|Conference: American Athletic
|Coach: Kevin Hudson – 4th Season
|2017 Record: 17-3-1 overall – 5-1-1 in conference play
|2017 Final Season Ending Rank: Number Eight in the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News Polls
|Key Personnel Losses from the 2017 Team: Midfielders Mauro Cichero and Bryce Clark, defenders Jordan Cano and Jared Rice and goalkeeper Michael Nelson due to graduation.
Five Year Win Totals:
|2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed: 41 Scored – 13 Allowed
|2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed Per Game: Scored 1.95 – Allowed 0.62
|2017 Key Statistic: Held opponents to a total of 13 goals.
Background: SMU has a rich tradition in college soccer. The Mustangs enter the 2018 season with an all-time record of 593-188-77 (.736). SMU has been a member of the American Athletic Conference since 2013. During that time they claimed AAC regular season titles in 2015 and 2017 and the AAC Tournament Title in 2017.
SMU has appeared in the NCAA Tournament a total of thirty-one times with the most recent being the 2015 and 2017 seasons durng which they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. The Mustangs have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen twenty-three times, to the Elite Eight twelve times and to the College Cup twice (2000 and 2005).
Midfielder Mauro Cichero and goalkeeper Michael Nelson were named to the 2017 College Soccer News All-Ameria Team. Cichero, defender Jordan Cano, and forward Garrett McLaughlin were named to the 2017 United Soccer Coaches All-America Team.
Cano was named the 2017 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Cichero was named the AAC Midfielder of the Year, and Nelson was named the AAC Goalkeeper of the Year. McLaughlin, Cano, Cichero and Nelson were All-AAC First Team selections. Defender Jared Rice was named to the 2017 All-AAC Second Team and defender Talen Maples was named to the AAC All-Rookie Team.
|Number Starters Returning: Six
Coach Hudson stated, "We are thrilled to announce our 2018 recruiting class. This is a very talented group of student-athletes who we believe will immediately contribute to the success of SMU Soccer. It is a well-balanced group that provides a great combination of techincal ability, athleticism, size, and competitive spirit."
Knut Ahlander – Midfielder – Notteroy, Norway – Drammen High School – Captain of the Norwegian U-19 National Team.
Elek Arany – Goalkeeper – Highlands Ranch, Colorado – Thunder Ridge High School – Played for the Real Colorado Development Academy.
Carter Emack – Midfielder – Birmingham, Alabama – Played for the Philadelphia Union Academy.
Kyle Gehman – Defender – Cedar Park, Texas – Leander High School – Played for Lonestar SC. Team captain.
Thomas Haney – Defender – Houston, Texas – Strake Jesuit College Preparatory – Played for the Albion Hurricanes FC. Team captain. First Team All-District.
Shane Lanson – Goalkeeper – New Orleans, Louisiana – Jesuit High School – Played for Louisiana Fire Jrs. Team captain. Four-year letterwinner at Jesuit High School.
Cristobal Moreno – Midfielder – Malaga, Spain – Played for Malaga CF Youth Academy.
Viad Munteanu – Forward – Stillwater, Oklahoma – Stillwater High School – Played for West Side Alliance. Four-year letterwinner in high school. First Team All-District. All-Central Oklahama Athletic Conference.
Sevon Pendergrass – Defender – Nashville, Tennessee – Lone Star High School – Played on the Region III ODP Team. Played club for FC Dallas. First Team All-District selection.
Wyatt Priest – Midfielder – Coppell, Texas – Coppell High School – Played for the Dallas Texans. First-Team All-American in 2017. First-Team All-State.
Akean Shackleford – Forward – Savannah La Mar Westmoreland, Jamaica – Indian Hill Junior College – Played for Sandals Southcost. All-America First Team. All-Conference. Conference Player of the Year.
Tobin Shanks – Midfielder – Scotsdale, Arizona – Brophy College Preparatory – Played club for SC DEL Sol. Four-year letterwinner at Brophy College Preparatory.
Carlos Vargas – Defender – Greeley, Colorado – Aims Community College – Played for Cororado Rapids U-19 Academy. Played for youth academy of C.F. Pachuca in Mexico.
Lane Warrington – Midfielder – Lawton, Oklahoma – Lawton High School – Played club for Oklahoma Energy FC 99. All-District. All-Conference.
Outlook for the 2018 Season: SMU brings back a lot of talent from the 2017 team that was 17-3-1 overall, won both the American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament tiitles, and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.
The guys who do not return include midfielder Mauro Cichero (9g, 7a), defender Jordan Cano (3g, 4a) and goalkeeper Michael Nelson. All three were among the best in the country at their positions.
No matter how much talent returns, you don't fill the void that such departures create without some uncertainty. Several of the returning players who were key contributers last year as well as a few who were not will have to assume a greater level of responsibility in 2018 in order for SMU to maintain or exceed the level of success the program enjoyed last year.
The attack will begin with junior forward Garrett McLaughlin (14g, 3a) who was a force up-top last year for the Mustangs. McLaughlin, who had eight game-winners last year, is among the most productive goal scorers in the country. However, he will be a tightly marked man in 2018 which may present new challenges and require some adjustments. Without Cichero on the pitch, opposing defenders will be able to focus more on McLaughlin.
It will be critical for SMU to find ways to offset the loss of the firepower that Cichero brought to the pitch. Sophomore forward Nicky Hernandez (2g, 4a) who was a starter last year and senior midfielder Emil Cuello (2g, 5a), who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2017 AAC Tournament, look to be among the returning players who could add diversity to the attack and help open up the field of play.
As usual, the Mustangs will not be short on skilled midfielders who can run with anyone. Cuello and fellow seniors Christian Boorom (2g, 1a) and Caleb Smith (0, 1a), juniors D.J. Williams Jr. (2g, 0a) and Jacob Cohen (1g, 0a) and sophomore Noah Hilt are among a solid group of returning linkmen. Knut Ahlander, Cristobal Moreno, and Wyatt Priest are among a large fourteen member recruiting class that should add depth to the midfield.
Some reloading will be required in the back but the good news is that juniors Eddie Munjoma (0g, 3a) and Phillip Ponder (1g, 0a) and sophomore Talen Maples (1g, 1a) return to provide a solid foundation upon which to build. All are reliable players who appear capable of providing good veteran-type defense.
The departure of Michael Nelson, a four-year starter and three-time AAC Goalkeeper of the Year, creates the most difficult and crucial void to fill. Juniors Grant Makela and Patrick Michael Hillyard who appeared in one contest last year and newcomers Shane Lanson and Elek Arany will contend for the starting goalkeeper role.
Kevin Hudson knows that success in one season does not guarantee continued success in the next. He discovered that when his team went from fifteen wins in his first season at the helm of the program in 2015 to only six in 2016. To avoid a similar fate in 2018, several returning players must quickly settle into larger roles on both sides of the ball.
The emergence of additional playmakers and a solid presence in goal look to be critical success factors. On paper, several of the newcomers appear to be an ideal fit for SMU's uptempo system of play. Nonetheless, team cohesiveness and chemsitry are always potential concerns when you add fourteen newcomers.
Replacing the departed seniors will be tough but there are ample reasons to believe that 2018 will be another solid year for the Mustangs. Despite the uncertainties, SMU remains the favorite to win the AAC championship and should return to the NCAA Tournament field.
If the Mustangs get the boost they need at key positions, something bigger than a Sweet Sixteen season is possible in 2018.