2018 Big Ten Men’s Preview
2017 Individual Honors
Offensive Player of the Year: Christopher Mueller, Wisconsin
Defensive Player of the Year: Grant Lillard, Indiana
Midfielder of the Year: Eryk Williamson, Maryland
Goalkeeper of the Year: Jimmy Hague, Michigan State
Freshman of the Year: Mason Toye, Indiana
Coach of the Year: Chaka Daley, Michigan
2017 Standings (Overall, Conference Standings
Michigan (12-5-2, 6-1-1)
Indiana (18-1-6, 5-0-3)
Michigan State (13-3-4, 5-0-3)
Maryland (10-5-4, 5-1-2)
Wisconsin (12-5-5, 4-3-1)
Ohio State (8-10-1, 3-5)
Penn State (5-10-2, 2-6)
Northwestern (7-12, 1-7)
Rutgers (4-13-1, 0-8)
Like every other significant men’s college program, the loss of players to the professional ranks is sure to leave a mark on the upcoming season. Save for the Goalkeeper of the Year Jimmy Hague, the individual honorees from a year ago haven’t returned, either leaving early or graduating.
Michigan must supplant the pace and dynamism of Francis Atuahene. While the big striker struggled with fitness at times, they do have a trio of pieces back to try and replicate his absence: Jack Hallahan, Mohammed Zakyi and Umar Farouk Osman. Marcello Borges provides experience and leadership from the flank as well.
Indiana didn’t lose a game until last year’s national title game, becoming the latest program unable to solve Stanford. There are big holes to fill, whether Grant Lillard in central defender or the timely scoring of Mason Toye, who jumped for a Generation adidas offer. Intriguing players are back, including left back Andrew Gutman, goalkeeper Trey Muse and midfielder Francesco Moore. Figuring out how to get the best out of sophomore Justin Rennicks, who is special in his own right but struggled with fitness last year, is a key to putting together another special campaign.
A penalty shootout was all that stood between Michigan State and a spot in last year’s College Cup. They have the senior group to certainly make a run at first place in the Big Ten, whether it’s Hague in goal or Ryan Sierakowski and DeJuan Jones going forward. The Spartans’ back line should be as solid and stout as ever, and if that pair can be as dynamic and lethal in front of goal, it bodes well.
After a disappointing 2017 campaign, Maryland needs to reload in the middle of the park after Jake Rozhansky and Eryk Williamson both moved on. A lot falls on the shoulders of defender Donovan Pines and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, a formidable force that should boost the team’s defense. Going forward is the key, as the Terps need to find the right combination of goal scorers to really climb the ladder into contention.
No program must reload quite like Wisconsin this season. The Badgers lost significant talent in the form of Mark Segbers, Chris Mueller and Tom Barlow, to name just a few. A significant amount of the attacking hopes could lean on the shoulders of freshman Charlie Spragg, joining from the New Zealand youth national setup or Andrew Akindele, a first-year forward from the Chicago Fire Academy. Juniors Mitch Guitar, Noah Leibold and Robin Olofsson form a strong enough spine further back, so how the attack comes together is crucial.
A familiar face returns to Columbus, as former Crew standout Brian Maisonneuve is back to lead Ohio State. The Buckeyes have some interesting pieces, whether it’s goalkeeper Parker Siegfried or midfielder Brady Blackwell. Regardless, the fortunes and results of the Buckeyes are certainly notable.
Also entering the new season with a new coach is Penn State. The Nittany Lions brought in Jeff Cook to steer the ship, and like Maisonneuve, Cook has some intriguing players to work with. Among them is PDL standout Aaron Molloy, who can boss any midfield in the country. Rising sophomore Ethan Beckford has the ability to stretch defenses and could open up doors for freshman forward Jeremy Rafanello.
Can a Spanish import help turn the fortunes around in Evanston? Northwestern added Real Madrid forward Jose Del Valle to its 2018 recruiting class, and all eyes will be on him in the new season. There are plenty of questions about any international recruit, though if Del Valle can have a substantial impact right away, it will be huge.
Not much went right for Rutgers last season, which failed to win a single game in Big Ten play. There are intriguing returnees, such as Bryce Washington and Vincent Borden that should at least make the Scarlet Knights hard to score against – something that is necessary after conceding 49 times in 2017.