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Unscientific Predictions: 2018 Big East Men’s Soccer Preseason Awards

We wrap up our trio of fall sports prognostications with a look at the lone men’s team sport.

Luka Prpa
Luka Prpa is the lone Golden Eagles on my All-Big East team.

With picks for volleyball and women’s soccer already in the books, we turn our attention to men’s soccer to round out our preseason prognostications. This one is a little bit less fun as the first two, as I can’t honestly say a lot of good things about Marquette along the way, as the Golden Eagles have been in a bit of a rough patch over the past few seasons. Perhaps things turn around this year.

In any case, here’s what we’ve got for a look at the best players in the league heading into 2018.

Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Brandon Guhl, Butler

As always, never overcomplicate these thought processes. Guhl was co-OPOY at the end of last season with Creighton‘s Ricky Lopez-Espin. Guhl was a sophomore and is back for 2018, while Lopez-Espin was a senior and is now moved on from college. Guhl tallied 13 goals and five assists for a league high 31 points in 2017, with Georgetown‘s Derek Dodson as the next best returning player at 22. Guhl should take this one with a unanimous vote.

Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Brendan McDonough, Georgetown

Being a junior on the All-Big East First Team at the end of any season is always a good way to get yourself some preseason recognition the next year, and that goes triple for defenders in soccer. Without a lot of publishable stats for defenders, I have to base this one on “well, who did the coaches/the league office think were the best players last year?” McDonough was the only junior alongside two seniors on the First Team, so he gets the spot here.

Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year: Andrew Withers, St. John’s

Welcome to an exclusively statistically decided award. The two keepers that were on the two all-Big East squads last year finished up their eligibility last season and are not returning for 2018. Thus, we have to move in a different direction. Thankfully, Withers ended up with the Big East lead in both goals-against average (0.71) and save percentage (.835) last season, so tabbing the redshirt junior for the honors heading into 2018 was pretty simple.

Preseason All-Big East Team

Achara, F, Georgetown
Derek Dodson, F, Georgetown
Brandon Guhl, F, Butler
Simon Hestnes, M, Xavier
Alistair Johnston, M, St. John’s
Brendan McDonough, D, Georgetown
Joe Moulden, D, Butler
Luka Prpa, M, Marquette
Samson Sergi, F, Xavier
Cameron Taylor, D, Xavier
Andrew Withers, GK, St. John’s

Okay, so. This list is a bit of a disaster. First of all, eight seniors were on last year’s all-Big East First Team, and one of the three non-seniors (Butler’s Lewis Suddick) is not on his team’s roster for 2018. Another three seniors were on the Second Team, and another two non-seniors (Seton Hall’s Andres Arcila and Georgetown’s JT Marcinkowski) area also not back.

That gave me nine guys from last year’s end of season honors to put on this preseason all-league team. It also puts me in a position where four of the nine on the list are defenders and historically, the coaches don’t accent the defensive players to that extent. My problem in trying to tip things towards the midfielders or forwards is that there just aren’t a lot of obvious quality candidates. It was very much a senior dominated league last season.

Here’s what I did. First of all, I trimmed the defenders. Gut instinct is that the league won’t honor four in the preseason awards, so we’re not going to do it here. Apologies to Villanova’s Shane Bradley for getting the knife here, but McDonough has to be in and Xavier’s Cameron Taylor actually finished in the top 10 for points in the league last year. That brought it to either Butler’s Joe Moulden or Bradley, and tie goes to the senior over the junior.

Next up was filling in the midfielders and forwards. This is a relatively simple task, as we just start drilling into the scoring stats. Georgetown’s Achara makes the list at forward thanks to tallying 15 points in just 11 games last season, which was actually the third best mark in the league. He didn’t make the all-league teams due to the time he missed due to injury, but that kind of production can’t be ignored in a preseason list. Joining Achara up top is Xavier’s Samson Sergi, who finished in a tie for the eighth most points in the Big East last season and fell just short of producing a point per game. That gave us four forwards with one spot left to fill. It goes to Alistair Johnston in the midfield, who created six goals and four assists for the Red Storm last season. That was good enough for a tie for the 10th most points in the conference, and that’s good enough for me.

UPDATE: Thanks to Tom In Salem down in the comments section, I discovered that 1) St. John’s has not updated their roster to 2018 yet and 2) Alistair Johnston transferred to Wake Forest. This, of course, throws off my equation as to who should be on the all-league team, not to mention my math on the top 5 teams ever so slightly. Everything is always the worst. Eat at Arby’s.

Top Five Teams

  1. Georgetown
  2. Xavier
  3. Butler
  4. St. John’s
  5. Creighton

My top two teams combine for six of the 11 men on the all-league team with three each. Seems like a safe bet, and I have the Hoyas on top even though they’ll be working in a new starting netminder after the departure of Marcinkowski. Butler won the league easily a year ago, finishing five points clear of second place Georgetown. However, they’ll have to replace Suddick’s scoring as well as Eric Dick, last year’s Goalkeeper of the Year, so I’ve got them knocking backwards a little bit. Withers should be able to carry St. John’s a pretty strong distance again this season, and while I don’t have any solid explanation for this, I just like Creighton’s program overall, so sure, they get the fifth spot.