Joe Mauceri continues his travels | Part 1

Joe Mauceri continues his travels | Part 1
October 6, 2011
This article contains my previous week’s travel to College Park, MD, Queens, NY and Long Branch, NJ. This article includes the following schools: Maryland, Charlotte, Creighton, Saint John’s, Notre Dame, Monmouth and Central Connecticut.

Next week, I’m watching going west as suggested by Horace Greely. Please hold your comments that I’m not that young! Leave me to my own delusions!

Just a reminder, this year, I’m concentrating on just a few players at each game.

College Park, MD – Maryland handed Charlotte only their second loss of the season with a convincing 3-1 victory. Charlotte started strong aggressively attacking Maryland. But against the run of play, Maryland was able to get their first goal and then added 2 more in the next 12 minutes.

Starting Line-ups:
Charlotte: 4-4-2
F: Giuseppe Gentile, Will Mayhew
M: Isaac Caughran, Aidan Kirkbride, Tyler Gibson, Evan James
D: Anthony Perez, Isaac Cowles, Charles Rodriguez, Aaron Weldon
GK: Klay Davis

Maryland: 4-4-2
F: Patrick Mullins, Casey Townsend
M: Sunny Jane, John Stertzer, Helge Leikvang, Kaoru Forbess
D: Taylor Kemp, Alex Lee, London Woodberry, Widner Saint Cyr
GK: Will Swaim

Charlotte Observations:
I have seen the following 3 seniors play approximately 20 times over the past 4 years.

charlotte men's college soccer player charles rodriguezCharles Rodriguez
Senior Charles Rodriguez is a tall player that plays far taller than his roster listed 6-0. He wins virtually every defensive header. It’s not just his vertical ability, but that he seems to hang in the air and he has tremendous timing and judgment. In my unofficial notes, he won 7 defensive headers and lost only one (occurring in the 43rd minute).

Because Charlotte was having difficulty marking the Maryland right midfielders and to get another solid defender into the game, Charlotte brought in sophomore Thomas Allen to center back and moved Rodriguez to left back. Rodriguez made several defensive tackles, but he didn’t look comfortable.

Senior Isaac Cowles partners with Rodriguez in the middle for arguably the best duo of senior center backs in the nation. Cowles doesn’t have the vertical ability that Rodriguez has, but he might be better on the ground. Cowles made several key mistakes in the back in the second half. First, in the 60th minute, Cowles watched as sophomore Patrick Mullins went by him like he was a spectator. Cowles was victimized in the 87th minute by senior Casey Townsend.

I have less confidence that Cowles will be able to make the leap to MLS. Although Rodriguez will have significant challenges as well, I like Rodriguez’s upside. 

Senior Evan James has exceptional speed and quickness. At times, I think he is being shot out by a cannon. His athleticism has never been the concern. Instead, his ability to effectively contribute in scoring, sustaining the attack and playing intelligently is my issue. For example, in the 5th minute, he beat Helge Leikvang and then beat Alex Lee getting near the box. Then, in the 26th minute, he missed the ball completely on a shot. In the 49th minute, he unconsciously dribbled into pressure. He’s better than he’s been in years past, but he still has room to grow. Then, again, I felt the same when Dane Richards was leaving Clemson and he’s developed into a competent professional. I’m not sure that James will succeed as well.

Maryland Observations:
Senior Alex Lee continues to impress. With his slight frame, I expect that he won’t be playing center back in MLS – then again, I didn’t think that former Terp AJ Delagarza would be either. However, I like the way that Lee understands the game and he has the athletic and technical skill to play in the midfield or wide back at the next level. With the scarcity of right backs in the 2012 MLS draft, Alex Lee is a bona fide alternative.

maryland men's college soccer player alex leeAlex Lee
Lee is a solid 1v1 defender. His defensive technique is outstanding. Not only is his body position well balanced on defense, he uses his balance and strength to shield the ball from attackers. Lee doesn’t have superlative quickness (such as James), but has above average speed and a nose for the ball.

Sophomore Patrick Mullins was snake-bit in this game. He crushed a shot that was blocked and senior Casey Townsend leapt on the ball and finished it for the opening goal. Then, in the 31st minute, Mullins crushed another shot that was partially blocked and seemingly rolling into the goal before Charlotte’s sophomore left back, Anthony Perez finished the ball from 2 yards into his own goal. Mullins earned no points on the evening, but he was a positive force for Maryland.

