NCAA soccer

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Celtic signs USMNT prospects Gutman and Perez

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American defenders Andrew Gutman and Manny Perez have signed 3+-year contracts with Celtic.

[ MORE: Club-by-club grades ]

Gutman was immediately loaned Thursday to Nashville of the second-tier United Soccer League Championship for the 2019 season. Celtic says Perez also will be loaned to a U.S. club.

Gutman is a 22-year-old who was a senior at Indiana and won the Hermann Trophy as the top men’s college soccer player last year. He was a member of the Chicago Fire’s youth academy and trained with Rangers, Celtic’s Glasgow rival.

Perez is a 19-year-old right back who was a sophomore at North Carolina State. He played for the U.S. at last year’s CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Gutman, Macario honored as best college players

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Glasgow Rangers trialist and possible Chicago Fire Homegrown player Andrew Gutman took a break from his professional endeavors to celebrate his success as an amateur.

[ MORE: Kane plays v. Tranmere ]

The Indiana University star was awarded the 2018 Mac Hermann Trophy as the best male player in American college soccer on Friday in St. Louis, while Stanford attacker Catarina Macario claimed the women’s award.

Gutman scored 11 goals for the Hoosiers, and has drawn the interest of Rangers manager Steven Gerrard as a fullback.

Macario won the women’s award, the Stanford sophomore beating college teammate Jordan DiBiasi, and Georgetown forward Caitlin Farrell on the weight of a 14-goal, 21-assist season.

Canadian Premier League draft lets players keep eligibility

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How could you make college soccer and professional soccer better in the United States?

Just follow the lead of the new Canadian Premier League.

The CPL recently held its first college draft ahead of, naturally, its first professional season.

[ MORE: U.S. qualifies for U-20 World Cup ]

As someone who’s fascinated by nascent leagues in North America, in particular the start of this one, I took a peek at who was drafted and saw something a bit odd.

Fourteen of 21 picks are in their first, second, or third year of college (out of five in Canada).

So I rang up one of the top college coaches in U Sports — Canada’s NCAA — and he’s not worried at all. Why? Because the players are leaving school early, at least for now. They are allowed to stay in school.

Players will leave their colleges for the pro season, then return to school in the summer for their college seasons.

Back to the “at least for now” point: It will be interesting to see what happens when one of these kids are key contributors to their pro club and have to go back to school.

The college programs will improve and be more stable, kids will find college soccer more attractive, and the pro teams could catch the rights of top prospects at a younger age and play a role in their development (in turn developing the college game).

Here, of course, is where I could say that it would be amazing if the NCAA found a way to do this. But that would be disingenuous.

Wake Forest No. 1 as NCAA D-I Tournament set

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Wake Forest is the No. 1 seed for the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament, Bobby Muuss’ men aiming to go back to the College Cup final for the second time in three years.

[ USMNT: Nagbe, Steffen out ]

The Demon Deacons have produced a strong crop of MLS players, including Jack Harrison, Ian Harkes, Sam Cronin, and Ike Opara.

Other seeded teams are Syracuse, Stanford, Saint Mary’s, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Georgetown, Louisville, Kentucky, Central Florida, Maryland, Duke, Notre Dame, Virginia, Denver, and Indiana (It pays to be in the ACC).

A fun side note for those who don’t follow the college game: One of Duke’s top players is goalkeeper Will Pulisic, brother of USMNT and Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic.

First two rounds
New Hampshire vs. Colgate (winner vs. Wake Forest)
Akron vs. Rider (winner vs. Syracuse)
UC Irvine vs. Grand Canyon (winner vs. Stanford)
Oregon State vs. Southern Methodist (winner vs. Saint Mary’s)
High Point vs. James Madison (winner vs. North Carolina)
Charlotte vs. Georgia State (winner vs. Virginia Tech)
West Virginia vs. LIU Brooklyn (winner vs. Georgetown)
Michigan State vs. Illinois-Chicago (winner vs. Louisville)
Portland vs. UCLA (winner vs. Kentucky)
Washington vs. Lipscomb (winner vs. Central Florida)
NC State vs. Campbell (winner vs. Maryland)
Pacific vs. UC Riverside (winner vs. Duke)
Michigan vs. Princeton (winner vs. Notre Dame)
UNC-Wilmington vs. Furman (winner vs. Virginia)
Air Force vs. Central Arkansas (winner vs. Denver)
UConn vs. Rhode Island (winner vs. Indiana)

How Real Madrid’s manager started life in NCAA Soccer

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Santiago Solari will be sitting in the manager’s chair for Real Madrid following the firing of Julen Lopetegui, but he was an All-Region NCAA Division III player before he was a Champions League winner with 11 caps for Argentina.

