Written by: Billyle Alman
The first task this offseason has been to replace the seniors of old with talent of new. As long time starters Lars Eckenrode, Rylee Woods, Brett Nason and Andre Morris have graduated, spots are left to fill in the lineup entering the fall of 2017.
Though talented seniors moved on, the biggest hole was dug by a departing player whose stay at the Wolverine program was shorter than 4 years. GK Evan Louro opted not to return to school following his standout fall of 2016, and instead chose to activate his homegrown option with New York Red Bulls. With Centerback and GK being the immediate positions of need, we predict the Wolverines to line up this way on September 25th:
Francis Atuahene, Jack Hallahan, Robbie Mertz, Ivo Cerda, Marcello Borges, Billy Stevens.
Francis. Atuahene. Franky. Francis Atuahene…… is perhaps the Big Ten’s most dangerous returning player. Featured all over the USL-PDL’s top 50 prospects list, reaching the number 1 spot numerous weeks, Francis is an MLS ready talent Coach Daley will lean on once again.
Michigan’s most technically gifted player comes in the form of Marcello Borges. Marcello has been a regular with the USMNT U18-20 and when not with the red, white and blue, he appears with developmental Red Bulls sides. That said, this is a player that still gets overlooked in conference. Expect him to start at a left back role, but creep up the field in desperate situations.
All-Freshman returner, Jack Hallahan should bring the needed flare back to this year’s team. MSN’s player to watch for 2017 is Robbie Mertz. Entering his junior year, the height must be ignored. He makes plays. The Pittsburgh native, was in and out of the starting 11 last season, but with holes to fill, our bias pencils him as a lock.
In For Now:
Mohammed Zakyi, Umar Farouk Osman, Peter Brown, Daniel Mukaku, Andrew Verdi.
As Gatorade National Player of the Year, we expect Osman to be pencilled in, in some role and allowed some type of leash, but nothing is guaranteed as a freshman. Mohammed Zakyi gets the nod as there aren’t many options out wide to challenge him. We may have chosen a player like Tristan Jacob if his health were guaranteed.
The questions that need answers for this group come defensively. A coin flip between 3 GK candidates could decide that spot with our current knowledge; we like Mashburn’s resume, but eyes close to the team see Verdi as the favorite at this point. Peter Brown enters the backline with the most experience, but we don’t know where Daley's mindset is with defensive decisions just yet. Joel Harrison is perhaps our favorite newcomer, along with Jackson Ragen. Both could be in the mix for the Centerback spot, but it remains to be seen if their futures are at Centerback or in the midfield.
In the Mix:
Jacob Nunner, Grant Mattia, Abdou Samake, Jackson Ragen, Marc Ybarra, Tristan Jacob, Joel Harrison, Henry Mashburn.
We believe all GK’s are in play. Player to look out for is Daniel Mukuna. Mukuna comes in as a transfer and his choice to join the Wolverines should open eyes for those close to the program. Transfers often look for immediate impact situations, and with Centerback being a position to fill, we expect him to get a fair shot at that spot.