Tuesday, July 19, 2011

College Prep

When D.C. United announced the acquisition of Austin da Luz from the Red Bulls on Sunday, it brought back pleasant memories of when we first started to seriously follow collegiate soccer. da Luz was part of Wake Forest's terrific 2007 national championship squad and, along with Lyle Adams, is the second player from that team to have been signed by United.

In 2007, da Luz was a substitute in Wake Forest’s 2-1 win over Ohio State. He was one of fourteen Demon Deacons to take the field that day -- each of whom went on to play at least some professional soccer.

Coming off the bench along with da Luz was current Chicago Fire midfielder Corben Bone and current New England Revolution striker Zack Schilawski. Starting for Wake Forest was Schilawski’s current teammate in New England, Pat Phelan, along with Chivas USA’s Michael Lahoud, San Jose’s Sam Cronin and Ike Opara, Real Salt Lake’s Cody Arnoux, and Marcus Tracy, currently at the Danish-side Aalborg, and Brian Edwards, the keeper for the Swedish second-division side Dergefors IF (a team currently in contention for promotion to the Allsvenskan).

The remaining four players, including Lyle Adams (D.C. United and Austin Aztex), each can claim some professional experience: Julian Valentin (L.A. Galaxy and FC Tampa Bay), Jamie Franks (Wilmington Hammerheads and Rochester Rhinos), and Evan Brown (Seattle Sounders).

That season, Maryland dropped its one game against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem two to nothing. The Terps would bow out of the tournament in an emotional upset win for a visiting Bradley squad overcoming grave tragedy.

The Terps of 2007 were no pushovers -- current MLSers Omar Gonzalez, A.J. Delagarza, Rodney Wallace, Jeremy Hall, Graham Zusi, and Stephen King were on that team (as was Thorne Holder, currently with the Philadelphia Union; Rich Costanzo, currently with the Rochester Rhinos; Sean Flatley, currently with the Charleston Battery; and Drew Yates, currently with the Harrisburg City Islanders) -- and it was unquestionably a good season to be introduced to collegiate soccer at Ludwig Field.

This likely explains why I do not understand arguments that college soccer is somehow retarding the development of the game in the United States.

For all of the players mentioned above, amateur soccer in NCAA division I competitions gave them a chance to play at high levels of competition against talented opponents, even if for only a limited portion of the year. The education they received (even if only partially completed) likely also provided some comfort to each as they pursued careers as professional athletes in a field with limited opportunities available to Americans.

In any event, we view the addition of da Luz as a positive development and look forward to seeing what he can do as part of United.

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