A quick defense of college soccer

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This Comcast Sportsnet report from a few years back gives a sense of the atmosphere at Maryland matches.

Here we are on the eve of the 2009 College Soccer season and you’ll never believe it, but I am actually a defender of college as a method of player development for certain types of players. I agree with an awful lot of this article over at Pitch Invasion says. The point I agree the most with is one made by Maryland Coach Sasho Cirovski:
Notice how he uses the phrase “NCAA Division I top 20.” That’s key, because there is a massive difference between the top of D1 and the middle and bottom. I always stress to people that for the most part I am defending that “top 20” or so that can in fact develop pro players. Look at some of the top programs in the US, they are “pro-style” teams with sophisticated offenses (not just pounding it towards the tall foreign guy up top). Sure, there are some tactically retrograde programs floating around the top of college soccer (Akron, Kentucky, and Creighton immediately come to mind, though I might be out of date), but many of the top teams play an attacking, reasonably attractive variety of soccer.

I especially agree with the point the author makes regarding developing the sport in smaller and more alternative areas. Without the college programs currently in place, creating new fans of the sport, how many fewer soccer fans would there be in places like Albuquerque, Charlottesville, Omaha, Indiana and many others where pro teams are some distance away?

Of course, there are huge numbers of flaws with college soccer and they’ve been addressed a million times in a million places. That said, the best in college soccer is not nearly as bad as people make out. And, if you live in the right place, you might a great little game in front of a nice atmosphere. This weekend alone there are quite a few decent matches which, if students are in town at the respective schools, should be played in front of decent crowds.

This Friday alone, these include St. John’s at Indiana and Notre Dame playing Wake Forest (both in Bloomington) as well as Maryland hosting UCLA and Portland hosting Virginia. It would take a lot of fingers to count the number of good pros that have come out of just those schools.

My point is, if you happen to live near a decent program, go see a college match this season. You’ll be annoyed for sure (the subs, the clock, etc.), but you might just be entertained too.

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11 thoughts on “A quick defense of college soccer

  1. My soccer fanhood arc began with my years at Clemson in the early 90’s, providing the foundation, ultimately, for my BigSoccer addiction.

    – wait, you say college soccer is a good thing?

  2. I remember when I used to watch Frankie Hejduk play for UCLA.

    And kudos on defending college soccer. I used to be one of those myself, you know.

  3. Akron is “tactically retrograde”? You obviously haven’t seen them try to deal with a series of teams (including Kentucky) whose only interest it is to put 10 behind the halfway line, foul the shit out of the latest top 5 striker they managed to persuade to come to Akron, and wait for a counterattack. They try every which way but upside-down ninja style (I have no idea what that means, either) to break down teams that were meant to only stifle them.

    They play a very attractive style that borders on the frustrating because it’s so damn hard to break down defenses that are committed only to defend and hack from the opening whistle. In fact, part of the frustration is that they too often try to walk the ball in once they find holes.

  4. I admit, and I mention in the article, that I might be out of date with regards to the tactics of some teams. I last saw Akron back in the 02-04 time period. On that team I saw lots of big foreign guys in key roles (a Norwegian striker comes to mind) and I should add that I missed out on seeing Zakuani who didn’t arrive until a few years later. The player who stuck with me the most was the “silky-skilled” Cameron Knowles who seemed to specialize in kicking things.

  5. Ossie Michalsen is a Norwegian center-back who graduated last year. But he was captain the last three years and was the one backline starter who Porter didn’t completely change last season.

    You oughta see Ampaipitakwong (somehow, Porter got him from Bradenton) on the ball when he isn’t immediately scythed down by the opposition. Blair Gavin is also a Bradenton product in the midfield. Way different from the era of Yohann Mauger, who was fun to watch for his intensity and his ability to absolutely rule the midfield by brutal conquest rather than technical ability.

  6. as a former college soccer player, i can say that some of my fondest memories of my entire life came on college soccer pitches. while it may not be the best for developing all 100% of our elite players, it is more than suitable for many. the passion of the fans is sometimes unmatchable. I for one am more than excited for college soccer to begin.

  7. Well, if I may be so bold, I’ve lived in the Akron area since 1999 and have never seen anything there that I would describe as “retrograde soccer”

    They used to have some shortcomings talent-wise based on the fact that no one in his right mind would voluntarily live in Akron, so their tactics were occasionally very defensive, but since Porter arrived they’ve gotten a long line of blue chippers and will bludgeon you to death in any number of ways.

    And Cameron Knowles is a defender, so yes, he cleared the ball a lot. He also played a number of games for RSl and is now with Portland, where he has been a regular on the All League teams.

  8. At first, with the ECG and YCJ Photos we dealt almost exclusively with MLS, the USMNT, and USWNT. We quickly added the WUSA when it started. By 2003 I had started shooting local ACC college soccer games (both men and women’s) My only regret is not starting sooner. Two women’s doubleheaders last weekend. A men’s doubleheader at Duke tomorrow. Then on Sunday a women’s game in Greensboro followed by a mad dash to Chapel Hill for a men’s game.

    Not a bad consolation for not being able to make it to Salt Lake this weekend for the WCQ.

    While I wish the NCAA would eliminate reentry, and limit the number of substitutions, that’s (especially in the men’s game) pretty much a moot point come conference and NCAA tournament time as teams shorten their benches.

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