We're 24 days away from men's soccer opening their season against Notre Dame, the defending national champions. If last year is any indication, we're just a few days away from the Big East announcing the preseason awards for men's soccer. That gives a little bit of a window to get some predictions in before official announcements are made.
Offensive Player of the Year: Brandon Allen, F, Georgetown
I'm pretty sure I made the right pick here. The choices are fairly simple: it's either going to be Allen, Marquette's C. Nortey, or Butler's David Goldsmith. Allen led the Big East in points last year, so I'm going to go with him. The argument against Allen is thus: Steve Neumann won the postseason version of this award last season because he actually had the points lead when the ballots had to be turned in while playing along side Allen for the Hoyas. So we have to ask: Can Allen perform to this level again without Neumann providing cover for him? Nortey could snag it, as he was the only scorer for Marquette in the top 13 of goals last year while four Golden Eagles managed at least five assists. Goldsmith's argument is simple: He led the Big East with 12 goals last season, but he'll be just a sophomore this season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Axel Sjöberg, Marquette
This was a late change. I had originally targeted Tim Parker from St. John's for this slot as essentially a coin toss between him and Sjöberg. After Top Drawer Soccer released their preseason Best XI teams and had Sjöberg ahead of Parker, I have to defer to their choice. Now, as you may have noticed in yesterday's post, Joshua Yaro finished ahead of both Parker and Sjöberg. I can explain this deviation from TDS simply: I'm giving the advantage to the older guys, as Yaro is only a sophomore this season. Why did I pick the redshirt junior over the senior? THE WORLD MAY NEVER KNOW.
Goalkeeper of the Year: Charlie Lyon, Marquette
Last year, I had the Hoyas' Tomas Gomez as the clear cut favorite to win the postseason version. He had the gaudy stats to prove his worth, allowing less than half a goal every 90 minutes and stopping 88% of the shots on frame. And yet, somehow, Gomez and Lyon split the award. The crazy thing there is that neither Louis Bennett nor Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese were allowed to cast a vote for their own guy, meaning there were nine possible votes for each dude and they tied. That means at least one coach voted for someone who WASN'T Lyon or Gomez, and boy would I like to talk to that guy. The point is that I have decided to not underestimate the Big East coaches' love for Mr. Lyon, and I'll go with two Golden Eagles pulling down individual awards here.
All Big East Team:
Brandon Allen, F, Georgetown
Axel Sjöberg, D, Marquette
Charlie Lyon, GK, Marquette
C. Nortey, F, Marquette
Tim Parker, D, St. John's
Zach Steinberger, M, Butler
David Goldsmith, F, Butler
Joshua Yaro, D, Georgetown
Louis Bennett II, M, Marquette
Phil Towler, M, Providence
Sean Sepe, M, St. John's
Allen, Sjöberg, and Lyon get the first three spots in the 11 for the individual awards. Nortey, Goldsmith, Parker, and Yaro were candidates, so they get included, too. Steinberger was 8th in goals and 9th in points, so he gets a nod. Sepe was tied with Steinberger in goals and one point behind him, so that's good enough for me. Bennett and Towler round out the 11. Both of them were Honorable Mention guys last year, and I needed returning midfielders, so I went in that direction. Bennett's inclusion in the US Men's Under-20 camp this summer helped his case, too.
Top Five Teams:
Hey, what a surprise, it's the two teams that finished tied atop the table with 19 points last year. Marquette's the defending champs as the #1 seed in the tournament and the tournament champs, so that's a natural advantage for them. Obviously, the Hoyas are a pretty loaded team themselves, but the homer in me really likes the spine of Marquette's roster, starting from the back with Lyon and Sjöberg, and continuing up the field with Brady Wahl, Bennett, and Nortey up top.
The Friars return significant pieces from a team that finished tied with Xavier for the second most points in the league. Butler and Xavier are losing major pieces (both goalies, X's Nick Hagglund, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year), but there's enough still there to think that they'll stay above everyone else.