College Soccer

16 players to watch in the 2017 College Cup

The NCAA College Cup is coming to town.

With it come some of the best young players in the nation. Stanford, Akron, North Carolina and Indiana combine for six MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalists (the award given to the nation’s best player) and 26 all-conference honorees.

Their rosters are littered with youth national team members, MLS academy products, and soon-to-be MLS Superdraft selections, yet a lot of these names are unfamiliar.

So let’s fix that and take a look at the 16 players to watch as a national champion is crowned in Philadelphia.

Why 16? Its the final four so why not take four players from each team?

16. Ben Lundt (Akron) Jr. — Goalkeeper

The German-born keeper cut his teeth at Hertha BSC before traveling to Ohio. While he may not be the best collegiate keeper, at 6’6″ Lundt has the frame to develop into a solid professional shot stopper. He will be taken in the MLS draft either this year or next.

15. Jack Skahan (North Carolina) So. — Midfielder

While Skahan may not be one of the 16 best players in the College Cup, it’s his connection to Philadelphia Union that provides the biggest reason to watch. North Carolina’s “other” sophomore midfielder played with the Union U16s. Skahan has also been producing on the field for the Tar Heels as 0f late, recording a goal and assist in UNC’s three tournament matches.

14. Jelani Pieters (North Carolina) Redshirt So. — Forward

Fellow forward Zach Wright may have garnered All-ACC accolades, but it is Jelani Pieters who has been the unsung hero of North Carolina’s lethal attack. His two tournament goals give him nine for the year to go with seven assists. It gives him a grand total of 25 points, second best on a team with second highest goals per game average in the nation.

13. Corey Baird (Stanford) Sr. — Midfielder

Fellow senior Foster Langsdorf might get all the attention, but that’s okay for Stanford’s No. 10 Corey Baird. All he’s done in four years at Palo Alto is appear in every game, earn All-PAC 12 honors every season, and accumulate 16 goals and 29 assists over the course of his career. Ho-hum.

12. Mason Toye (Indiana) Fr. — Forward

Orlando City has something special in this academy product. Only Canisius College’s Filippo Tamburini scored more than Mason Toye’s 10 as a true freshman. As good as Indiana’s defense is, they would not be in the College Cup without the first team All-Big 10 forward.

11. Drew Skundrich (Stanford) Sr. — Midfielder

The Lancaster, Pa. native started his collegiate career as a full back before making the move to the midfield. There, Skundrich has truly shined. The two-time captain is the heart at the center of the field for Stanford. He will likely be a first round selection in the 2018 MLS Superdraft. Man, it’d be nice if the Union didn’t let this local product slip away.

10. Andrew Gutman (Indiana) Jr. — Left back

Andrew Gutman is the best outside back in the nation. The Chicago Fire academy kid is unmatched at getting forward without sacrificing defense. Gutman had to settle for second team All-American honors since center backs hogged up the first team selections. Maybe left backs aren’t sexy, but six goals and four assists are.

9. Stuart Holthusen (Akron) Sr. — Forward

Stuart Holthusen is the first of Akron’s two first team All-MAC forwards. The New Zealand native led the Zips with 12 goals in 23 matches. His most important tally was a “golden” one. It secured a 3-2 over Wisconsin earlier in the tournament.

8. Sam Gainford (Akron) Redshirt Sr. — Forward

The Zip’s other first team All-Mac forward gets the slight nod over Holthusen. While the kiwi was the Akron’s leading scorer, Sam Gainford’s three goals in the tournament are more than any other player in the College Cup. With 10 goals in only 17 games, the Liverpool academy product has been brilliant in Ohio.

7. Trey Muse (Indiana) Fr. — Goalkeeper

What more could you ask from a true freshman goalkeeper than Trey Muse has provided. The Seattle Sounder academy star led the nation in goals against and shutouts by a mile, with .242 and 17 respectively. Sure the defense has something to do with that, but Muse also led the nation with a .906 save percentage. Indiana, by the way, would not have earned a place in Philadelphia without the three stops in penalty kicks against Big 10 rival Michigan State.

6. Joao Moutinho (Akron) Fr. — Center back

Keen defensive awareness and vision. Check. Supreme distribution from the back. Check. Akron’s center back from Lisbon, Portugal is special and a joy to watch. No other freshman was named a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy. No other freshman was named a first team All-American.

5. Alan Winn (North Carolina) Sr. — Forward

It’s almost a season of “what could have been” for Alan Winn, which is a weird thing to say about a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist, first team All-ACC honoree, and second team All-American. If not for an injury, though, Winn would be in the discussion as the best player in the nation. Only UCF’s Matias Pyysalo scored more than Winn’s 11 goals in 16 or fewer games.

4. Foster Langsdorf (Stanford) Sr. — Forward

When Jordan Morris forewent his senior season after leading Stanford to its first national championship in 2015, you’d forgive the Cardinal coaching staff for panicking. They didn’t. They knew they had a gem waiting in the wings in Foster Langsdorf. The forward is now a two-time PAC 12 Player of the Year, first team All-American, and MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist. His 32 points, ninth most in the nation, have Stanford on the brink of a third consecutive national championship after leading the Cardinal to its second title last season without the aforementioned Morris. Next season, the Portland Timbers will have their own Cardinal in the Cascadia Cup.

3. Grant Lillard (Indiana) Sr. — Center back

With Indiana seeking the first undefeated season since 1989, it’s easy to ask how. The answer starts with center back Grant Lillard. The Chicago Fire academy product is the keystone of the nation’s best defense. It’s a defense allowing a miniscule .242 goals per game and 7.91 shots per game, both best in college soccer. Lillard is the Big 10’s Defensive Player of the Year, first team All-American, and likely will be named a Hermann Trophy finalist. He’s basically Gandolf, making sure “you shall not pass.”

2. Cam Lindley (North Carolina) So. — Midfielder

The former U.S. U20 team captain is the real reason behind North Carolina’s 53 goals, second most in the country. His 13 assists were the most of any non-senior and the third most overall. Another likely Hermann finalist, the first team All-American is the engine in the center of the Tar Heel lineup. Whenever Lindley is ready to leave Chapel Hill, the Chicago Fire will be overjoyed.

1. Tomas Hilliard-Arce (Stanford) Sr. — Center back

Grant Lillard or Tomas Hilliard-Arce? Hilliard-Arce or Lillard? The Cardinal gets the nod here as the best center back in the nation. The imposing leader of the Stanford defense consistently shuts down the best attackers in the nation. Just ask Wake Forest’s Jon Bakero. College soccer’s leader in points and likely MAC Hermann trophy winner has never tallied in three contests against the center back. In 10 consecutive tournament matches spanning three seasons, nobody has been able to score on Stanford and Hilliard-Arce. Los Angeles FC might have an easy selection with the first overall pick in the 2018 MLS Superdraft.

One Comment

  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Union Academy grad Mark McKenzie helped Foster Langsdorf have a very quiet game against Wake Forest in the Deacons’ loss.
    Hilliard-Arce got the game winner off the game’s 1st corner kick midway through the second half.
    Stanford was clearly better than Wake for most of the game, bunkered in and went for counters.

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