C-USA Announces Men's Soccer Preseason Poll, Team
Aug. 6, 2014
IRVING, Texas - New Mexico has been picked to repeat as Conference USA men's soccer champion in a preseason vote of the league's head coaches. UAB junior forward Freddy Ruiz was tabbed the preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while South Carolina senior defender Mahamoudou Kaba was voted the preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Ruiz led the nation's most potent offense in scoring in 2013 with 26 points (3rd C-USA), netting 11 goals (2nd C-USA) and assisting on four others. His points per game and goals per game both ranked second in the league at 1.44 and 0.61, respectively. Ruiz played in every game for UAB, starting the last 14 matches en route to First-Team All-Conference USA and Second-Team NSCAA All-Midwest Region accolades. As a team, the Blazers led the nation with 2.39 goals per game, 0.14 more than the next team.
Kaba started all 19 games at center back for the Gamecocks in 2013, anchoring a defense that registered six shutouts, including three in league play. A specialist on set pieces, Kaba also contributed offensively, tying for the team lead with five goals. Kaba was selected First-Team All-C-USA as well as Second-Team NSCAA All-South Region in 2013.
The Lobos are coming off of their second College Cup appearance in 2013, falling to eventual NCAA champion Notre Dame in semifinal action. New Mexico posted a 14-6-2 overall record, going 7-1-1 in league play to win the C-USA regular season title in its inaugural campaign. The team is the overwhelming preseason favorite again this year, earning seven of a possible nine first-place votes, and is represented by senior defender Mathew Gibbons and junior midfielder Ben McKendry on the preseason squad. Gibbons helped the stout Lobo defense total a league-high 11 shutouts overall (t-6th NCAA) as well as 0.64 goals-against average in league play. McKendry recorded five goals and one assist in 2013, scoring the lone tally in the Elite Eight match against Washington to send UNM to the College Cup. The duo made the NSCAA All-Region third team and were All-C-USA selections in 2013.
Charlotte finished second in the preseason voting and will be defending its C-USA Championship title. The 49ers are led by preseason honoree Kyle Parker. The junior forward claimed a share of the inaugural Conference USA Golden Boot Award with seven league goals, and he tied for second in C-USA in overall goals (11) and ranked fourth in points (25). A Third-Team All-C-USA performer in 2013, Parker helped the 49ers to the No. 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
UAB, selected to finish third by the coaches, boasts a league-high four preseason selections. Joining Ruiz on the all-conference squad are senior teammates Alex Clay, Darion Copeland and Diego Navarette. Clay tied with Charlotte's Parker for the Golden Boot Award after scoring seven goals in nine league contests in 2013. He ranked second to Ruiz on the Blazers in overall scoring, collecting eight goals and six assists on the season. Navarette was third on the team offensively, netting six goals and team-high seven helpers for 19 points. Copeland held things down on the backline for UAB as the team notched five shutouts on the year. The trio earned All-C-USA honors in 2013, as Clay and Navarrete were named to the second team and Copeland was a third-team selection. Clay and Copeland also collected Second-Team NSCAA All-Midwest Region accolades.
South Carolina junior Braeden Troyer accompanies fellow Gamecock Kaba on the preseason team. Troyer switched from midfield to center back in 2013 to bolster the team's defense, helping USC blank six opponents. A two-time All-C-USA second team selection, Troyer made an impact on the offensive side of the ball with two goals, including a game-clincher. Additionally, Troyer was named Third-Team NSCAA All-South Region in 2013 and is a two-time All-C-USA Academic Team member.
FIU senior forward Quentin Albrecht lands on the preseason list after earning Second-Team All-Conference USA honors last season. He tied for the team lead in points (16) and ranked second on the Panthers' squad in goals (6), including a pair of game-winners. Albrecht was named Third-Team NSCAA All-South Region for his efforts.
Rounding out the preseason team is Kentucky junior Callum Irving. He earns a preseason All-Conference USA nod after starting 16 games in goal for the Wildcats last season. The First-Team All-C-USA keeper from a year ago, Callum accumulated six clean sheets (3rd C-USA), including three against league foes.
The 2014 season kicks off Friday, Aug. 29. The top seven teams at the end of the regular season will advance to the Conference USA Men's Soccer Championship, hosted by Old Dominion Nov. 12-16 at the Old Dominion Soccer Complex.
2014 Preseason C-USA Men's Soccer Poll
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
2014 Preseason All-Conference USA Men's Soccer Team