[TOP 5 PREVIEW]Akron lost a record seven players taken in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft from its 2010 NCAA championship team, but that doesn't mean there's no Zip left in Caleb Porter's squad. The four returning starters were all major contributors on Akron's championship team, and Porter has brought in 16 -- count 'em, 16 first-year players.
Junior David Meves, a Soccer America Preseason All-American, returns in goal after starting every game of his collegiate career. He holds Zips' single-season records for GAA (0.28 in 2009) and shutouts (17, also in 2009).
Jamaican Darren Mattocks is Akron's other Preseason All-American and a candidate to succeed former Zips Teal Bunbury and Darlington Nagbe as Player of the Year. Mattocks, who scored 18 goals as a freshman, could join Bunbury and Nagbe in MLS next season.
The only other returning starters are Scott Caldwell, whose goal in the 79th minute gave Akron a 1-0 win over previously unbeaten Louisville in the Men's College Cup final, and Chad Barson, who cleared away Aaron Horton's last-minute shot with a desperate lunge to preserve the win.
The first-year players were signed in groups of eight. Several players in the first group traveled with the team to Spain on a spring tour.
"This has certainly been a grueling, seven-month process to reload our team to a level on-par with our standards," Porter said. "After the spring season, we felt there were still some major holes to fill. But with the addition of this final group of talented players, I am satisfied we are finally there. We believe there are now quality personnel and depth in every position, and we should have all the pieces we need to put a championship caliber team together in 2011."
Porter's transfers include Aodhan Quinn, son of former U.S. international Brian Quinnand the 2010 Missouri Valley Freshman of the Year at Bradley, Zach Portillos, who scored two game-winning goals in 2010 for Washington, and Englishman Luke Holmes, the 2010 NAIA National Player of the Year at Notre Dame of Ohio, where he scored 70 goals in three seasons.
The Zips have brought in such freshmen as Bryan Gallego, one of the top players in the New York Red Bulls academy program, Ohio product Wil Trapp, the 2010 NSCAA High School Player of the Year, and DeAndre Yedlin, who played in the Seattle Sounders academy program,
Akron's 11 freshman class also includes players from Colombia, England, Jamaica and South Africa.
It's hard to imagine the Zips repeating their last two seasons when they went 23-1-1 and 22-1-2. But they should build on the wave of popularity their program now enjoys.
Akron averaged 3,213 fans a game at home last season. In the offseason, Jackson Field was renamed FirstEnergy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field.
Aug. 27 vs. Cleveland State, 7:30 p.m. ET
Cal State Northridge Labor Day Classic
Sept. 1 vs. Cal State Fullerton, 7:30 p.m. ET
Sept. 3 at Cal State Northridge 10 p.m. ET
Sept. 10 at Saint Louis, 8 p.m. ET
Sept. 16 New Mexico, 7 p.m. ET
Sept. 18 Cal Poly, 6 p.m. ET
Sept. 24 at Tulsa, 8 p.m. ET
Sept. 28 Ohio State, 7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 1 at Western Michigan * 1 p.m. ET
Oct. 5 at UC Santa Barbara, 10 p.m. ET
Oct. 8 Northern Illinois *, 7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 12 Penn State, 7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 15 Hartwick *, 7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 18 at Michigan, 7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 21 at Buffalo *, 7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 26 Bowling Green *, 7:30 p.m. ET
Oct. 29 Wake Forest, 7:30 p.m. ET
Nov. 2 Michigan State, 7:30 p.m. ET
Nov. 6 at Florida Atlantic *, 1 p.m. ET
Mid-American Conference Tournament
Nov. 11-13 Semifinal-Final, TBA