The month of August sadly means the end of the summer however the end of summer means the start of the fall sports season. Right now colleges across the country are starting preseason as they prepare to win Conference and National titles.
The Red Bull College Preview
College soccer is definitely an acquired taste, however, it is a lot easier to get into it if you have something to watch for. This isn’t going to be your normal college preview instead it is going to focus on potential homegrown players and help you find a team to follow this college season.
I have also not seen all these players play extensively so a scout who has worked in Major League Soccer and USL, graced us with some thoughts as well.
Marcelo is a 5-9 left back playing for the University of Michigan. He played with NYRBII twice while in the academy and has featured with US U-20 as well as the RBNY U-23 teams. Borges is a perfect fit for the Red Bull system, and his time playing as a left winger only helps. Outside backs contribute heavily in the attack in the RBNY high-press system.
Michigan Soccer Now describes Borges best saying, “We believe Marcello is a professional ready left back and that very well could be international. Technically and tactically, Borges is perhaps the most polished player in program history. His ability to use both feet paired with his willingness to win the aerial ball makes up for any doubts in his natural athletic ability. He is a stud.”
A stud is how I would describe him as well. If I’m Denis Hamlet he is the highest priority homegrown.
Scouts Take: The right-footed outside back is comfortable lining up on either side of the Michigan defense. A composed and physical player, he possesses the engine to cover lots of ground and is not afraid to overlap into the attack. Likely the top RBNY homegrown prospect coming into this season.
In the mix:
- Malcom Dixon (Outside Back, University of Portland)
- Henry Martin (Center Back, Princeton University)
- Kyle Zajec (Midfielder Georgetown)
- Ethan Lochner (Forward, Georgetown)
- Juan Sebastian Sanchez (Forward, Tulsa)
Brian Saramago (Loyola):
Brian Saramago will lead the line for the Loyola Greyhounds this season. If his PDL form is anything to go by, he should be in for a good season. If the name sounds familiar, that is because Saramago made some appearances for NYRBII in 2015 and 2016. This past summer he led the U-23’s in scoring with 11 goals in 825 minutes played.
The past two seasons at Loyola, he scored 18 goals in a little over 2100 minutes. He was also named to the MAC Herman watch list for the best player in college soccer. Saramago is an athletic, technically skilled striker who is capable of playing on the wings.
At the pro level, he projects best as a striker but his ability to take on a defender 1v1, or make a good cross when chasing down balls in the channels is a definite plus. Saramago is unlikely to leave school early at this point however once the junior season arrives leaving early is always a possibility as we saw with Evan Louro two season ago.
Scout Take: The top offensive threat in the Patriot League enters his junior year at Loyola MD. He lacks elite speed but is savvy enough to find space to get his scoring chances. Is not afraid to shoot quickly on the turn and take defenders on. Will need to improve his ability to hold up play against bigger defenders.
Jared Gilbey (Midfielder, Stanford):
Jared is a flat-out winner. After two years at Stanford, he has two college cups to his name and he has been a starter for both. Gilbey has great technique and is not a bad athlete. His biggest question mark will be where he fits at the next level. His build is similar to Marc Rzatkowski, and played in an attacking midfield role for the PDL team however at Stanford he plays more traditional box to box central mid role. A log jam in the Red Bulls midfield makes it unlikely the talented Gilbey earns a homegrown contract.
Scout Take: An underrated but critical component of Stanford’s success over the past few years. The junior relies on excellent technical ability, underrated strength on the ball and a high soccer IQ. Not the biggest player but he always finds a way to impact the game from the middle of the park.
In the mix:
- Sean Teixeira (Outside Back, Villanova)
- Barry Sharifi (Midfielder, Loyola)
- Callum Johnson (Forward, Boston College)
- Mason Deeds (Center Back, Penn State)
- Samad Bounthong (Midfielder, Marist)
Omir Fernandez (Wake Forest):
Like Saramago, Fernandez spent time with NYRBII. He appeared in a single match in 2016, and attended preseason that season, scoring a goal. As a Freshman at Wake Forest, Fernandez got most of his time coming off the bench, waiting behind Generation Adidas and FC Dallas draft pick Ema Twumasi on the depth chart.
