It's easy to get caught up in the trials and tribulations of the New England Revolution and forget that the world of college soccer is right around the corner.
Late teens and twenty-somethings are slowly trickling back onto campuses throughout the Northeast for preseason, with an eager eye on the commencement of their 2015 season.
With that in mind, The Bent Musket has prepped a New England-centric state by state preview of the Division I college soccer scene. Our first edition looks at Massachusetts, with a plethora of top teams in the hunt for conference titles.
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Last Year: As a member of the Atlantic Coastal Conference, life was tough in 2014 for head coach Ed Kelly. The season began with three wins and a tie, but quickly spiraled out of control into a 5-8-3 record. The Eagles failed to make the conference tournament, and rarely showed glimpses of the program that has produced Charlie Davies, Alejandro Bedoya, and Kyle Bekker in recent years.
2015 Outlook: While last year was debilitating, it's hard to envision another sour campaign unfolding in Chestnut Hill. With many of the team's top attackers returning and time to work on defensive woes, the Eagles are in decent shape. A mid-table finish is the ACC is an entirely reasonable forecast.
Player to Watch: Zeiko Lewis, a rising junior midfielder/forward from Bermuda, is the main man for Kelly. He has six goals and 14 assists across two seasons, and offers both pace and precision on the ball.
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Last Year: Outside expectations were low for head coach Neil Roberts', but a senior-heavy squad proved all doubters wrong. As led by current Colorado Rapids striker Dominique Badji, the Terriers finished 12-4-4 and won the Patriot League regular season title. If not for a heartbreaking loss to Bucknell University in the Patriot League Tournament's championship match, Badji and company would have been a threat in the NCAA Tourmanent.
2015 Outlook: Outside of Badji, the Terriers relied on three other seniors to lead the way in 2014: goalkeeper Nick Thomson, center-back Kelvin Madzongwe, and midfielder Jordan Barker. All three have since graduated, leaving BU with the center of the park raw from back to front. With a sizable loss like that and a strong Patriot League, the Terriers will struggle to kindle the glory of last year.
Player to Watch: Center-mid David Amirani, who will be a sophomore this year, is going to be the main man. He started in 20 games last year, chipping in four goals and two assists in the process. With a six-foot-five frame, Amirani can boss other teams physically, all while using his passing range to open up the field.
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Last Year: It's hard to believe, but Harvard's 11-4-2 finish from last year did not result in postseason play. A big reason for that is the Ivy League generally gets one place in the NCAA Tournament, and that fell to a rival Dartmouth University side. However, a 4-1-2 Ivy League mark is impressive, and head coach Pieter Lehrer led his team to a 9-0 home record.
2015 Outlook: The Ivy League is hard to navigate and several of the team's top scorers to graduation is a tough blow. From an outsider perspective, that's too much of a loss to overcome and Harvard will fall short of the NCAA Tournament again.
Player to Watch: Christian Sady, a Revs Academy graduate, could be a vital cog for Harvard in 2015. In only 12 games played, he chipped in two goals and five assists, and is primed to grow into a bigger role. He also has trained some with the Revs first team this summer.
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Last Year: While full of talent, Northeastern fell short of their goals in 2014, as they succumbed to a 8-11-1 record. A big reason for that is their defense allowed 28 goals, all while the offense only chipped in 0.95 goals a game.
2015 Outlook: The Huskies will welcome 11 freshman to campus in 2015, signaling that head coach Brian Ainscough may be dependent on a young squad. However, the Colonial Athletic Association lacks the might of other conferences, meaning that Northeastern's path to the NCAA Tournament likely will encounter less hurdles than other schools.
Player to Watch: Forward Frantzdy Pierrot was sensational in 2014, as he contributed five goals and five assists as a freshman. He's also been tearing up the PDL with Real Boston Rams, a Revs affiliate, and should have his way with opposing defenses yet again.
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Last Year: To be generous, last year was full of learning moments for the Minutemen. They finished with a 3-14-1 record and were 1-9 through the first 10 games of the season. To make matters worse, their defense leaked in 42 goals and the offense only scored 17 times.
2015 Outlook: Fran O'Leary, who had briefly worked as an assistant with Toronto FC, will be entering his first season as head coach. He has brought in a 12 person recruiting class, with reinforcements at every position. With those items considered, 2015 should be better, but it's hard to jump from dismal to impressive.
Player to Watch: Matthew Mooney is a key returner for the Minutemen. He started in 17 out of 18 games as a freshman, scoring two goals in the process. He'll be asked to take on a bigger role in 2015 and likely will be up for the challenge.
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Last Year: 2014 was a year full of inconsistencies for the River Hawks, as the team posted a 8-9-1 overall record, but was 4-2-1 in America East play. They also finished the year on a 6-2-1 run, showing that Christian Figueroa's team knows how to adapt to adverse circumstances.
2015 Outlook: With a sizable chunk of the starting lineup returning to campus, there is every reason to believe UMass Lowell can some noise in their conference. Standing in the way will likely be the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and the University of Hartford, two traditional America East powerhouses.
Player to Watch: Wuilito Fernandes, a native of Cape Verde and River Hawk attacker, was a bright spot last year. He scored five times and assisted twice, and will again provide a knack for the flair and spectacular.
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Last Year: After making it to the Patriot League Championship in 2013, the Crusaders had an off year in 2014. They finished with a 5-9-3 record and closed out the season on a 1-7-1 run.
2015 Outlook: The Crusaders are returning many top performers, but will likely struggle against Patriot League stalwarts such as BU, Army, Navy, and Colgate. They often play a faster and more technical game, which is difficult to carry out across a gruelingly physical collegiate soccer season.
Player to Watch: Joey DeVivo returns as Holy Cross' top scorer from last year. The rising junior, who is a Connecticut native, has already scored 14 goals and contributed two assists in his collegiate career.