That time is upon us again where the temperatures start cooling down(yeah, right) and the kids go back to school. That also means the NCAA college soccer season is upon us. Pre-season exhibitions were played last weekend while the season starts in earnest tonight and FC Dallas, more than most MLS teams, has some major professional prospects that play in the college ranks.
The ACC has become quite the pipeline for FC Dallas as you'll find most of the best FCD prospects at schools like Maryland, North Carolina and Duke, though some other big schools like SMU, New Mexico and Harvard have Dallas players as well.
Tracking these guys through their college seasons last fall was actually one of the most fun things to do as the 2011 FCD season collapsed and with some homegrown talent reaching their senior & junior years for the first time, it's getting to be very important to track these guys(there will probably be a name or two that I miss). Below are the names I'll be following this year and a little bit about what to expect from each of them and where they are in the grand scheme of things...
London Woodberry - Central Defender - University of Maryland Senior
Woodberry is a guy that I would imagine most FCD diehards have heard about but never really seen play. Woodberry was a high school senior on the first FC Dallas USSDA team and played in a practice intrasquad game with FC Dallas at outside back.
Woodberry has played significant minutes in all three years at Maryland, but really took a step forward last year, starting 20 games in central defense for the Terps next to FCD 2012 draft pick Alex Lee. Travis Clark of Top Drawer Soccer told me that Sacho Cirvoski confirmed to him Woodberry turned down a homegrown contract from FC Dallas last winter so it really seems an inevitability for FCD to sign him.
He's likely an outside back at the pro level and to be honest, I haven't seen him much in the last couple years. Hopefully a Maryland game is on FSC this year to check him out.
Bradlee Baladez - Forward - University of South Carolina
Baladez has been a starter at forward since day one for the Gamecocks, scoring 13 goals in 41 games while making All-Conference USA First Team last season. In 2012, he will be counted on even more for goals and is pre-season All-Conference USA.
Baladez is a big, relatively strong off-striker that has the body of a target forward but really tends to like running with the ball and making smart runs off the ball. He trained with FCD for a month this summer so he's certainly someone on Schellas Hyndman's radar.
Jaime Ibarra - Goalkeeper - Southern Methodist University
Ibarra is a solid goalkeeper who won the starting job at SMU last year and made five shutouts including ones in the semifinal and final of the Conference USA tournament. He also trained with FCD this summer.
Damian Rosales - Midfielder - Southern Methodist University
Rosales is in his redshirt sophomore year at SMU. He's a tidy 2-way midfielder with a defensive tint to his game. He started 15 games last year and tallied 2 goals and 2 assists. It's kind of crazy to think Rosales wasn't a slam dunk starter on the FCD Academy team he was on yet starts consistently at a major D1 college.
Boyd Okwuono - Defender - University of North Carolina
Okwuono started all 26 games at center back for the national champion Tar Heels last year and is a major defensive piece of the US U-20 National Team. He's probably a right back at the professional level, but will be a center back for UNC again this year. It's going to be interesting to see how he does in his second season without Matt Hedges next to him. He's obviously one for a homegrown contract in the future.
Jack Coleman - Defender - Duke University
Coleman transferred to Duke this season after inexplicably not getting any playing time as a freshman at Indiana. What was basically a lost season for Coleman is disappointing given his immense talent. I'm very excited to see what he can do this year as Coleman is just another candidate for a future homegrown contract. Coleman trained with FCD this summer.
His game reminds me a bit of Drew Moor as a tactically very strong center back who is good at passing out of the back and can also play on the outside. He will be a fun one to track this year.
Skylar Hagan - Winger - Old Dominion University
Hagan is an interesting one because he popped up at ODU, a pretty good college program, but was never a huge part of the FCD Academy team. He started 9 games with one goal and one assist for ODU last year.
Jacob Gerondale - Defender- IPFW
Gerondale, a redshirt sophomore, started 11 games for the Mastodons(love it) last season and looks to be a starting defender this season.
Mikey Ambrose - Defender - University of Maryland
Ambrose, the captain of the U18 national championship squad, heads to Maryland for his freshman season looking to start at outside back from day one. He's more than held his own in MLS reserve league matches and, in my opinion, is probably the most slam dunk future MLS starting quality player out of this whole bunch. I'd be surprised if he didn't lock down the starting job as a freshman even at a huge program like Maryland.
Mark Ashby - Defender - Harvard University
Ashby is a towering 6-2 central defender who came up huge in the USSDA playoffs for FC Dallas and heads to Harvard(awesome) for his college game. He's one who I think could certainly be an interesting candidate for a homegrown contract if he plays all four years there and puts some bulk to his frame.
Danny Garcia - Winger - University of North Carolina
Garcia is probably the highest risk, highest reward player in the FC Dallas academy system. When Garcia is played through on goal making one of his slashing runs, the slight winger shows composure to finish his chances most often. However, at 5-5, 140, will he be able to do it at the college level? That is the big question. If he can do it at the college level, I bet he can do it at the pro level.
Garcia could go on to be one of the best attacking wingers in the American system. Or he could never fully put it together and become a "Whatever happened to?" from the FC Dallas national championship team. One thing is for sure, Garcia will put in the work and get the best out of his ability.
Aaron Guillen - Defender - Florida Gulf Coast University
Guillen is a big, strong defender that came to FC Dallas from their El Paso affiliate and started next to Mark Ashby in central defense on the national championship team. I'm actually anticipating Guillen possibly transferring to a bigger school after a couple years as I see his game translating well to a major program if he has a good couple years with the Eagles.
Nick Rochowski - Defender/Midfielder - University of New Mexico
No one in my eyes raised their stock over the last 6 months of the national championship season more than Rochowski. He was simply fantastic at outside back in the USSDA playoffs on the opposite side of Ambrose and put on a huge amount of muscle. At 6-3, 180 he's almost already got the body to contend in college and he goes to a Lobos program that has national championship aspirations after an undefeated regular season in 2011.
Rochowski told me last year that he intends to play at defensive midfield for the Lobos so it will be interesting to see if he gets much playing time on a stacked squad as a freshman or even redshirts as he learns the position which he didn't play for FC Dallas. If he has a four year college career, I could really see him as a homegrown signing..much more than I did 12 months ago.