Share this article

print logo

BN Soccer's Big 4 Best XI

Picking a best XI from Western New York's four NCAA Division I schools is by no means an easy task, but it's worth doing to recognize the achievements of college soccer players and to praise the players who, by examining a simple box score, would not necessarily stick out. (In this case, "best" means most valuable and not "most points" or "most clean sheets.)

Let's meet them:

GOALKEEPER: Andrew Coughlin, Canisius, senior

Even though he’s had a few uncharacteristic blunders in 2015, he’s the Big 4’s best shot-stopper and organizer of his back four. The Syracuse transfer set Canisius single-season school records for shutouts (8) and goals against average (.85) as a junior, and while he’s unlikely to duplicate those stats, his reliability and consistency are two reasons that the Griffs have high hopes for Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. He's further proof that you should never discount a keeper just because he's under six-feet tall.

Pro he’s most like: Dan Kennedy, FC Dallas (MLS)

---------------------

DEFENDER: Alex De Carolis, Canisius, senior

After a tremendous freshman season that landed him on the MAAC All-Rookie Team, De Carolis had mediocre sophomore and junior seasons, but early signs from his final campaign are promising. The marauding left back’s two assists against UMass Lowell defend this resurgence, and given the Griffs’ recent troubles on offense, De Carolis’ contributions going forward become even more crucial.

Pro he’s most like: Marcelo, Real Madrid

--------------------

DEFENDER: Fox Slotemaker, UB, sophomore

Fox Slotemaker, No. 5 for UB, rises to win a header against Canisius. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Fox Slotemaker, No. 5 for UB, rises to win a header against Canisius. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

One of four underclassmen in the Big 4 Best XI, Slotemaker is a big, smart center back who dominates in the air at both ends for Stu Riddle’s program. His distribution and consistency still need some work, but there’s a strong chance he’ll be an All-MAC selection before the end of his career.

Pro he’s most like: Vincent Kompany, Manchester City

--------------------

DEFENDER: Thomas Teupen, Canisius, junior

Canisius’ Teupen, the Griffs’ lone All-MAAC preseason pick, is similar to Slotemaker in his gifts, but the German may boast even more of a bite to his game. An injury has temporarily derailed his junior season, but when healthy, the 6’4 destroyer forces opponents to think twice before attacking the middle of the Canisius defense.

Pro he’s most like: Ashley Williams, Swansea

--------------------

DEFENDER: Daniel Cramarossa, UB, junior

Daniel Cramarossa, No. 3 for UB, is a small, skillful player who can slot in at several different positions. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Daniel Cramarossa, No. 3 for UB, is a small, skillful player who can slot in at several different positions. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Cramarossa’s sublime technical ability gave UB head coach Stu Riddle the confidence to shift him from left back to holding midfield, where “Cram” has covered a ton of ground, broken up attacks and repeatedly shown top-level change of direction with the ball at his feet. He’ll only get better in his new role as he continues to acclimate.

Pro he’s most like: Morgan Schneiderlin, Manchester United

--------------------

MIDFIELDER: Russell Cicerone, UB, junior

The dynamic winger has the greatest likelihood of reaching Major League Soccer, the U.S.’s highest level, than any other Big 4 men’s player. The talisman blends tremendous quickness, flair rarely seen in Western New York soccer and an unwavering confidence to beat defenders with the ball at his feet. His clinical finishing, however, is the trait that sets him apart -- like this the viral missile from midfield in 2014. Immediately recognizable because of his striking pink shoes, Cicerone attracts double and triple teams from opponents, who essentially game-plan around him.

Pro he’s most like: Eden Hazard, Chelsea

---------------------

MIDFIELDER: Nico Baudo, Canisius, senior

Italian midfielder Nico Baudo is an important piece for Canisius. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Italian midfielder Nico Baudo is an important piece for Canisius. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Baudo came to Canisius with massive expectations; he’d made the roster for Italy, his home nation, in the U-18 World Cup, and outclassed the competition in his freshman year at Nyack College. He didn’t skip much of a beat for the Griffs, finishing in the team’s top three in scoring the last two years despite playing a holding midfield role. A diminutive, feisty two-way player who prefers the ball at his feet, Baudo has been pushed higher up the pitch for his senior season. How quickly he adjusts could determine how far the Griffs go in Disney.

Pro he’s similar to: Santi Cazorla, Arsenal

--------------------

MIDFIELDER: Kieran Toland, St. Bonaventure, sophomore

Kieran Toland is the lone St. Bonaventure player to make the Big 4 Best XI. (SBU Athletics)

Kieran Toland is the lone St. Bonaventure player to make the Big 4 Best XI. (SBU Athletics)

Toland made his presence felt immediately in 2015, striking twice against NJIT in the season opener, capped by an overtime winner that led to this breathtaking picture above, courtesy of Bonaventure Athletics. He’s more Marco Etcheverry than he is Clint Dempsey -- in other words, his superb technical ability and vision trump middle-of-the-road athleticism, and he’s more easily shut down than a player like Cicerone. Still, regular moments of brilliant footwork and distribution remind fans that Toland is a special player on a bad team.

Pro he’s most like: Steven Gerrard, Los Angeles Galaxy

-------------------

MIDFIELDER: Mo Kretschmer, Canisius, sophomore

Mo Kretschmer, left, does a lot of the dirty work for Canisius from his holding midfield role. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Mo Kretschmer, left, does a lot of the dirty work for Canisius from his holding midfield role. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Teupen’s countryman Kretschmer is the quintessential holding midfielder -- Barcelona’s Sergei Busquets is an apt comparison of style. Tidy, if not especially flashy, in his possession and distribution, the sophomore connects the defense and the midfield with aplomb, but also boasts enough versatility to drop in for teammates at other positions in a pinch. He doesn’t show much of an inclination to get forward, but the Griffins have enough players with that mindset.

Pro he’s most like: Sergio Busquets, Barcelona

---------------------

STRIKER: Andrew Ferguson, Niagara, senior

Andrew Ferguson, right, is one of the elder statesmen on the young Niagara Purple Eagles. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Andrew Ferguson, right, is one of the elder statesmen on the young Niagara Purple Eagles. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

The elder Ferguson brother proved his worth to Niagara during his early season absence due to injury, as the Purple Eagles started 0-6 before getting back on track with a pummeling of St. Bonaventure. A deceptive forward with poise and brilliant touch -- plus a decent dose of flair -- Ferguson played two years with the Marshall Thundering Herd before joining his brother, Matthew, at NU. Show up early to a Niagara match to watch the pair juggling in warm-up -- it’s good entertainment.

Pro he’s most like: Memphis, Manchester United

--------------------

STRIKER: Scott Doney, UB, sophomore

Scott Doney, celebrating a goal against rival Canisius, is a 6'5 Kiwi striker for the Bulls. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Scott Doney, celebrating a goal against rival Canisius, is a 6'5 Kiwi striker for the Bulls. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

A transfer from Marshall, Doney joins three of his New Zealand countrymen at UB. He’s already developed a strong rapport with Cicerone, and his work rate and ability to lay the ball off are assets to the Bulls’ attack. Doney is capable in front of goal, too, but he’ll have to monitor his balky ankles.

Pro he's most like: Graziano Pelle, Southampton

--------------------

Honorable mention: Marcus Hanson, UB; Ryan Schroen, Canisius

Email Ben Tsujimoto at btsujimoto@buffnews.com

Story topics: / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

There are no comments - be the first to comment