Following a campaign filled with disappointment across the board, the Cards men’s soccer program looks to return to championship contention this season under Coach Ken Lolla’s direction.
After a solid junior campaign in which he tallied three goals and three assists and played in all 19 games, Brody left school to pursue a professional career, signing with the Real Salt Lake Monarchs of the USL, preserving his homegrown status with RSL. With The Real Monarchs, he joins former Louisville teammate Ricardo Velasco. In addition to these two, sophomore Tate Schmitt and junior Jack Gayton also graduated from the RSL youth academy and could very well leave Louisville early as well.
Graduating from Louisville last year, Ben Strong will be tough for Coach Lolla to replace. Playing in 17 of the 19 games last season, Strong only scored two goals and tallied five assists, but his leadership and distribution in the midfield will be missed.
Transferring in from Cincinnati State (a junior college), Thiaw is expected to start as a forward in the 2016 campaign in his junior season. Last year, he scored 16 goals in 19 games, starting all but one. He added five assists and scored three match winners at Cincinnati State.
A graduate transfer from Dartmouth, Cleveland graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering this past spring. In his final campaign with Dartmouth in 2015, he was named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and captained the Big Green. He started 14 games and averaged 0.67 goals conceded per match, shutting out nine opponents and posting a 0.866 save percentage. He is expected to end the Louisville keeper carousel, and last year’s keepers Theo Jamilloux and Nick Jeffs are expected to compete for the backup job; Casey Axman left the program for personal reasons.
The Cards’ German wingback returns to the Cards for his junior season following two straight All-ACC First Team honors. Starting all 19 matches, he scored five and assisted on three more goals.
In a stellar freshman season, Tate was the Cards’ leading scorer with seven and added four assists. With the addition of Mo Thiaw, they should prove a dangerous duo up top and Tate should have another terrific season.
The verdict: This team is as talented as Coach Lolla has seen at Louisville, but with many new faces on the pitch and on the bench, the Cards must act quickly to bring it all together and realize the tremendous potential the individual talent suggests. Playing in the ACC, perennially one of the toughest conferences in the nation, I expect the Cards to compete for the ACC regular season and tournament championships. At the worst, the Cards to finish a few matches above .500. In an ideal scenario, the ceiling for this team is sky-high, and they could easily enter tournament play a top 10 team in the nation.