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Top PDL Performers: College Week in Review (Oct. 3-9)

10/10/2016, 11:00am EDT
By AARON CRANFORD - aaron.cranford@uslsoccer.com

Foothills FC standout Sarkaria sets goal-scoring record; Ruhaak leads Akron to win


Photo courtesy of Alberta Athletics

Many 2016 PDL players had exceptional performances in college soccer action across the United States, while one forward shined bright in Canada.

On Sunday, Ajeej Sarkaria set a record for goals scored in a single season of Canada West Universities Athletic Association action. The 21-year-old burst onto the scene during the 2016 PDL Playoffs for Calgary Foothills FC, and he has starred for Alberta ever since.

In one of the must-see games of the weekend, a defender proved to be the difference-maker. Brad Ruhaak performed on both sides of the ball, scoring a goal to lead Akron to a 4-0 victory over Buffalo.

The PDL Players to Watch list includes players named to and considered for the six 2016 PDL Top Prospects lists throughout the summer. More than 20 scouts across North America provided the PDL with valuable insight on players who were performing at the highest level within the league, possessed strong technical and tactical qualities and had the potential to play at the professional level. The Top Prospects list serves as a useful resource for professional clubs who are interested in identifying and scouting high-level performers.

TOP FIVE PERFORMERS

Ajeej Sarkaria – F – Alberta – Calgary Foothills FC

Sarkaria continued to dominate the CWUAA, setting a new record for most goals by a player in a single season on Sunday.

The Foothills FC standout netted a hat trick to lead Alberta to a 4-0 win against MacEwan Griffins, breaking the Canada West single-season goal-scoring record. Sarkaria, who scored two goals and provided two assists in the 2016 PDL Playoffs, now has 18 goals for Alberta in 2016.

"The guys are creating chances and I'm just finishing them," Sarkaria said following his record-breaking performance. "We have a great team that's really good at passing the ball around. It suits my game. It gets me in the right areas to score."

Brad Ruhaak – D – Akron – Michigan Bucks

For the second time this college campaign, Ruhaak came up big on the offensive end in an important game for Akron.

The senior defender, who helped the Michigan Bucks win the 2016 PDL title, netted the opening goal against Buffalo before leading the back line to a shutout victory. Facing off against Bucks teammate and Buffalo star Russell Cicerone, Ruhaak limited the Bulls to three shots on goal en route to a 4-0 win.

Brandt Bronico – M – UNC-Charlotte – Carolina Dynamo

Brandt Bronico added two goals to his strong season for UNC-Charlotte on Saturday.

The midfielder, who netted two goals and provided five assists in nine games for the Carolina Dynamo in 2016, scored a brace to lead his program to an important 2-1 win against Conference USA foe New Mexico. Charlotte improves to 7-2-0 behind Bronico’s performance.

Riggs Lennon – F – Creighton – Lane United FC

In a big-time Big East Conference showdown, Creighton came out on top thanks to Lane United FC standout Riggs Lennon.

The senior forward scored the game-winner for Creighton in a 1-0 win against Butler, heading in a cross from Lane United and Creighton teammate Joel Rydstrand in the 14th minute. Lennon leads the Bluejays with nine goals scored in 11 games played in 2016.

Jeff Caldwell – GK – Virginia – Sounders FC U23

Jeff Caldwell played an important part in two key wins for Virginia.

The Sounders FC U23 talent made three saves in a 1-0 win against Hofstra on Tuesday – recording his fifth shutout of the season – before making seven stops in a 2-1 win vs. Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse UNC-Chapel Hill on Friday. The 6-foot-3 netminder has made 46 saves and recorded a 1.20 goals against average through 11 games played.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Adam Najem – M – Akron – Michigan Bucks

Adam Najem controlled the midfield for Akron in its win over Buffalo on Friday.

The midfielder, who received 2016 PDL Creative Player of the Year honors after providing nine assists for the Bucks, netted one goal in 90 minutes of play en route to a 4-0 Zips win. The senior dominated the midfield, playing a major role in many of the program’s chances going forward.

Wyatt Omsberg – D – Dartmouth – GPS Portland Phoenix

Wyatt Omsberg was strong in the back for Dartmouth to help the Ivy League program secure two wins.

The defender, who appeared for the GPS Portland Phoenix in 2016, led the Big Green to two shutouts – a 1-0 win against New Hampshire and a 2-0 win against Yale. The 6-foot-4 junior has scored one goal and provided one assist in 10 starts – a team-high – this college campaign.

Nathan Regis – F – Pfeiffer – Ocean City Nor’easters

Nathan Regis, who shined for the Ocean City Nor'easters in 2016, netted three goals over the course of two games to hand Pfeiffer two wins.

The forward scored two goals in a 6-0 win against Mount Olive on Wednesday before netting the game-winner in 1-0 win at North Greenville on Saturday. Regis now has 10 goals and four assists in 11 games played for Pfeiffer.

Lucas Coutinho – M – Palm Beach Atlantic – South Florida Surf

South Florida Surf standout and 2016 PDL All-League Team selection Lucas Coutinho made key contributions in Palm Beach Atlantic’s 4-2 win against Eckerd.

The midfielder, who scored three goals and provided five assists during the 2016 PDL regular season, provided two assists to lead his program to an 8-2-1 record. Coutinho, a senior from Recife, Brazil, has scored one goal and provided eight assists in 11 games played.

Aleksi Pahkasalo – F – Lindsey Wilson – Derby City Rovers

Aleksi Pahkasalo is on a goal-scoring tear for Lindsey Wilson.

The forward, who earned 2016 PDL All-Central Conference Team honors after netting 11 goals and providing two assists for the Derby City Rovers, netted a hat trick to lead his program to a 7-0 win against Jamestown. Pahkasalo has 13 goals in six games played, including 10 goals in his past three games.


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