Another college soccer season officially ended nearly two weeks ago, with a gut-wrenching penalty shootout that saw Stanford capture the national championship for the second straight season after a scoreless draw with Wake Forest.
Now that we’ve been able to catch our breaths from the whirlwind of a season squeezed into way too short of a period of time, it’s time to take a look back at the players who left the biggest impression from a national, local and Philadelphia Union Academy perspective.
Looking through the players with ties to the Union Academy, it’s hard to find a player with a bigger impact to his team - even one that didn’t make the postseason - than Connor Maloney. His pathway to the pros will be through the SuperDraft, but the senior from Harrisburg was part of the Philadelphia Union youth setup in its early days, so it’s enough to award him Union Academy Offensive Player of the Year for his standout senior season. Maloney led the Nittany Lions with eight goals and five assists and was a constant threat on the offensive end.
Defensively, it’s hard not to admire the kind of season central defender Shane Bradley had as a freshman for Villanova. Though it doesn’t show up on a stat sheet, Bradley was a steady presence in a young back line who played perhaps his best game under near constant pressure in an upset of Creighton. Though one of only four shutouts on the season for the Wildcats defense, it made all the difference to the selection committee awarding the program their first NCAA Tournament bid.
While his team struggled with a 5-9-3, fifth-year senior Kyle Morton did his part to keep James Madison University in games with just 24 goals conceded for a 1.22 goals against average. For that, he is my choice for Union Academy Goalkeeper of the Year.
Freshman of the Year was a little more challenging to pick as many first year college players from the Union Academy struggled to get playing time, but North Carolina midfielder Jack Skahan, who was on the Union U16 team for the 2014-15 season, managed to break into a talented Tar Heels squad that made it all the way to the College Cup. Jack made 17 appearances and five starts on the year, registering an assist and converting his penalty kick in an eventual PK loss to Stanford in the national semifinal.
Locally, 2016 was the year of Jorge Gomez Sanchez, who managed to outdo his junior year with a 14-goal and three assist season. The Spaniard’s goal haul is impressive on its own right, but even more of note is that half of those were game-winners for Temple, which went unbeaten in their first season in their new facility on North Broad Street. Sanchez’s countryman Carlos Moros Gracia had another impressive season anchoring the Owls back line and goalkeeper Alex Cagle had a clean sheet in eight of the team’s 10 wins.
Some other players with local ties to note include Evan Vare, who found the back of the net seven times in his rookie season with Lafayette yet somehow managed to not collect any postseason honors from the Patriot League. Virginia Tech was the surprise team in the tournament thanks in part to Greenville, Delaware native Ben Lundgaard, who had seven clean sheets and allowed only 11 goals all season. Lawrenceville, New Jersey native Jake Nerwinski closed out his impressive career at Connecticut with another strong season on the back line, while a pair of Matts at local programs - Matt Robinson at La Salle and Matt Crawford at Saint Joseph’s - made regular appearances in my college soccer coverage.
Nationally, Julian Gressel gets my vote for Player of the Year after he led an injury plagued Providence on one of the more impressive postseason runs in recent years, finishing with 15 goals and six assists on the year. Lancaster native Braden Kline was also a regular contributor to the Friars with a goal and an assist in 19 appearances and 17 starts to earn the Local Native Freshman of the Year honor.
Miles Robinson, Alec Ferrell and Cam Lindley are all names you’ll want to remember for the future. Robinson could be a top draft pick if he is signed to a Generation adidas deal, Ferrell is arguably the best goalkeeper prospect in the draft pool and Lindley needs to be signed to a homegrown deal with Chicago Fire pronto.
Check out all of the player awards below and share your thoughts in the comments.
Players of the Year
Offensive Players of the Year
Philadelphia Union Academy: Connor Maloney, Forward, Penn State**
Local College: Jorge Gomez Sanchez, Forward, Temple
Local Native: Evan Vare, Forward, Lafayette
National: Julian Gressel, Midfielder, Providence
Defensive Players of the Year
Philadelphia Union Academy: Shane Bradley, Fr., Villanova*
Local College: Carlos Moros Gracia, Sr., Temple
Local Native: Jake Nerwinski, Sr., UConn
National: Miles Robinson, So., Syracuse
Goalkeepers of the Year
Philadelphia Union Academy: Kyle Morton, R-Sr., James Madison**
Local College: Alex Cagle, R-Jr., Temple
Local Native: Ben Lundgaard, Jr., Virginia Tech
National: Alec Ferrell, Sr., Wake Forest
Freshmen of the Year
Philadelphia Union Academy: Jack Skahan, MF, North Carolina
Local College: Fede Prieto, MF, Delaware
Local Native: Braden Kline, MF, Providence (Lancaster, Pa.)
National: Cameron Lindley, MF, North Carolina
Philadelphia Union Academy
GK: Kyle Morton, R-Sr., James Madison**
D: Shane Bradley, Fr., Villanova*
D: Colton Storm, Sr., North Carolina**
D: John Schroeder, So., Delaware*
D: Brian Nana-Sinkam, Sr., Stanford**
MF: Drew Skundrich, Jr., Stanford**
MF: Zach Zandi, So., Villanova*
MF: Jack Skahan, Fr., North Carolina*
MF: Brian White, Jr., Duke**
F: Sebastian Elney, So., Maryland*
F: Connor Maloney, Sr., Penn State**
GK: Alex Cagle, Jr., Temple
D: Carlos Moros Gracia, Sr., Temple
D: Colman Kennedy, Sr., La Salle
D: Patrick Barba, Sr., Princeton
MF: Miguel Polley, R-Jr., Villanova
MF: Matt Robinson, R-Jr., La Salle (Lansdale, Pa.)
MF: Matt Crawford, Jr., Saint Joseph’s (Bensalem, Pa.)
MF: Jose Aguinaga, Jr., Rider
F: Alec Neumann, Sr., Penn (New Hope, Pa.)
F: Jorge Gomez Sanchez, Sr., Temple
F: Guillermo Delgado, Sr., Delaware
GK: Ben Lundgaard, Jr., Virginia Tech (Greenville, Del.)
D: Mike Stuski, Sr., Saint Joseph’s (Holland, Pa.)
D: Jake Nerwinski, Sr., UConn (Lawrenceville, N.J.)
D: Johnny Ciarlante, Jr., La Salle (Southampton, Pa.)
MF: Matt Greer, Jr., Dartmouth (Chadds Ford, Pa.)*
MF: Conor Bradley, Fr., Villanova (Havertown, Pa.)*
MF: Doyle Tuvesson, Jr., Lehigh (Kennett Square, Pa.)*
MF: Mark Forrest, So., Lehigh (Douglassville, Pa.)
F: Brett Campbell, Sr., Georgetown (Wallingford, Pa.)**
F: Evan Vare, Fr., Lafayette (Jamison, Pa.)
F: Kenny Lassiter, R-Jr., Syracuse (Narberth, Pa.)**
GK: Alec Ferrell, Sr., Wake Forest
D: Miles Robinson, So., Syracuse
D: Brandon Aubrey, Sr., Notre Dame
D: Tim Kubel, Jr., Louisville
D: Reagan Dunk, Sr., Denver
MF: Ian Harkes, Sr., Wake Forest
MF: Napo Matsoso, Sr., Kentucky
MF: Julian Gressel, Sr., Providence
F: Brian Wright, Sr., Vermont
F: Gordon Wild, So., Maryland
F: Albert Ruiz, Jr., Florida Gulf Coast
* Participated in the Philadelphia Union Academy 2013-15
** Participated in Union Academy as a member of youth affiliate club