The College soccer season is in full swing, so this is coming a bit later than usual. However, for the casual Red Bulls fan, and even the hardcore fan, college soccer is at the back of the mind.
This is not a bad thing. With the evolution of academies, and international signings getting younger, college soccer doesn’t serve the pro game like it used to. Nonetheless, talent still exists in the college world, and a ton of it came through the Red Bull System.
Many of these players are likely destined to start their career at the New York Red Bulls II i.e. Kyle Zajec. But you can’t write off these players completely, as we saw this year with Omir Fernandez’s rise straight to the first team.
Two players stand out from the pack in this senior class. Brian Saramago, who spent time at NYRBII while in the academy and is a Red Bulls U-23’s veteran, and Jared Gilbey, a 4 year starter and 2 time national champion at Stanford, as well as a U-23 vet.
Saramago has been one of the best attackers in the Patriot League over his 4 years at Loyola. In many ways, he is the quintessential modern striker. He has the ability to play centrally with his back to goal, as well as in the wide channels, where he can make defenders look silly. He led the U-23s with five goals, and through his junior year at Loyola, has 26 goals, and 15 assists (Eight of which came last season). Saramago is someone I expect to see at NYRBII next year. Whether that comes as a homegrown or a direct signing remains to be seen.
Gilbey has also spent time with the U-23s most summers out of college. However, due to Stanford school year ending later, his time has been limited compared to Saramago. Gilbey is a solid CM who has been a rock for Stanford during his four year tenure. His stats don’t pop off the page, but his consistent presence in Stanford’s lineup is a testament to his ability. I don’t see Gilbey signing a homegrown contract, but he could easily follow the road Kyle Zajec took and go directly to the draft. We should know more about his intentions when the combine rolls around.
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)
The Junior class lost its top player when Omir Fernandez signed a homegrown deal. However, the talent left should not ignored. The two standouts are Kevin O’Toole, a starter when NYRBII won a USL championship, and Zach Ryan.
In the Academy, and at the USL league 2 and championship level, Kevin O’Toole has been an outside back. At the college level, he has been a winger. This is the position Princeton Coach, Jim Barlow, moved him to, and O’Toole shined earning Ivy League offensive player of the year, recording four goals and three assists.
While he has moved up the field for Princeton, I do expect him to move back to outside back if he signs a homegrown or NYRBII deal. Don’t expect him to leave school early; Its hard to pass up a Princeton diploma, but expect him to stay on the radar as an option at right back in a year or two.
Zach Ryan is technically a sophomore; He sat out his first year of college as a redshirt. However he is in his third year of school. Ryan hasn’t spent time with the PDL team, so it remains to be seen if mutual interest exists, but the Chatham, New Jersey native has started his college career well. He scored 10 goals and added three assists in his first year, and already has two goals early this season.
A striker with a nose for goal, and a poachers mentality could be a good fit in New York. Stanford strikers have transitioned well to MLS in the past, as seen by Jordan Morris and 2018 rookie of the year Corey Baird. Zach Ryan, and Stanford in general, are worth watching, though the time difference does make it hard.
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)
This class is the weakest of all four, and doesn’t have any true standout talents yet.
It does have many solid players who could do the job at the USL level in a few years. So instead of honing in on a player, we will instead do more of a survey.
The goalies in this class are strong. Sam Illin had a good year at LIU Brooklyn and is now at Marist after LIU got rid of their soccer program. Matt Frank is the backup at Stanford behind a USA U-23 goalie. Frank is a redshirt freshman, so he is only in his first year of eligibility and his second year of school.
In the attack, JP Marin at Seton Hall is a solid player. He can play on the wing or in the number 10 role. He impressed with the U-23’s last year. However, currently he projects as a NYRBII signing more than a direct homegrown signing.
In the mix:
- 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)
Similar to the sophomore class, this group doesn’t have one standout player. Instead they have a group of solid players who have potential to take the next step.
At center back, Ryan Schultz at Michigan, and Chris Tiao at Rutgers, are worth following. Both are four-year college types who have the potential to rejoin at the USL level, and work up from there.
Another player worth watching is Jared Juleau. Juleau is playing as a winger for St Johns and has started the season well. Juleau will be an important piece for them as they battle in a strong big east conference.
Scotty Taylor at Duke is someone to keep an eye on as well. He already has a goal this season and looks set to be a key super sub of the bench for a top 10 team. Strong in the air and a good understanding of where to be as well as strong work ethic make Taylor interesting. Duke has a good track record of developing strikers as well most notably Brian White.
In the Mix:
- Dylan Sullivan (Outsideback/Midfielder, Clemson)
- Jayden Reid (Outsideback ,UConn)
- Matthew Goodman (Goalie, Columbia)
- Nick Schimbeno (Midfielder, UPenn)
- Santiago Martinez (Midfielder, NJIT)