- Sidney Krandall/Daily
By Alejandro Zúñiga, Daily Sports Writer
Published May 8, 2013
With the scheduled addition of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014, the Big Ten will become one of the strongest men’s soccer conferences in the country. On Wednesday, Michigan reaped the benefits as coach Chaka Daley officially announced 11 players who will join the Wolverines this fall.
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Michigan signed midfielder Tyler Anderson, defender Lars Eckenrode, forward Ali Jawad, midfielder Michael Kapitula, goalkeeper Grant Mattia, midfielder Matt Miazga, defender Andre Morris, midfielder Brett Nason, forward George Tsirukis and defender Rylee Woods. Four of the signees rank in the 2013 IMG Academy 150, which is more than any other team in the Big Ten, and is good for TopDrawerSoccer.com’s sixth-best recruiting class in the nation.
“Championship culture is what it’s all about to me,” Daley said. “We clearly expressed and demonstrated that to our 11 newcomers, and they all wanted to be a part of our growth.”
The Wolverines also added junior Marcos Ugarte, a midfielder who played under Daley at Providence in 2011. Under the NCAA’s one-time transfer exception, he will be eligible to play immediately. Daley explained that his positive relationship with Ugarte contributed to his decision to transfer to Michigan.
“It’s a relationship thing for sure,” Daley said. “The other thing that’s great is that he gets the chance to get a Michigan education, which is a win-win for him.”
The Big Ten had seven schools with men’s soccer programs in 2012 and sent four to the NCAA Tournament. Indiana — which finished fourth in conference play — won the national championship. But the addition of Rutgers and Maryland will turn the Big Ten into a soccer powerhouse, which helped Daley woo recruits.
“The caliber of the league is going up,” Daley said. “These kids are competitive, right? They want to compete against the best, they want to create their own identity and they want to leave a legacy.”
The Terrapins won the ACC in 2012 for the third time in five seasons and made the national semifinals. And, like the Wolverines, the Scarlet Knights are a program on the rise, though they just missed out on an NCAA Tournament berth last year.
In its first year under Daley, Michigan followed a disappointing non-conference campaign with an upset of Indiana, in addition to appearances in the Big Ten Tournament final and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Despite graduating five seniors, the Wolverines have plenty of talent to complement the incoming freshman class. Fabio Pereira, the team’s offensive MVP in 2011 and leading scorer last year, returns for his senior season, and redshirt junior, All-Big Ten Tournament Team goalkeeper Adam Grinwis will anchor a retooling defense.
Daley said that “four or five” of the 11 newcomers could see extensive playing time this fall. Michigan’s needs remain in the back line, where Daley will have to replace the loss of center-backs Brian Klemczak and Kofi Opare — who was drafted by Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy.
Eight members of the highly-touted incoming class are midfielders or defenders, and Daley expects them to foster the expectation of national prominence in Ann Arbor. After participating in the NCAA Tournament just three times in the past eight years, making consecutive appearances for the second time in program history would be a fine place to start.