Soccer America released their 2012 preseason rankings for men’s college soccer this week and there are few surprises at the top.
UConn, the former collegiate home of LI’s Andrew Jean-Baptiste, now with the Portland Timbers, went 19-3-3 last season before an upset loss in the NCAA quarterfinals. They return in 2012 as the #1 ranked squad with a deep and talented team, particularly on defense, where they are led by goalkeeper Andre Blake who had 15 shutouts a year ago and a record nine straight. Their challenge will be on the offensive end, where they need to improve on last season’s 1.6 gpg scoring average.
Akron, the 2010 national champion, has lost eight players to the MLS Superdraft over the last two years, but they still return nine players who started at least ten games last season. Goalkeeper David Meyes, defender Chad Barson, and midfielder Scott Caldwell were starters on the national championship team from two years ago and will be asked to provide leadership for another team that will rely on youth to provide their scoring spark.
Maryland comes in at #3. Though they lost their top scorer, 10 starters return for a team that won it’s first 12 games a season ago before losing four of five to close out the campaign. #4 UC Santa Barbara has two of last year’s top players, Sam Garza and Luis Silva, playing in the MLS now, but a solid group of transfers has them feeling like they can compete for the NCAA title. 2011 College Cup finalist UNC Charlotte rounds out the top 5, returning eight players from a team that knocked off defending chmps Akron, #3 UConn, and #2 Ceighton in last year’s tournament before falling to the Tar Heels on North Carolina.
Speaking of the Tar Heels, the defending champs rank 6th in the preseason, and traditional powers UCLA and Indiana rank 8th and 9th, respectively. Locally, St. John’s comes in at the #13 spot. Most teams kick off their season this weekend. Look for scores and results in this space next week.