We’re sorry, we better clarify: Solari was a second team All-Region player at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, New Jersey, behind his teammate Pete Schneiders.

[ MORE: Solari prepares Real ]

The story, of course, is much deeper than this, and there are few better suited to share it than former Stockton coach and current Northwestern boss Tim Lenahan, who has moved from coach to lifelong friend of Solari.

Despite the shared first name with the character from “Goal!”, Santiago Solari was a major talent before his parents bonded with an American coach and sent their son to American college for a year.

Solari’s uncle, Jorge, was the manager of the Saudi Arabia national team for the 1994 World Cup, and his father was on the staff. Before the side went on to the Round of 16 in the most memorable tournament in Green Falcons history, they prepared for the tournament in New Jersey.

Santiago had a special role in the preparation for the tournament, part of a U-19 team which trained against the first team. It wasn’t difficult for Lenahan to spot his talent, but there wasn’t really any recruiting involved. This was a World Cup, and a job.

“I was a part-time coach and a full-time IT guy,” Lenahan told ProSoccerTalk on Tuesday as his Wildcats prepare for a Big Ten tournament match against Ohio State on Nov. 3. “I took a leave from my job to work at the camp.”

The player and his parents grew close with Lenahan, and the Saudi Arabian staff asked Lenahan to accompany them on their tournament run. The Green Falcons nearly knocked off the Netherlands before beating Belgium and Morocco and losing to Sweden in the Round of 16.

“I got to know his mom and dad really well,” Lenahan said. “His mother mentioned sending him to school at Stockton and told me, “This is my life and blood,” in Spanish before she left. Sure enough a couple of weeks later I get a letter from his dad.”

(Solari, Courtesy: @Tim_Lenahan)

His bio in the Stockton College history book reads, As a freshman, Solari tallied eight goals and 15 assists for 31 points. He was named NJAC Rookie of the Year, NJAC All-Conference First Team and NSCAA All-Region Second Team. With Solari in the lineup, Stockton posted a 15-5 record and earned an NCAA Tournament berth.

Solari’s 15 assists were the second-best single season in Stockton history, behind teammate Schneiders. Solari was 17 years old, and Lenahan says he opened up the field for his teammates.

Pretty solid list of accomplishments, before you take into account the whole Champions League thing. Solari went 90 minutes for Real in the club’s 2002 UCL triumph over Bayer Leverkusen, giving him a European crown to go with two La Liga titles, and he’d thrice win Serie A with Inter Milan.

Through that time and into the present, Solari has stayed in touch with his friend Tim. Before the proliferation of broadcasts over the ocean, Lenahan would get phone calls and videos from Solari to hear about the latest match. Sometimes he’d come home to an amusing answering machine message.

Lenahan saw Solari score for Atletico Madrid against Real, then plenty more when Solari left relegated Atleti for its crosstown rivals.

In fact, Lenahan has Solari jerseys from both sides of the rivalry in his office.

“I’d love telling this story for 20 years, and breaking out the picture of us holding the Champions League trophy,” Lenahan said.

To be fair, who wouldn’t?

Lenahan says he trades messages with Solari about once a week, and that he offered congratulations for this new, big coaching gig earlier this week. He often jokes that Solari wouldn’t have made his first team debut for River Plate at 19 if it wasn’t for him.

“It would’ve happened at 18,” Lenahan said. “I don’t think he got better here but he definitely grew here. I read somewhere that he said, ‘It opened up my head’.”

It’s an understatement to say Lenahan has fared well since his days at Stockton, producing 11 NCAA Tournament teams at the Division I level between Lafayette (two) and Northwestern (nine).

And Solari isn’t Lenahan’s only connection to El Clasico stars (Solari scored the lone Real goal in a 2004 loss to Barca)A chance invitation he extended to a Northwestern player led to a documentary called, “Messi and Me.”