Player of the Year
Steve Zakuani, Akron's gift to American soccer, is only the second sophomore to win Soccer America Men's Player of the Year honors after Claudio Reyna, who won the first of back-to-back awards in 1992.
Unlike Reyna, Zakuani was a total unknown when he arrived at Akron in 2007.
New Zips coach Caleb Porter was looking at tape of an English player he hoped to fill out his first recruiting class in 2006 when he spotted Zakuani, who arrived the next year.
Zakuani was born in Zaire and raised in London, where he played up until the age of 15 in Arsenal's youth system. His older brother Gabby was signed by Fulham from Leyton Orient for $2 million in 2006 but has never made a first-team appearance for the Cottagers.
Steve, meanwhile, was open to the idea of coming to America to study.
He had a decent freshman season with six goals but nothing like his sophomore campaign when he led the nation with 20 goals and 47 points.
Porter says Zakuani didn't create that many more chances in 2008 but he did a better job of finishing. Seven of his goals were game-winners.
Zakuani is pursuing a degree in sports management. If he isn't plucked away by the pros, he should make Akron, loaded with young stars and an excellent incoming class, one of the favorites to win the 2009 national title.
Wake dominates awards
Wake Forest, which ranked No. 1 in the Soccer America rankings from the preseason through the end of the regular season, led all teams with four Soccer America MVPs.
Sam Cronin was a repeat selection from the 2007 MVP first team and was joined by fellow Deacons Marcus Tracy (first team) and Corben Bone and Ike Opara (second team) among the 2008 selections.
Champion Maryland had three selections - College Cup star Graham Zusi and Omar Gonzales on the first team and Jeremy Hall on the second team.
Soccer America's MVPs were introduced in 1976 and honor the players who have had the biggest impact on their team's success regardless of position. Beginning in 2007, Soccer America selected first and second teams.
Coach of the Year
Baum goes out with Big Ten titles
After 32 years, Joe Baum is retiring as Michigan State's head coach, but he left on top.
In his final season, the Spartans won the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles, and their 13-5-2 record tied the school mark for wins in a season.
Baum, who began his coaching career under legendary Bob Guelker at SIU-Edwardsville, was an assistant at Wisconsin-Green Bay and Michigan State, his alma mater, before becoming head coach in 1977.
Baum was the goalkeeper on the Spartans' two co-national championship teams in 1966 and 1967.
He retires as MSU head coach with a 320-228-54 record.
Freshman of the Year
Townsend gets off to fast start
Casey Townsend, a two-time Mr. Soccer in Michigan, got a jump on things when he enrolled at Maryland last spring, and it paid off as he started every game and finished second on the Terrapins with 26 points on 11 goals and four assists.
Coach Sasho Cirovski credits Townsend's work in spring practice for his rapid improvement.
One of Townsend's best games of the season came in the ACC final, a 1-0 win over Virginia during which he set up teammate Jeremy Hall with a well-placed cross for a third-minute goal and hit the crossbar with one of seven shots in the first half.
Townsend was joined by fellow Terrapin Zac MacMath on the All-Freshman first team and Matt Kassel on the second team.
Soccer America Men's Player of the Year
Steve Zakuani (akron)
Soccer America Men's MVPs
Neal Kitson (St. Johns), Doug DeMartin (Michigan State), Sam Cronin (Wake Forest), Omar Gonzalez (Maryland), Andrei Gotsmanov (Creighton), Baggio Husidic (UIC), Yohance Marshall (South Florida), Brian Shriver (North Carolina), Marcus Tracy (Wake Forest), Steve Zakuani (Akron), Graham Zusi (Maryland).
Milos Kocic (Loyola, Md.), Andre Akpan (Harvard), Quincy Amarikwa (UC Davis), Mark Blades (North-western), Corben Bone (Wake Forest), Irving Garcia (UC Irvine), Jeremy Hall (Maryland), Craig Henderson (Dartmouth), Ike Opara (Wake Forest), Michael Stephens (UCLA), Andrew Wiedeman (California).
Coach of the Year
Joe Baum (Michigan State)
Freshman of the Year
Casey Townsend (Maryland)
All-Freshmen First Team
Zac MacMath (Maryland), Will Bruin (Indiana), Lucky Mkosana (Dartmouth), Darlington Nagbe (Akron), Austin Neil (Tulsa), Kofi Sarkodie (Akron), Billy Schuler (North Carolina), Tony Tchani (Virginia), Casey Townsend (Maryland), Dan Wenzel (Wake Forest), Sheanon Williams (North Carolina).
Andrew Fontein (UC Irvine), Brian Holt (Creighton), Michael Bustamante (Boston University), Tony Cascio (Connecticut), Sam Garza (Denver), Matt Kassel (Maryland), Danny Mwanga (Oregon State), Brian Ownby (Virginia), Colin Rolfe (Louisville), Patrick Sigler (Cal Poly), Kirk Urso (North Carolina).
(This article originally appeared in the Janury 2009 issue ofSoccer Americamagazine.)