[2011 MEN'S PREVIEW] MLS and European clubs have definitely thinned the ranks of young prospects entering the college ranks. But many of the top college programs are still attracting good players. Here are eight who should step in right away and have an impact on the 2011 title race ...
Bryan Gallego, Akron. The Zips lost three defenders who were taken in the first 31 picks in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, so Akron coach Caleb Porter was very happy to get Gallego. "He was also with me recently in Northern Ireland at the Milk Cup, where he started and played 90 minutes in every game," says Porter. "Not only is Bryan a good defender, but he's a good player on the ball and can initiate the attack. He's also very composed mentally and is a good leader."
Spencer LaCivita, Virginia. The Cavaliers' biggest loss was goalie Diego Restrepo, who is currently playing professionally in Colombia, so LaCivita, who played for CASL Chelsea, has big shoes to fill.
Jordan McCrary, North Carolina. McCrary is only 5-foot-8 but a very versatile player out of Georgia's Concorde Fire program. He enrolled at North Carolina in January and played over the summer for the U.S. under-18 national team at the Milk Cup. He should start for the Tar Heels right away.
Sean Okoli, Wake Forest. After four straight appearances in the Men's College Cup, Wake Forest didn't even make the NCAA Tournament in 2010, so it need help. The Deacons' staff thinks it got it in Okoli, a forward who played on the Seattle Sounders' academy team with Akron freshman DeAndre Yedlin and Duke's Nick Palodichuck.
Nick Palodichuk, Duke. After scoring against Italy at the 2009 Under-17 World Cup, Palodichuck received feelers from several European clubs but stuck to his decision to accept a scholarship from Duke. He should add some needed punch to the Blue Devils' attack.
Alex Shinsky, Maryland. Midfield Matt Kassel left school to sign a homegrown contract with the New York Red Bulls, so the Terrapins were thrilled to get Shinsky, who enrolled early. He was one of the youngest players on the 2009 U.S. U-17 World Cup team and scored the winning goal in the victory over Malawi.
Eriq Zavaleta, Indiana. Zavaleta played on the 2009 U.S. U-17 World Cup team with Palodichuk and Shinsky and has spent time on MLS academy teams at Chivas USA, Columbus and Real Salt Lake. He looked good for the Hoosiers early in preseason.
Walker Zimmerman, Furman. Zimmerman is the top freshman in another strong recruiting class for Doug Allison, who has been one of college soccer's top recuiters for a decade, The 6-foot-3 Zimmerman overcame foot and heel problems to become one of the most coveted defenders in this year's freshman class.