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Preview: Men’s Soccer Spring Season

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After a bitter end to the fall window, a new-look Demon Deacon team will open the fall window as the #3 ranked team in the nation.

Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Wake Men’s Soccer roster will be starting their spring season with a bitter taste in their mouths after the unfortunate end to their fall season, losing to UVA with a roster depleted by Covid-19 contact tracing in the ACC Tournament. This year felt like the one where Wake would reclaim the ACC title, especially as they carried a 7-1-0 mark into the postseason, with their only loss occurring at Clemson, a loss they avenged at Spry a couple of weeks later. In the months since, Wake’s roster has been in flux, but the goal remains the same as it always is, to bring a national title back to Winston-Salem for the second time. With the new season just over the horizon, as the Deacs open up their spring slate on March 1st against Davidson, there is no better time than the present to look at the Deacs’ prospects for the second half of the soccer season.

Losses

Although the spring season is still part of the NCAA soccer season that began in the fall, in many ways it feels like a totally new year for the Deacs with all of the players that departed from the team in the last few months.

  • Calvin Harris (LW): Likely the biggest loss the Deacs suffered in this break, Calvin Harris signed a Generation Adidas contract with Major League Soccer and was taken 2nd overall in the MLS Super Draft by FC Cincinnati. He was second on the team in points and in goals.
  • Michael DeShields (CB): DeShields did not play in the fall window for the Deacs, but was a key part of the 2019 College Cup team, enough so that DC United used the 5th overall pick on him in the MLS Super Draft.
  • Andrew Pannenberg (GK): Pannenberg started each game between the pipes for the Deacs in the fall and was selected by Orlando City SC with the 49th pick after two excellent seasons in Winston.
  • Isaiah Parente (CM): One of the captains this year, Parente was the tone setter in the middle of the field for the Demon Deacons, and led the team with 4 assists while only playing in 6 of their 9 games due to injury. The reigning MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew SC signed him to a Homegrown contract.
  • Machop Chol (RW): Chol was an integral part of the Wake attack, always finding space for himself to create something going forward either individually or for another player. He played in 8 games this season, registering 3 goals and 2 assists. Atlanta United signed him to a homegrown contract.
  • Kyle McCurley (CM): McCurley was mainly consigned to a backup role in his Wake career, although he was a very capable option in the middle of the field. After graduating at the end of the fall semester, he transferred to the University of Wisconsin.
  • Koby Carr (RB): Koby Carr’s Wake Forest career was derailed by injuries early on, although he did find his way back onto the field this season with 5 appearances, including a start against UVA. After the fall season he transferred to UNC Charlotte.
  • Tyrell Moore (CB): Moore played sparingly in the fall season, getting three appearances, all as a substitute. He graduated in the fall and moved on from the program.
  • Dom Peters (GK): Peters played 15 minutes in the fall season this year and was a backup who rarely played for the Deacs, although he did have a memorable moment last season in the ACC Tournament against Virginia Tech after he came on as a substitute in the penalty shootout, saving 2 penalties to give the Deacs a victory. After graduating in the fall, he moved on from the program.

Additions

The Deacs also made 5 additions to the team, all of them freshmen.

  • Trace Alphin (GK): Alphin joins the Deacs early as a member of the class of 2021, rated as the 97th best player and 12th goalkeeper in his class. The Raleigh native spent 5 years in the North Carolina FC youth system and trained with their professional team, as well as with FC Helsingor in the Danish Second Division, also receiving a U.S. U-17 national team call-up in 2018.
  • Bo Cummins (RB): Bo Cummins is another member of the Deacs’ 3rd ranked 2021 recruiting class that is joining the team early. The Port Huron, MI native has professional experience to his name, having made 11 appearances, 5 of which were starts, across left and right back for New York Red Bulls II in the USL Championship, registering a goal and an assist. He is the 28th rated player and 5th rated defender in his class.
  • Ryan Fessler (AM): Another player with professional experience, Fessler is a member of the 2020 recruiting class who decided to forgo the fall season to remain with Sporting Kansas City II in the USL Championship, where the Charlotte native made 2 starts and 5 total appearances.
  • Julian Kennedy (FW): Another member of the 2021 signing class, Kennedy joins the Deacs early after making 8 appearances for Orlando City B in USL League One (the division below USL Championship), where he registered an assist. Kennedy spent 5 years in the Orlando system, tallying 20 goals in 24 games with the U-16/17 team in his most impressive season.
  • Nicolas Mancilla (MF): Mancilla joins the Deacs after 6 years in the Universidad de Chile academy as a member of the 2021 recruiting class, bringing in more high level experience from a club of great tradition in Chile.

Strengths and Question Marks

Between the fall and spring seasons, the Deacons have lost a lot of key pieces that will make this window a very interesting one for Bobby Muuss’ men. The goalkeeper position seems wide open, with only the only two keepers on the roster being freshman Trace Alphin and redshirt freshman Cole McNally. McNally was being groomed for the starting role in the fall and seemed to be the clear second choice keeper on the team, but he will likely need to win his job in preseason. The Deacs also face some questions in the middle of the field, as they will now have to find a way to move on from Isaiah Parente who was so important to the team. Omar Hernandez and Takuma Suzuki are the likely starters in the middle, and they did start together several times in the fall season, but the question remains as to whether or not they can step up and play well consistently. The wings remain a huge question mainly because of the injuries that have plagued that position. After being drafted 17th by Minnesota United in the MLS Super Draft, Justin McMaster will return to Wake and likely start on the right wing, but he only played 30 minutes in the fall after a knee injury last season, while Aristotle Zarris, who started at left wing in 2019 until he suffered a knee injury, didn’t touch the field in the fall. Chase Oliver and Colin Thomas sit behind them, both freshman with minimal collegiate experience but have shown flashes of great talent. The attacking midfield role may also be up in the air, with Wake now having Nicolas Mancilla, Oscar Sears, and Ryan Fessler fighting for the spot that Jake Swallen occupied for most of the fall.

The Deacons do still have stability in several key positions, however. Although they are somewhat thin at center back, the partnership of Nico Benalcazar and breakout freshman Garrison Tubbs is rock solid and looks like it will bolster the Deacon defense for at least another couple of years. The Deacs also have an embarrassment of riches at both fullback positions, with Holland Rula and freshman Jahlane Forbes being the two options on the left, while the three freshman on the right, Bo Cummins, Hosei Kijima, and Cristian Escribano, all look to be great options, with Escribano having a particularly strong fall window. The Deacs are also spoiled up front, with the group of team leader in goals Kyle Holcomb, David Wrona (who has 3 goals of his own), and Julian Kennedy representing a solid center forward group.

Conclusion

The Demon Deacons sit in an interesting spot for the spring season, with their success mainly hinging on the need for players that didn’t play in the fall season to step up and fill the roles vacated by some of the stars that left the program in the last couple of months. The burden will also be on breakout stars like Omar Hernandez, Garrison Tubbs, Nico Benalcazar, and Cristian Escribano to keep putting in the same quality of performance that they did in the fall. This spring season will be an entirely new one for the Deacs, and March 1st will be our first opportunity to see where this team goes from here.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Everyone be sure to welcome Chris to the team and support his awesome soccer coverage! Much love.

—SF