Photo by OKC Energy U23
It’s an action-packed holiday weekend across all divisions of college soccer, as Premier Development League players take the field Friday through Labor Day in several big showdowns.
Whether your interests lie in NCAA Division I, Division II, or the NAIA, there’s plenty of matches all weekend long. From Creighton and Stanford on Friday, to Oklahoma Wesleyan and Hastings on Monday, we’ve got you covered with where your time is best spent.
Friday’s slate is heavy across the board, before an NAIA-loaded schedule on Saturday carries us into the holiday weekend proper. Sunday brings back some interesting DI action before Monday closes out with an interesting rematch.
The holiday weekend kicks off with a celebration in the form of a top-25 match between Big Ten powerhouse Maryland and a regular Pac-12 competitor in UCLA.
Maryland enters on the back of two victories to open the year against Santa Clara and Hofstra as they take on their first serious test of the season. Led by Tampa Bay Rowdies U23 midfielder Andrew Samuels, the Terrapins will hope to make it three-for-three on the season and perhaps jump up from that No. 6 ranking.
UCLA opened their season last weekend with a 5-3 goal-fest win over San Francisco. The Bruins will need to buckle down in defense if they hope to earn another positive result against Maryland.
Simultaneously, an in-state showdown takes place in North Carolina when North Carolina takes on UNC Wilmington.
Led from the back by a pair of PDL goalkeepers in the Charlotte Eagles’ James Pyle and Carolina Dynamo’s Alec Semir, the Tar Heels enter the match at 2-0 with victories over Rutgers and Providence. The keepers are joined by Wilmington Hammerheads FC midfielder Cameron Lindley, the No. 23 PDL Top Prospect, and two forwards in North Carolina FC U23’s Alexander Rose and Tobacco Road FC’s Alan Winn.
UNC Wilmington likewise won their two opening matches against Jacksonville and North Florida ahead of their in-state clash. Led by No. 10 PDL Top Prospect Julio Moncada of the Oklahoma City Energy U23, the Seahawks will hope to pull off a major upset against their Chapel Hill opponents.
Though neither team has started out their season ideally, the clash between New Mexico and UNLV features intriguing PDL prospects on both sides of the field.
The Lobos of New Mexico are led by a PDL duo of FC Tucson defender Aaron Herrera and Albuquerque Sol forward Luke Lawrence. The pair will seek to avenge the Lobos’ two season-opening losses against ranked Washington and annually-strong Seattle.
To do so, they’ll need to get the better of Herrera’s FC Tucson teammate, forward Daniel Musovski. While the Rebels haven’t started off ideally either, Musovski has been performing well, scoring once and assisting another in the team’s 3-2 overtime win against Portland. His continued performance at that level is key to the Rebels’ success.
Friday closes with another fascinating top-25 match-up between two-time defending champion Stanford and Creighton.
The Cardinal picked up right where they left off last year in their season-opening 4-0 win over San Jose State. The team has yet to allow a goal through two exhibition and one regular season match, making the job easy for a trio of PDL players in the midfield and attack. Burlingame Dragons midfielder Corey Baird and forward Tomas Hilliard are joined by San Francisco City FC forward Foster Langsdorf in a powerful Stanford attack.
On the other side, Creighton suffered a tough top-25 loss to Virginia Tech to open the season that appeared to have thrown them off their game, as they needed overtime to secure a win against Grand Canyon in match two. With two PDL forwards up top in OKC Energy U23’s Sven Koenig and Tampa Bay Rowdies U23’s Ricky Lopez-Espin, two midfielders in Lane United FC’s Joel Rydstrand, and the Rowdies U23’s Noah Franke, and Des Moines Menace defender Lucas Stauffer, Creighton can afford no such lapses against Stanford.
A top-25 NAIA match kicks off Saturday’s slate, as No. 23 Lindsey Wilson visits No. 12 Thomas University.
Lindsey Wilson began their season with a tight 1-0 victory over Tennessee Wesleyan. The lone goal in that match came courtesy of Lindsey Wilson’s PDL star, Mutaya Mwape of the Charlotte Eagles. Mwape will have to be sharp again in order to knock off a difficult Thomas team.
Thomas opened their season a bit on the shaky side. In a difficult top-25 match against Bryan College, Thomas were outplayed in an eventual 3-1 season-opening loss. They bounced back nicely, however, as they took Vanguard University down by the same score a few days later.
A big showdown in DII’s Atlantic region closes Saturday’s action, as No. 2-ranked Charleston take on regional power Gannon.
Charleston began their season optimally, emerging victorious over Mercyhurst by a 3-1 result Thursday evening. Two of those tallies came courtesy of William Roberts, as the OKC Energy U23 forward knocked in one and assisted another in the win. Cincinnati Dutch Lions midfielder Patrick Guier helped hold things down in the center of the field in that match, and he’ll need to do so once more this weekend.
Gannon had a rough awakening to the 2017 season, as they found themselves trounced by Notre Dame College of Ohio, 3-0, on Thursday afternoon. Though certainly not fatal at this point, it was a poor showing in front of the home crowd, who’ll hope to see a better performance and an upset against Charleston.
Creighton features for a second time this weekend as they turn right around from their match-up with No. 1 Stanford to take on another Pac-12 opponent in California.
Cal started out the year with a tough home defeat against West Virginia, 1-0. They’ll have a chance to bounce back prior to the match against Creighton when they take on Northeastern on Friday, and they’ll rely on a pair of PDL players in the Burlingame Dragons’ Joshua Morton and FC Golden State Force’s Jose Carrera-Garcia to do so.
Creighton likely have their eyes focused on the match against Stanford, and rightly so given the latter’s standing in the college soccer landscape. But overlooking Cal at their expense could cost them, as the Golden Bears regularly cause trouble for their Pac-12 brethren. Their five PDL players will need to be on point to emerge on top.
With the Baker Classic taking place this weekend at the NAIA level, there are several big-name top-25 matches on the agenda, with No. 1 Hastings taking on No. 6 Oklahoma Wesleyan as one of the very best.
After a shock 3-1 loss against Benedictine College on Wednesday, the defending national champs will aim to bounce back this weekend. After taking on No. 4 Northwestern Ohio, Hastings will need to rapidly change focus to Oklahoma Wesleyan during a very challenging Labor Day showdown.
Oklahoma Wesleyan certainly gave themselves no easy start to the season. After taking down No. 3 Grand View in their season-opener, they’ll take on No. 17 Baker before taking on the best of the best in Hastings on Monday. With a PDL trio of Ocean City Nor’easters defender Nikola Fimic, Charlotte Eagles midfielder Jovan Petrovic, and Nor’easters forward Alexander Simovic, they'll need to be at their best this weekend.