – Dallas, Texas – Lone Star High School – Rated by CSN as the number 34 player in the class of 2015. Multi-year U.S National Team member. Plays for FC Dallas Academy.

Johan Welch – Goalkeeper – Richmond, Texas – Foster High School – Plays for Houston Dynamo Academy. Played for Trinidad and Tobago National Team. Member Region III ODP Team. 

Prognosis for 2015 –  At first glance, one might conclude that the Tar Heels have been hit hard by graduation with the departure of forwards Andy Craven, Tyler Engel, and Rob Lovejoy, midfielder Verneri Valimaa, defender Boyd Okwuonu, and goalkeeper Brendan Moore. However a second look shows the Tar Heels have a lot of returning talent to build on supplemented by another banner recruiting class. Last year North Carolina scored a total of 52 goals and had fifteen wins.  In 2013 the Tar Heels scored a total of nineteen goals and had nine wins. During both seasons they were very solid on the defensive side of the ball.  One of the reasons for the sigificant increase in UNC's offensive productivity in 2014 and the corresponding increase in their win total was the return of fifth-year seniors Craven and Lovejoy who missed the 2013 season due to injury. Since they along with Engel have departed the big unanswered question for the Tar Heels heading into the 2015 campaign is offensive productivity. The answer to that quesiton will likely determine whether Carolina has another nine win season like they had in 2013 or a fifteen win season like they they had in 2014.  A lot hinges on the ability of sophomores Alan Winn and Zach Wright or perhaps someone else to fill the void up-top.  The midfield led by junior Omar Holness and senior Raby George looks to be very good. Ditto that for the backline anchored by seniors Jonathan Campbell and Jordan McCrary. The Tar Heel midfield and backline should be able to hold their own with anyone in the country. Since a new face will be in goal that also creates another unanswered question heading into the 2015 campaign. What is not in quesiton is the ability of Carlos Somoano and his staff to effectively blend together the individual talents of their players into a unified team. A National Championship and two trips to the Elite Eight in the four seasons that Somoano has been at the helm of the program is proof positive of that. North Carolina looks to have all the ingredients if everyone stays healthy to be very good. But it all must come together on both sides of the ball for that to happen. 


Posted in 2015 Team Reviews

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