CAA Men's Soccer Players To Watch: Playmakers Return For 2022 Season
CAA Men's Soccer Players To Watch: Playmakers Return For 2022 Season
The CAA men's soccer season is on the horizon. Play across the league begins Aug. 25, and a few players already have found there way into the spotlight.
The Colonial Athletic Association's men's soccer season is on the horizon. Play across the league begins Aug. 25.
As the teams of the CAA continue to prepare, there are a few players in the conference who have some hype surrounding them prior to the start of play.
A highly competitive conference with plenty of budding stars, exciting goals and entertaining athletes, means the year ahead is sure to be another solid one in the CAA.
Though there certainly is more talent out there than just the names listed below, there are some are catching a little extra attention.
Here's a look at five players to watch this season. The CAA games will be streamed all year on FloFC:
Ryan Carmichael, F, Hofstra
Shocker, the reigning league Golden Boot winner is on this list, but after the 2021 season Carmichael had, it's easy to see why.
The Northern Ireland native was a monster up top for a Hofstra team that made a run all the way to the third round of the NCAA Tournament, scoring 16 times for the Pride - the second-highest number in America - as Carmichael was an easy pick for the All-CAA first team.
Still just a junior, there's serious player-of-the-year potential in Carmichael's bag, considering his main opposition for the honor at striker, Drexel's Chris Donovan, graduated and went on to be selected by the Columbus Crew in the MLS SuperDraft earlier this year.
A constant threat on goal who always seems to pop up at the most convenient of times (he led the CAA in game-winning goals with seven), Carmichael was more often than not the man who gave Hofstra that little boost it needed in its many wins last year and there's no reason not to expect the same for 2022.
Hendrik Hebbeker, F, Sr., Hofstra
The CAA’s Preseason Player of the Year, Hebbeker lit up the scoresheet for the high-flying Pride a year ago, notching nine goals to 11 assists as the German was named a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy Award in the process.
Now, with the pedigree as one of the top returning forwards in America, he could be in line to be the first winner of college soccer’s highest honor from a Long Island school since Dov Markus won the first iteration of the award for the aptly-named Long Island in 1967.
Hebekker is a pest in front of goal who peppered opposing goalkeepers for 26 shots on goal this past season, and started 62 of a possible 72 games in his Hofstra career entering this year. He should be an offensive dynamo once again as the Pride look to make it back to the NCAA Tournament.
He and fellow forward Ryan Carmichael make for one of America’s most dangerous returning forward pairings, so if you’re an opposing coach or center back that sees Hofstra upcoming on the schedule: look out.
Tellez, MF, Northeastern
Tellez dazzled in midfield as the diminutive playmaker. The junior stands at just 5-foot-9 and often pulled the strings on both ends for the Huskies to great avail.
The Floridian found teammates for goals a CAA-best (and second-best nationally) 13 times, being part of a high-scoring attack that ranked second in the league in goals behind Hofstra.
He was instrumental in a big breakout season overall for Northeastern, as the Huskies tallied their most wins in a campaign since 2012, after coming off a winless spring 2021 season.
Now arguably the conference's top returning midfielder, any further step forward in Tellez's game should have him in player-of-the-year conversations, especially if Northeastern finds itself at or near the top of the league table.
Tellez has an eye for goal, as well, scoring six times in the fall 2021 season to finish with a combined 19 assists and goals, the highest number of any non-forward in the CAA.
The Huskies may have had the element of surprise to help them with their efforts to contend last season, but they end up staying title threats, players like Tellez will be the reason they're there.
Jannik Videbaek, D, Elon
One part of the Danish connection on the Phoenix's back line (along with Kasper Lehm) that each won All-CAA second-team honors at season's end, Videbaek has been Elon's ironman for a while. He has led the team in minutes played throughout the past two seasons.
But, Phoenix fans particularly remember him as of late for being the man who was most instrumental in helping Elon pull off the near-upset over Hofstra in last season's CAA Tournament title match, notching two assists, despite his position on the field, as the Phoenix narrowly missed out on the NCAA Tournament (by a 3-2 scoreline).
A steady presence at the back, Videbaek, now a senior, will try and help lead Elon back to the national postseason for the first time since 2015 after his team was so close a year ago.
There still are some department-wide issues to fix on defense - Elon let opponents score 26 times in 19 games, an average rate in the bottom half of the league - but fewer players in CAA are more suited to helping their teams find some stability than the great Dane.
Wessel Speel, GK, Hofstra
Hofstra's high-octane attack from last season has got its deserved plaudits, but the Pride's elite shot-stopper helped make sure the team's goal scorers didn't have to do extra work.
A towering presence for opposing strikers to try and score past at 6-foot-7, the junior from The Netherlands recorded nine shutouts last season and had a goals against average of .863. Both marks were No. 1 in the CAA.
Simply put, Hofstra wouldn't have been the dynamo it was in 2021 without him and his All-CAA first-team-quality play. With his return for 2022, the Pride should have a safe pair of hands minding their goal.
A former youth product for top-flight club FC Utrecht back in his native country, Speel unquestionably is the top returner in the league at goalie and should be a key piece if Hofstra is to repeat (or better) its successes from last year.
Diba Nwegbo, F, William & Mary
Nwegbo didn't set the CAA alight last season, notching just four goals and four assists, but the All-CAA second-team pick and Georgia native had an impact on the pitch that earned him praise, despite the Tribe's paltry 7-7 record.
The 5-foot-11 senior scored the fastest goal in CAA history against Hofstra (of all teams) during a September game, notching on the scoresheet just 12 seconds after kickoff, and combined with midfielder Alexander Levengood to be the focal points of the William & Mary offense as they constantly peppered opposing goalkeepers with shot attempts.
The biggest reason Nwegbo is a name to watch out for this season is his apparent offseason improvement. Signing to play for Vermont Green FC in USL League Two this summer, Nwegbo made mincemeat of his competition in the semi-pro division by notching nine goals in 10 regular-season games.
If that production translates back to the college ranks, Nwegbo could find himself in top-scorer territory as a feared No. 9 for the Tribe.
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- Replay: Quinnipiac vs Northeastern | Sep 6 @ 6 PM
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