College Park, MD – In one of the most entertaining matches of the year, Maryland squeaked out a 1-0 win over Creighton on a defensive mistake. This was the first goal that Creighton had surrendered this year. The mistake occurred because the 2 defenders couldn’t keep senior Casey Townsend from a long ball and goal keeper, Brian Holt, came out and didn’t get a piece of the ball.
Creighton is a quality team with exceptional team speed who play very attractively. They had much of the play, but they couldn’t finish and Maryland mounted heroic defensive efforts. If they played again, the result might not be the same.

Starting Line-ups:
Creighton: 4-4-2 started in this formation…
F: Kris Clark, Ethan Finlay
M: Bruno Castro, Andrew Ribeiro, Greg Jordan, Dion Acoff
D: Tyler Polak, Andrew Duran, Jake Brown, Eric Miller
GK: Brian Holt

But shifted into a 3-5-2 formation after 5 minutes:
F: Kris Clark
M: Bruno Castro, Ethan Finlay, Dion Acoff
DM: Andrew Ribeiro, Greg Jordan
D: Tyler Polak, Andrew Duran, Jake Brown, Eric Miller
GK: Brian Holt

But the top 4 interchange positions freely.

Maryland: 4-4-2
F: Patrick Mullins, Casey Townsend
M: Sunny Jane, John Stertzer, Helge Leikvang, Kaoru Forbess
D: Taylor Kemp, Alex Lee, London Woodberry, Widner Saint Cyr
GK: Will Swaim

Creighton Observations:
Senior Ethan Finlay is extremely quick but he is shorter than I recall. He’s accomplished on the ball with his quick feet, unbelievable acceleration and tight turning radius. He’s generally good on his touch, but had a sloppy chest trap in the 18th minute. Finlay is a good distributor providing a scintillating pass to sophomore Liam Kelly flying down the line into the box.

The most impressive part of his game is his dogged determination on the defensive side of the ball. With his talent, he could be lazy and save his energy for the glamorous attacking component. But, he doesn’t and this will help him and the MLS team that drafts him for the next 8-10 years.

creighton men's college soccer player greg jordanGreg Jordan
Finlay needs to create his shot better and he can’t be constrained to a single weak shot in a game that needs him to do more. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays wide midfielder in MLS. He reminds me of former Creighton star, Brian Mullan but Finlay is thinner.

Sophomore Tyler Polak has exceptional quickness and bite. But, this wasn’t one of his better games. He was beat by the equally quick Sunny Jane on the dribble. Polak mis-stepped and Jereme Raley skirted around him in the 44th minute. Additionally, his passing was not as precise as I’ve seen him in the past. 

Senior Greg Jordan is the man in the middle. While the Creighton lists him as a junior, he’ll be graduating in December. He is one of the better “senior” defensive midfielders in the country. His defensive tactical positioning is exceptional. He reminds me of former Wake Forest defensive midfielder, Brian Carroll.

Jordan is a superb tackler with perfect body positioning. His touch is usually clean, but he had a poor trap in the 18th minute. I love his timing on his tackles. He made a crunching tackle on sophomore right back Widner Saint Cyr in the 5th minute. At midfield, Jordan split 2 Maryland defenders before passing the ball to his forward. Nice play.

Senior goal keeper Brian Holt made an egregious error on the goal coming out to attempt to stop the long pass from Helge Leikvang on the Maryland side of the pitch that found Townsend. Other than this misplay, Holt was quick around his box, made a sensational 1v1 stop on Patrick Mullins to keep the game close in the 55th minute, and displayed confident hands. Holt needs to improve on his distribution with his feet.

Senior Andrew Duran is a talented player who makes plays but looks awkward making them. He didn’t handle the ball successfully while facing his goal line near the sideline in the 48th minute with pressure on his back. Instead of getting the ball to his goal keeper or turning the ball up toward the sideline, he kicked the ball out of bounds. I’d have liked to see him handle the problem better.

Duran is a solid defender on the ground and in the air. Polak and Duran effectively pinned Townsend on the sideline.

While I’m hoping that Duran can remain injury free this year, he hasn’t been able to accomplish this in the past 5 years. If he can, he’s worth a look.

Junior Andrew Ribeiro played very well and he deserves a more concentrated look in the future. He’s got a big body and moves very well.

Maryland Observations:
Because I concentrated on the Creighton players and I’ve seen Maryland many times, I didn’t note on any particular player. However, junior center back London Woodberry made many critical plays to keep Maryland in the game and eventually was the key to the victory.
Part 2 coming tomorrow. 
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