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Pac-10 has question marks, unproven talent

Published: August 24, 2010

This continues our series of daily articles previewing each men's and women's college conference. All the conference previews can be found here. And don't forget to check out our Conference Top 20 College Players To Watch.

For most programs, the thought of losing senior leadership and undergoing a regime change is a startling thought. But not when you have the best freshman recruiting class in the country, as UCLA does. For the Bruins it will all be a matter of which first-year players emerge and earn big roles – and some of them most certainly will.

mens college soccer player Servando Carrasco (California)
The fabulous freshman group includes Victor Chavez, Kelyn Rowe, Zack Foxhoven, Earl Edwards, Joe Sofia and Pat Matchett. The new blood will have ample opportunity to take the program’s reigns with the departure of some of the conferences top talent from last year: Kyle Nakazawa, David Estrada, Michael Stephens, Amobi Okugu and goalkeeper Brian Perk, to name a few.

Junior keeper Brian Rowe did have five starts last year and striker Chandler Hoffman is one of the few returners who saw valuable minutes in 2009. For the Bruins, it is in with the new.

Stanford doesn’t boast the incredible surplus of talent that the Bruins have, but they’ll nonetheless get the job done with a strong system and players who understand their responsibilities. I don’t foresee the Cardinal seriously challenging UCLA for the conference, but you can pencil them in for another good year and an NCAA run where they lost in the round of 16 last year.

Sophomore Adam Jahn was a star freshman in 2009 who could lead the team in scoring this season. Stanford probably doesn’t have another Jahn in this year’s freshmen class, but they’ll have some solid contributors. Defensive midfielder Bobby Warshaw is a key cog who will bring senior leadership while a couple of critical losses could have an effect on the squad: striker Evan Morgan, goalkeeper John Moore and first-team midfielder Michael Strickland.

At about the halfway point of last season, California was in prime position to make its mark on the conference and seize a berth in the NCAA tournament. Inexplicably, the Golden Bears crashed and burned with a six-game winless streak down the stretch and that was that. The silver lining from that experience? The Bears can still achieve big things and possibly cash in on last season’s opportunity.

Unfortunately, they’ll have to do it without their best player, Andrew Wiedeman, who was plucked by the MLS. It’s a big loss, but California does have a lot of its core returning, including midfielder Hector Jimenez – a first-team all-conference player. Goalkeeper David Bingham is back in net and midfielder Servando Carrasco will also be critical. Add the fact that Cal has the second best recruiting class in the conference, and we’ve got optimism in Berkley, CA.

Oregon State produced the top overall pick in the MLS Draft in Danny Mwanga. It’s the type of achievement that’s a nice boost for a program long term, but a curse in the short term. Mwanga was the Pac-10 Player of the Year and a goal scoring monster who made the team dangerous.

mens college soccer playerColin Mitchell. Photo by Denny Wolverton/OSU Athletcis.
On the bright side for the Beavers, most of the supporting cast will be back on the field and should make this a competitive team. Midfielder Colin Mitchell was a second-team all-conference performer in 2009 while defenders Chris Harms and Tanner French will be vital.

Goalkeeper Steve Spangler and striker Chris Miller are also full-time starters who will bring familiarity back to the field. None of those aforementioned players are Mwanga, but as a unit maybe they won’t have to be.

Don’t count out the Aztec just yet. San Diego State has some interesting young talent that could blossom into stardom. The operative word being ‘could.’ The incoming freshmen class includes two potential game-changers and Top 100 prospects in Sean Zaher and Miles Byass.

Midfielder Jose Altamirano had a standout freshman season that ended with his playing with the U20 U.S. Men’s national Team. He’ll be improved, and despite the key departures of Evan Toft and Nick Cardenas the Aztec have proven returners in senior Raymundo Reza, Khadim Diouf  and Justin Davies.

Washington didn’t lost much from 2009, but what did it gain? Well, for two, Spencer Richey and Zach Portillos highlight the team’s recruiting finds. Richey, a former U.S. National Team goalkeeper, and Portillos, a midfielder, should both eventually find strong roles on the squad.

Last year’s freshman story for UW was Ryan Moore, who finished the year with four goals and made the Pac-10 Honorable Mention squad. He’ll be joined by lots of upperclassmen leadership. The Huskies return leading scorer Brent Richards, senior striker Matt Van Houten, senior defenders Taylor Mueller and Brad Keller along with Jamie Finch.

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