2017 marked another brilliant season for Wake Forest Soccer. They went undefeated through a brutal schedule in the ACC and crowned themselves once again as conference’s top team in the ACC Tournament. However, they also once again fell short on their national title aspirations by losing to Stanford at Spry Stadium.
Now, Wake returns a team that lost four out of the top five scorers from the No. 1 offense in the country. Jon Bakero (Toronto FC), Luis Argudo (Columbus Crew SC), Brandon Servania (Tulsa Roughnecks), and Ema Twumasi (FC Dallas) all signed with pro teams. They also lost ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Kevin Politz, who signed with the New York Red Bulls, and other key contributors.
The natural thing would be for this team to face a tough challenge in replacing all the talent lost while possibly going through a major rebuild, but not for Wake Forest. This team returns veterans poised for breakout seasons and another formidable recruiting class. The Demon Deacons are once again considered title contenders. After all, Wake Forest doesn’t rebuild, it reloads.
One. Month. The countdown begins. pic.twitter.com/m8kPHBuVfv— Wake Men's Soccer (@WakeMSoccer) July 24, 2018
Let’s start by looking at their back-end, Logan Gdula and Eddie Folds should be as a lock for the starting job as someone can be on this talented Wake Forest team. Both are proven, experienced players that Coach Muuss covets on defense.
Expect incoming freshmen Koby Carr and Elijah Kerr to also fight for significant minutes early on. Carr was recruited as the No. 11 Defender in the nation, according to TopDrawer, and most likely to see the field. Michael DeShields is also a good bet for increased minutes and starts this season.
Regardless of who the starters are, Wake will probably feature a small back line, with Michael DeShields being the only player above 6-0. Any Wake fan that watched the Deacs play last season should be familiar with the squad’s problem with dead ball situations, this might be an area of weakness for this upcoming season as well.
At Goalkeeper, Andreu Cases Mundet should once again contend as one of the best GK’s in the ACC. Coach Muuss puts a premium on being consistent and disciplined on defense. As a result, expect the coverage and marking to be an 11-players effort. Despite the loss of Politz, expect this team to be a fundamentally sound, high energy unit defensively.
Moving on to the midfield, the Deacs lost their biggest facilitator, aside from Bakero, in Brandon Servania. Servania looked the part whenever he touched the ball. Coming in as a true freshman, Servania impressed with his outstanding vision and extremely accurate passes. Look for Omir Fernandez to take on Servania’s duties as one of the offensive facilitators.
Another interesting player is St. John’s transfer Alistair Johnston. Johnston started all 36 games for the Red Storm totaling 10 goals and 4 assists during his college career. He was also pivotal with an assist on the game-winner against No.7 Georgetown and two scores during a Big East Tournament game against Creighton. Johnson was selected to the Big-East All-Tournament team in 2017. He is great defensively with good vision. If he refines the quality of his passes a little more, look for Johnston to be a staple on the Wake Forest midfield.
Finally, the front end of the Deacs is the group with the biggest losses out of any group listed here. Jon Bakero was typically the life and blood of this team’s offensive firepower. The 2017 Hermann Trophy Winner (awarded to the best college player in the country) was sensational. The Striker totaled 46 points, with 16 scores and 14 assists during the 2017 season. Behind Bakero’s superb numbers was Ema Twumasi who contributed with 10 goals and 7 assists good for a First-Team All-ACC honor in 2017.
Now, both are gone and the team lacks a true alpha at the Striker position. Justin McMaster looks like a breakout player at the Forward spot. In 2017, McMaster scored twice and recorded 3 assists in 20 games. Playing as a true Freshman McMaster struggled at this to finish plays and saw himself stuck behind a logjam of All-ACC players. If he matures and adapts to the college game as expected, McMaster has the potential to have a breakout year similar to Luis Argudo last season.
The Demon Deacons were ranked No. 5 in the Nation and second in the ACC, according to the United Soccer Coaches Preseason Rankings. This is a fair position for a team that lost so many talented players. This Wake Forest team should once again contend for another ACC Championship. It still remains to be seen if they will have enough firepower to make a legitimate run at the National Title. North Carolina and Clemson should be tough challenges inside the ACC. Whereas, Stanford feels like the obstacle the Deacs are always destined to face during the postseason.
Wake Forest will open their regular season on Aug. 24 against No. 2 Indiana at Spry Stadium. This will be a great thermometer to this team’s title aspirations.
Do you think Wake Forest will win it all this year? Will they win the ACC again? Do they stumble along the way once more? Comment Below.