Home MLS More MLS Despite being depleted by Superdraft, Akron coach vows his team will be back in 2011-2012

Despite being depleted by Superdraft, Akron coach vows his team will be back in 2011-2012

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With seven members of his national championship side off to the pro ranks, coach Caleb Porter has to replenish the cupboards at the University of Akron. What Porter has established in his five years has helped the cause.

“We’re always going to have to work hard,” Porter says of recruiting. “Everybody wants those (top recruits) guys and we’re going to have to work to get them. I think our biggest sell right now is not so much that we’ve won but it’s the way we play. The way we play helps to develop players for the next level.

“We’re going to take soccer players. I’m looking for a certain type of guy that fits our style, our system. In every role, there’s something different that I’m looking for. I don’t care where they’re from, I want guys that are soccer players that are passionate about the game. Soccer junkies, guys that have it in their blood.”

Porter takes a multi-pronged approach to recruiting. He wants to land the best American high school kids available but has also utilized transfers and young international players (Steve Zakuani of the Seattle Sounders, who was once an Arsenal youth product, being a prime example), to round out the roster. To reload for 2011, he will rely on a strong recruiting class, which he feels has some of the nation’s top prospects, as well as some foreign talent. But most importantly, Porter expects some of his current student-athletes to step in seamlessly for the group drafted into MLS, players like junior midfielder Ben Speas, senior midfielder Michael Balogun and sophomore mid Reinaldo Brenes from San Jose, Costa Rica.

Perry Kitchen was taken No. 3 in the MLS Superdraft by D.C. United. But Zips coach Caleb Porter believes his team will contend in 2011-12 despite losing most of its starting XI to MLS. ERNIE ARANYOSI PHOTO
Perry Kitchen was taken No. 3 in the MLS Superdraft by D.C. United. But Zips coach Caleb Porter believes his team will contend in 2011-12 despite losing most of its starting XI to MLS. ERNIE ARANYOSI PHOTO

The Zips may not be as talented recent editions, some of which were considered among the greatest sides in NCAA history, but Porter says he’s “not ready to throw in the towel and say we won’t get back there.”

One potential challenge to Akron and all NCAA programs is the evolution of MLS academies. The professional teams in North America are beginning to implement the overseas model to try and nurture talent from an early age, a step that could ultimately mean fewer players going to college.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like 10 years from now but all I know is that right now, college soccer is a very relevant and necessary step in the process. Top programs are still producing players and cultivating talent for the next level.

“My job as a college coach is to prove that kids that aren’t ready to go pro right away can go into college and get better and move on. College soccer, if we do it right, will still be a breeding ground for the next level. Maybe it’s as simple as these kids will move on and be fans of the game and investors of the game.”

“I feel like we have a major vehicle here with what we’ve done to help grow the sport.”

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