College Players to Watch in 2015: Upperclassmen
The College Soccer season officially returns this Friday night with a full slate of games. Here are the returning players I’m most looking forward to seeing this season.
Joshua Yaro, Defender, Georgetown
Yaro surprised the soccer world by announcing his return to campus after a season in which he was already the best defender and one of the best players in the college ranks. His Hoyas are the preseason No. 3 team in the nation and he’s a big reason why. The Ghana native is an athletic center back who is a joy to watch roam the back line.
Jordan Morris, Forward, Stanford
Like Yaro, Morris was a surprise returner to college after a sophomore season that saw the speedy former Seattle Sounders Academy player capture the attention of U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann. When he’s not trying to get the U.S. Under-23 team to qualify for the Olympics this fall, he’ll playing the leading role in a dangerous Cardinal attack.
Fabian Herbers, Forward, Creighton
Herbers has been dynamite in preseason for the No. 6 Blue Jays and is poised to have a huge season combing with Timo Pitter and Ricky Lopez-Espin to create one of the most potent attacks in college soccer.
Callum Irving, Goalkeeper, Kentucky
Last year was a big year for goalkeepers in college and with so many moving on to the next level, Irving has risen to the top as a star in net for a program that is on the cusp of breaking into the national picture.
Abu Dunladi, Forward, UCLA
Dunladi was slowed by injuries in his freshman season but was electrifying when he was healthy, notably in UCLA’s run to the final. His return is a big reason why the Bruins are the preseason favorites again to win it all.
Patrick Hodan, Midfielder, Notre Dame
The Irish are preseason No. 4 this year and will rely heavily on Hodan, who has scored 26 goals in his first three seasons in South Bend, to lead the offense.
Tim Kubel, Midfielder, Louisville
The German was a breakout star in his first season in Louisville last year, leading the team in scoring from the right back position. He’s been playing midfield in the preseason for Ken Lolla’s squad so it appears as though he will be relied on even more for his offense this season.
Tanner Thompson, Midfielder, Indiana
When your younger brother is starring for the U.S. Under-20 team in the World Cup, it’s hard not to be referred to as Tommy’s brother, but Tanner has a chance to carve out his legacy in Bloomington this season with the No. 14 Hoosiers coming off a solid sophomore season that saw him score six goals and pick up three assists.
Pablo Aguilar, Midfielder, Virginia
The Guatemalan midfielder was a big reason why Virginia were College Cup winners in his first season. Saving his best soccer for late in the season, Aguilar was a ton of fun to watch in the middle of the field even playing for a team that didn’t generate much offense on the last weekend of the season.
Guillermo Delgado, Forward, Delaware
One of the biggest threats in all of college soccer, the Spaniard scored 27 goals in his first two seasons and found the back of the net five times for the Sounders U-23 squad in PDL over the summer.
Michael Amick, Defender, UCLA
The junior captain was a consistent force on the back line for the Bruins in their run to the College Cup final last season and is one of the best at his position in the country.
Adam Najem, Midfielder, Akron
The Akron program has produced some real gems over the years. Andy Najem is the latest. The junior from Clifton, N.J. led the team with 14 goals and 4 assists last year.
Brandon Vincent, Defender, Stanford
While Jordan Morris gets all the attention, Vincent leads the Cardinal on the defensive end as one of the top defenders in the nation. He returns for his senior season after earning All-American and Pac-12 Defender of the Year honors last season.
Mael Corboz, Midfielder, Maryland
With former skipper Dan Metzger moving to the pro ranks, the senior midfielder will be called upon to lead the charge in the middle of the field for a young and talented Terps team in his second season in College Park.
Connor Maloney, Forward, Penn State
Maloney had a breakout year in his sophomore season, leading the Big 10 in scoring and will look to build on that in his junior season.
Arun Basuljevic, Midfielder, Georgetown
Basuljevic was one of the best freshmen in the nation last year, scoring six goals for the Hoyas in his rookie campaign. Even bigger things are expected from the creative Mahopac, N.Y. native this season for the preseason No. 3 Hoyas.
Omar Holness, Midfielder, North Carolina
Holness gets a lot of attention because of his potential and attributes and made the Jamaica squad for their Gold Cup run this summer, but he’s yet to really put his stamp on the college game. This could be the year he breaks out for the Tar Heels as they will look to fill a huge scoring void left by departures this fall.
Ian Harkes, Midfielder, Wake Forest
Harkes returns for his junior season after making the All-ACC second team in his sophomore season. Forward Michael Gamble gets more attention for his goal-scoring prowess, but Harkes is just as enjoyable to watch dominating the midfield.
Marcus McCrary, Forward, Ohio State
McCrary only scored three goals in his first season in Columbus but has all the tools to have the kind of breakout season Connor Maloney had in his sophomore year at Penn State.
C. Nortey, Forward, Marquette
The fifth year senior from Ghana is the active leader in goals for Marquette with 26 over three seasons and 8 of those have been game-winners so he has a flare for the dramatic and when he’s on is a human highlight reel on the soccer pitch.
Keegan Rosenberry, Defender, Georgetown
Rosenberry has started every game for the Hoyas in his three years in D.C. and has been part of the most dominate back lines in the country with Yaro in the middle the last two seasons. A skilled defender with the ability to get forward and create in the offensive third, expect another solid season from him this year.
Grant Lillard, Defender, Indiana
The second-year player groomed by the Chicago Fire Academy is a commanding presence at 6-4 who uses his size not only shut down opposing offenses but also on the offensive end, scoring five goals and adding an assist during his rookie season last year.
Larry Ndjock, Forward, UCLA
The German forward’s stock dropped a little last year as his production dropped in his first year playing for UCLA, but he came on strong last year and made the all-College Cup team. He has 32 goals in three seasons (25 in his first two years at Loyola) so look for him to top the 40 mark this season.
Raby George, Midfielder, North Carolina
After a number of departures in the offseason, the Tar Heels will be looking to the senior from Sweden to play an even bigger role this season leading a young team in the always tough ACC conference.
Darius Madison, Forward, Virginia
Madison had a down year last season, missing several games early in the year to injury, but he showed during Virginia’s tournament run how dangerous he is in the final third. His final season in Charlottesville could be a special one as the Hoos are once again expected to be in the thick of another College Cup quest.
Zach Bennett, Goalkeeper, Michigan State
With Tyler Miller off the Europe, Bennett will be the cream of the crop in the Big 10 this season, his last for the Spartans.
Michael Gamble, Forward, Wake Forest
Gamble has 18 goals and 18 assists in his first three years with the Demon Deacons and returns for his final season as one of the most dangerous forwards not only in the ACC but in the nation.
Napo Matsoso, Midfielder, Kentucky
While Callum Irving has the defense locked down, Kentucky’s offense runs through the junior from Louisville. With the departure of Justin Laird he’s going to be expected to step up and lead a team that may finally put the program in the national spotlight.
Brandon Allen, Forward, Georgetown
One of the most prolific scorers in college the last three seasons, Allen returns for his senior season looking to add to his 38 goals and 10 assists.
James Moberg, Midfielder, Washington
Departures for many of the programs big-name players have left Moberg as the senior leader and star of a team that will fight for respect against the star-studded UCLA and Stanford teams in the conference this season.