Hello again Zips fans, this is Michael Beaven and I will be providing additional soccer information and insight for this blog this season.
I recently talked to University of Akron men’s soccer coach Caleb Porter for a story that appeared in today’s Akron Beacon Journal and on ohio.com.
Porter is extremely confident in the team he has assembled and excited to kick off the season.
The Zips are ranked No. 1 in the country according to Top Drawer Soccer. Soccer America ranks the Zips No. 2, and UA was voted No. 3 by the coaches in the NSCAA/adidas poll.
UA opens the season at the Radisson Tulsa Airport Classic in Tulsa, Okla. UA plays Southern Methodist University at 6 p.m. tonight and then faces host Tulsa , No. 14 in the coaches poll, at 8:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Zips advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament last season and posted a 17-2-4 overall record and a 6-0-0 mark in the Mid-American Conference.
Here is a breakdown of the key players on the 2009 team by position:
Goalkeepers: Freshman David Meves and sophomore Josh Pantazelos are expected to be the primary goalkeepers after the departure of four-year starter Evan Bush, is playing for the Cleveland City Stars in the United Soccer League First Division.
Defenders: Junior Chris Korb and sophomores Kofi Sarkodie and Matt Dagilis return with starting experience. Freshmen Zarek Valentin and Chad Barson have also emerged at this position and should be major contributors.
Midfielders: Senior Ben Zemanski and juniors Anthony Ampaipitakwong and Blair Gavin are returning starters at midfield. Sophomore Michael Nanchoff and freshmen Scott Caldwell and Ben Speas should also make an immediate impact at midfield. Nanchoff sat out last season with a medical redshirt.
Forwards: Sophomore Teal Bunbury and Darlington Nagbe return with starting experience. Freshman Yoram Mwila is expected to be a game-changer at forward and will help fill the void left by Steve Zakuani, the No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Soccer Draft by the Seattle Sounders.
“This is a very deep team,” Porter said. “We have 15 to 16 guys that are capable of being starters. There isn't any dropoff when we make a substitution.”
Here are some additional comments from Porter that are not in the story:
On posting a 2-0 record in exhibition games: “I think overall we have done very good stuff in each of the games we played. The nice part about each of the games is that they were difterent types of games. We had hoped that would be the case when we scheduled them and they turned out to be.”
On the 3-1 win over visiting South Florida , in which Nagbe, Gavin and Nanchoff socred goals: “South Florida is a very explosive, attacking team and play an open game that we matched up well against. Our defense limited their attack to three shots and dictated the game against a top 10 team.”
On the 2-1 win over host Wisconsin , in which Bunbury and Ampaipitakwong scored goals: “With Wisconsin , we knew it would a little bit different style of game. They are more of a defensive team, which challenged us in different ways, such as restarts. They are very similar to teams we would see in the MAC and a few of the other opponents on our schedule.”
On the play of Speas: “I have been very pleased with Ben Speas, who has not been starting. He has gotten better each day. He brings things to the table that are hard to ignore. Ben Speas he is playing well enough to be a starter.”
On the forward position: “With Darlington and Teal up top, we think that is our best one-two scoring punch. They are very dangerous.”
On the play of Ampaipitakwong: “Ampai is our playmaker. He spearheads our attack.”
On the captains, Gavin and Zemanski: “Those two guys are our heart and soul. They make us go.”
On the defense: “In the back we have gone with Kofi and Korb as the outside backs. That is not going to change. They are our prototypical backs … The center back position has been a dogfight between Matt, Zarek and Chad.”
On the team overall: “We could be better, we’re nowhere near where we can be or will be at the end of the year. ... We are farther along this year at this time than we have been in past years.”
For more on Zips soccer, also check out gozips.com for stories that UA media contact Paul Warner put together.