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Wake Forest Men's Soccer Breakdown: How Dominant is this Team?

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The Deacs are off to a terrific start to the 2015 season and have some very important ACC matchups coming up.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t been following the Wake Forest Men’s Soccer team this season it’s safe to say you are seriously missing out. The "futbol" Deacs have been nothing short of spectacular in their 2015 campaign so far, starting off the year with a 9-1-1 record (3-0-1 in ACC play) and doing it in a dominant fashion. The Deacs have outscored opponents 27-6, outshot opponents 168-86, and have silenced multiple opposing top 25 teams at Spry and on the road. Against ranked opponents WF is 5-1-1 on the season, the only loss coming to Elon after a controversial penalty call gave the Pheonix their only shot on goal in the game and converted. What makes this team so good? Let’s breakdown their performance in the 2015 season so far.

Despite where the team is sitting now (#6 in the NCSAA Coaches poll), the Deacs started off the season unranked in nearly every single preseason poll available. This in large part had to due with the fact that the team struggled greatly during their shortened spring season after the appointment of Bobby Muuss, and with two straight years of disappointing early exits in the NCAA tournament, many believed the program was finally on its way down after a terrific last decade of play. But by simply looking at the talent the team was returning and the incoming freshman class, it’s hard to figure why nobody gave WF a chance. After all, the core pieces of a team that finished 3rd in the competitive ACC Atlantic last season were all going to be back, headlined by star All-ACC MF Michael Gamble and talented Juniors Ian Harkes and Jacori Hayes. Add in the incoming 2014-15 Gatorade National Player of the Year in Jack Harrison and this team was destined to be dynamic offensively, it was just a matter of if the defense was going to hold up.

And hold up it has. Led by veteran Goalkeeper Alec Ferrell the Deacs top the ACC in Goals Allowed per game with a stunning .55 average. Ferrell and backup GK Andrew Harris combined lead the Conference in Shutouts as well with 6 in 11 games, though neither have been overworked given the defense’s strong organization at the back. In terms of Average Saves per game, the Harris/Ferrell combo is 9th in the ACC with just a 2.81 average, and that added with the .55 goals conceded means they are only facing a measly 3.36 Shots on Goal per game. To hold top level competition under 3.5 Shots on Goal per game is remarkable and shows that however strong you thought this team was offensively, the defense is right there to match it in impressiveness.

So let’s talk about that offense that is making Spry Field as electric as it has been since the 2007 Championship Season. Wake is averaging 2.45 Goals/Game, .18 more than any other team in the conference and 5th in the entire nation. Michael Gamble was a top 10 Assist man in the country last season, but this year he can simply focus on scoring with Freshman Jack Harrison creating multiple scoring opportunities each game from the right wing. Harrison is currently 4th in the country in Assists with 7 and has been one of the most exciting players in the country lately, recently being named to College Soccer News’ National Team of the Week and ACC Co-Offensive Player of the Week. Former Barcelona youth product Jon Bakero has also had a very strong start to the season with 4 goals and 3 assists and a shooting percentage of 25%, the highest of anyone on the team with more than 10 so far on the season. In Bobby Muuss’ new system the team isn’t afraid to take risks and that shows every game in their play. Confidence is overflowing in the attacking third and players are ready to shoot from anywhere or try cheeky flick-ons or back heels to make something happen. It’s fun soccer at its finest, and when players feel like they can be creative without the fear of getting put on the bench if it fails, you get performances like we’ve been seeing all season long.

So where does the team go from here? The Deacs’ lineup of Top 25 opponents is still quite filled, with games against #22 NC State, #2 UNC, and #8 Notre Dame remaining on the schedule in the regular season. While #2 UNC at Home is the headliner of the three, an important game against rival NC State this Friday night has a lot more impact than most may realize. If Wake Forest can pick up another Top 25 road win having already beaten #15 USC earlier in the week, there’s a great chance the Deacs could leap up to #1 in the polls for the first time in the Muuss era. WF is already #1 according to RPI at the moment, but remains #4 in Top Drawer Soccer’s latest rankings and #6 in the NCSAA Coaches polls despite their strong recent play. Given #1 Creighton’s struggles at Home earlier this week against Drake and North Carolina with a tough matchup Saturday against Syracuse, if Wake Forest can take the 3 points in Raleigh and have some results go their way, the Deacs very well could find themselves in the top spot when the new polls get released next week.

To be quite honest, this is the most exciting brand of Wake Forest soccer I’ve seen since I started following the program. The fluidity offensively, the compactness of the defense, and the number of pro prospects in the starting XI each and every week make this program a must-watch if you haven’t seen them already. An ACC title is in reach and the 2nd National Title in program history might be in the cards as well if the Deacs can continue playing the way they are. Simply put, this team is the real deal, ladies and gentlemen, and if you haven’t started paying attention yet, it’s in your best interest to join the WF Men’s Soccer hype train now.

For more Wake Forest soccer news, follow me on Twitter @DeacFan3.