Adding two home games to its schedule, the Boston College men’s soccer team will try to get back to the NCAA Tournament in the 2014 season. In order to return to college soccer’s edition of the Big Dance, Ed Kelly’s team will have to succeed in the nation’s most prestigious conference.
In 2014, the Eagles will play 10 home games, including five Friday evening matches. After playing in eight home contests last year, the Eagles will welcome a season with two fewer trips on the road.
BC must find a way to compete with a new pair of center backs, as Chris Ager, Ryan Dunn, and Nick Corliss were seniors last season. Nick Butler is an option in the center of defense, while the full back positions are up in the air. An experienced attack will be the Eagles’ strength, as Zeiko Lewis, Nana Boateng, and Isaac Normesinu should torment ACC defenses.
Kelly will be able to experiment in mid-August with two warm-up games, one of which comes against NCAA Tournament quarterfinalists Connecticut. The Big East squad will have to adapt without Andre Blake, who became the first goalkeeper to be picked No. 1 in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft when the Philadelphia Union acquired his services. UConn also have to cope without striker Mamadou Diouf in the side, as the second-round pick now plies his trade for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Conference play begins against a Clemson team that dominated the Eagles in 2013. The Tigers return the majority of their starting lineup, and Clemson’s squad also boasts three of the nation’s top recruits, a trio of attack-minded Costa Ricans, who combined for 61 goals as high school seniors. Head coach Mike Noonan returns the versatility of Amadou Dia as well. Even though the senior is listed as a midfielder and forward, his services are often used at left back. He enjoys bombing down the flank, which could cause issues for the Eagles, who struggled with Dia last season. Ara Amrikhanian, Manolo Sanchez, and T.J. Casner will boost the Tigers’ attack. Sanchez and Casner scored against BC in 2013.
The Eagles travel to Cambridge to play Harvard, before returning home for a Friday evening clash with ACC foe Louisville. Road matches against Duke and the defending national champions, Notre Dame, follow. The Fighting Irish return nine starters from last year’s team, but head coach Bobby Clark will have to replace Harrison Shipp. One of the top players in the college game last year, Shipp was drafted by the Chicago Fire, and has lit up MLS in his first season with the club, directly contributing to nine goals. Losing Van De Casteele will hurt the team’s rearguard, and it could be a weakness for Lewis and Boateng to exploit. Despite the loss of talent, the Fighting Irish are solid enough in attack and defense to contend for another College Cup.
A winnable home game against NC State follows. The Eagles traveled to Raleigh to defeat the Wolfpack last season. Even though the school boasts one of the top recruiting classes, it is unlikely that the injection of talent will rocket the team to the top of the nation’s most competitive conference in its first season together. Nick Surkamp and Travis Wannemuehler return to the attack, but the latter failed to produce a point in 17 appearances last season. New addition Ade Taiwo could break into a starting XI that will test a BC back four with question marks.
A trip to Wake Forest precedes a three-game home stand against Boston University, North Carolina, and Dartmouth, before the Eagles travel to Syracuse to close out the regular season.
Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff