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Gamecock Men's Soccer Season Preview
Men's Soccer  . 

Gamecock Men's Soccer Season Preview

Aug. 25, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The University of South Carolina men’s soccer team begins its 2016 campaign under the leadership of longtime head coach Mark Berson, who is joined on the sidelines by assistant coaches Spencer Lewis and Joey Worthen. The Gamecocks enter the year ranked in three major polls, including at the No. 24 spot in the NSCAA Top 25 Poll, No. 25 in the Preseason Poll and No. 21 in the CollegeSoccerNews Preseason National Poll.

The Gamecocks look to build on last season’s undefeated home schedule with a mixture of new and returning players. Carolina advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round last fall.

The solid foundation of returning players begins in goal with senior netminder Marco Velez and junior William Pyle anchoring the position. Velez has started 38 matches during his career at Carolina and was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team during his rookie campaign. Pyle started the last 16 matches of the 2016 season, boasting a 0.96 goals against average, the lowest since Jimmy Maurer’s 0.80 in 2008. Craig Duggan and Jeffrey Lu both have done very well during preseason camp and will be pushing Pyle and Velez for the top two spots.

“We have two goalkeepers that have really stepped ahead of the others and that’s in Marco Velez and William Pyle. They’ve both really done a great job, both last year and in preseason.” said Berson of the duo.

“We really have a lot of confidence in both of them. Will last year played great during the course of the year but Marco all last year was right there. This year they’ve both been very good in preseason. So in our goalkeeping situation we’re very lucky at this point. We have a lot of confidence in both of them.”

The defensive line holds three returning starters in senior Ive Burnett and sophomores Peyton Ericson and Torgeir Nyboe with a transfer, junior Christoffer Wallander Ianev joining the line. Both sophomores were named to the 2015 Conference USA All-Freshman Team last fall, while Burnett was named Third-Team All-Conference USA and earned a spot on the CoSIDA Academic All-District 4 team. Evan Collins is a freshman that is still adapting to the college game, but Berson and his staff hope he can provide depth at the center back or outside back positions.

“In the back, Peyton Ericson and Torgeir Nyboe have been very solid at center back. Christoffer Wallander Ianev and Ive Burnett on the wide positions have been very good,” commented Berson. “Ianev transferred here from Maryland and played all spring, so he’s very comfortable with the way we play. Burnett has played virtually every minute of every game since he has been here at South Carolina, so he’s a veteran. Matt McManis and Andre Streete have both done very well, so we really feel like we have depth at that position that we can be very confident in.”

The midfield and forward positions will see the Gamecocks utilize a variety of players in different capacities throughout the season. Freshmen Julian Veen Uldal, Keegan Kullby, Campbell Gibson and Luca Mayr will likely see playing time in an offensive capacity. Sophomore midfielder Lee Hogge will also provide depth on the left side.

“At the defensive midfield spot we have Julian Veen Uldal and he has really done well in a short period of time. Also, at that spot, Keegan Kullby has done really well. He’s a freshman from Chicago and he’s picked things up very quickly. Campbell Gibson is another freshman who we’re looking at at a number of positions at midfield.”

Players like seniors Koty Millard, who had five assists last season, Kurtis Turner with 30 shots last fall, and Kevin Walker also with five goals last season create vital goal-scoring threats in the offensive third. Senior Danny Deakin will be at the core of the offense. In his junior season, Deakin started all 21 games and led the Gamecocks with 11 goals. In addition, he was named first-team All-C-USA and garnered First-Team NSCAA All-Southeast Region accolades.

“Danny Deakin is a guy we’re counting on to be a really dynamic force in the attack this year. We’re playing him as a withdrawn forward. He’s very good on the ball and very adept at scoring. He’s a guy that everyone has to be on notice when he’s around the ball,” said Berson. “Kurtis Turner is also at midfield. He’s our engine. He’s the workhorse of the group. He’s a real leader for us out on the field. Koty Millard out on the right and freshman Luca Mayr have both done really well in preseason. Millard last year was really a force for us on the field.”

The depth, experience and versatility in the offensive positions will be a key component to success for the Gamecocks this season.

“Trygve Ellingstad has done really well. He can play for us up top or he can play on the left or he can play on the right. He brings a real physical presence into the upper end of the field. It’s great to have him at full force; last year he had to wait until the end of October to play coming off of an injury. But he’s fit and ready to go. Kevin Walker up front has been very good in preseason and has really looked dangerous for us.

“Also, Bjorn Gudjonsson is coming off of surgery in the spring and he’s been a little slow to find his stride in preseason. But he certainly adds some things,” Berson continued. “Chandler Corley is a guy that has some experience and he has a knack for coming into the game and making things happen. The guys that have also been in there like Spencer Meschter and Ben Davidson have done really well. We have a lot of confidence backing them up.”

The Gamecocks begin the 2016 campaign in Stone Stadium Friday night at 7 p.m., hosting No. 3 Clemson in the season opener. The Gamecocks look to defend a four-match home winning streak against the Tigers.