Despite this, he was able to score 6 goals and get 5 assists in the super competitive ACC. I see Fernandez being a winger at the next level. Fernandez is a very intelligent player off the ball, and he has the speed to stretch a defense from the wings. His skill on the ball gives him the ability to beat a defender or play in a cross.
In many ways, he is very similar stylistically to current NYRBII player Amando Moreno, but a better creator. Fernandez will have a great chance to grab a starting role at Wake Forest this year and could have a big year.
Scout Take: Utilized mostly as a super sub during his freshman year, it will be interesting to see how he adapts to being the focal point of the Wake Forest offense. He has the tools to be a dynamic player as a false 9 or second striker, depending on the system. He relies on his ability to separate from defenders and a blistering shot as his primary weapons.
Kevin O’Toole (Princeton):
If you followed NYRBII you should know who Kevin O’Toole is. If you didn’t O’Toole was the starting left back when NYRBII defeated Swope Park Rangers the USL championship game. In total, O’Toole appeared 25 times for NYRBII as an academy player.
When O’Toole played with the USL team, I was never blown away and felt he had quite a bit to work on. However, watching him this year in the PDL, it is clear he made big strides while at Princeton. From what I saw, he looks a lot more comfortable on the ball moving forward. He also looked visibly stronger, which will only help him as he makes the jump to the next level.
Due to his extensive history with the USL team, and the current outside backs at NYRBII being far from impressive, O’Toole is definitely someone to keep an eye on this season. The team could look to sign him to a homegrown deal, especially if they are unable to sign Marcelo Borges.
Scout Take: The Princeton sophomore had a strong freshman season after gaining valuable time with NYRBII as a HS senior. He’s a little more of a stay at home defender than Borges but provides accurate service when he advances into the attacking third. Very composed on the ball and smart with his passing.
In the mix:
- Evan Peters (Outside Back, Loyola)
- Vincent Borden (Center Back, Rutgers)
- Xavier Kennedy (Goalkeeper, Ohio State)
- Zach Ryan (Forward, Stanford)
- Richard Wolf (Defender, Princeton)
John Murphy (Clemson):
Murphy only spent one year in the academy. There, he quickly moved up the ranks, spending a good amount of time with NYRBII. He is a tough box to box midfielder who can also excel as an advanced destroyer playing in an attacking midfield role. He will face strong competition at Clemson, one of the best teams in the country, and play in the ultra-competitive ACC.
Scout Take: The Clemson freshman enters college with high level experience. He got a taste of the professional game as a USL academy signing this season. He’ll have to fight for minutes early on among a talented group of central midfielders with the Tigers. As an #8, he’s a very steady two-way player with a strong range of passing and the ability to possess in tight spaces. Expect that he’ll be counted on heavily to contribute as he develops the trust of the coaching staff.
In the mix:
- Matt Frank (Goalkeeper, Stanford)
- Sam Illin (Goalkeeper, LIU Brooklyn)
- Ben Bograd (Center Back, Princeton)
- David Philbin (Center Back, UPenn)
- Kazu Shigenobu (Central Midfielder, Princeton)
- Jordan Bailon (Outside Back, Dartmouth)
- Skyler Conway (Midfielder, Marist)
- Pablo Arias (Midfielder, Georgetown)
- Anthony Rovito (Midfielder, Penn)
- JP Marin (Forward, Seton Hall)
Teams to watch
While they don’t have as many potential Homegrown players with Kevin Politz and Steven Echevarria graduating and moving to NYRBII, they still have Omir Fernandez. Coach Bobby Muss is one of the best coaches in college soccer. His teams consistently playing some of the most aesthetically pleasing soccer in the college game.
The obvious reason to follow is Brian Saramago. But Loyola have 3 other players who spent time in the Red Bulls academy. Barry Sharifi is a solid attacking mid who was with the PDL team this past summer. He should start for them. Evan Peters transferred from Syracuse. Sam Carter is a senior defensive midfielder who was on the same academy team as Derrick Etienne. Loyola have been one of the best teams in the patriot league the past few years, and are looking like early favorites to win the Patriot League title.
For starters they are local so if you wanted to see some live college soccer they are a great choice. Second, and more importantly, they have 5 former Red Bull Academy alums on the roster. Three of those players who played with the USL team.
They have two guys who played for the PDL team, Emmanuel Kouma and Sylvain Coco. Rider is a local school and has a history of sending players to the Red Bulls.