Shattuck-St. Mary’s, S-SM, was one of the founding clubs in USSDA. For a while S-SM was the only true Academy in USSDA and has since been joined by Real Salt Lake (Grande Sports), and future Academies Philadelphia Union as well as St. Benedicts/PDA. Arguments can be made that S-SM’s true Academy setting could be either positive or negative. However, S-SM has dedicated the resources to make the soccer program not only relevant but thrive in the competitive league.
Many clubs dedicate similar resources, what makes S-SM so different? Look no further than the tremendous leadership S-SM employs that continue to separate itself apart. Coaches Tim Carter, Robert Moullin, Tim Bohnenkamp and Stephen Cornish form one of the finest coaching staffs in all of USSDA. The staff are able to recruit talent, both nationally and internationally, to Minnesota to train year round, and develop their game. S-SM continues to put stars into college soccer, a number of players landing on all-conference squads, living up to the school’s motto ‘Center of Excellence.’
Long-time stalwarts Michael Bajza (’94), Steve Eneme (’95), Robby Sagal (’95), Andrew Kendall-Moullin (’94) and Eddosa Muhammed (’94) graduate into D1 school with NC State, Santa Clara, Temple, SIU-E and UW-GB respectively. US Futsal National Teamer and Creighton University commit Lucas Stauffer (’95) had plans to graduating and spending a year with Sporting Kansas City, yet an offer from Danish Football was too much to pass up. The technical-wizard Stauffer joined up with Vejle Boldklub in a one year deal to play with their U19 squad. Stauffer has reportedly shown well and might train with first team soon.
Despite these losses S-SM has the makings to be one of the strongest teams in the Academies storied tradition. Creighton University commit Ricardo Lopez-Espin (’95) has scored over 10 goals for the S-SM U18 squad over the last two years. Lopez-Espin has been playing at the U18 ever since he was 15. He is a commanding presence in front of goal yet possess all technical skills of a creative midfielder, something not seen with players of his physique. Lopez-Espin will again be asked to lead the front line and should have his most successful season ever.
Lopez-Espin will be joined by dynamic winger and former Cameroon U17 player Lesley Nchanji. Nchanji joined S-SM late last season yet still found a way to bag 14 goals. In last season USSDA U18 Final match versus New York Red Bulls, Nchanji was arguably one of the most dangerous players on the pitch, playing two years his elder. Nchanji will also have New Zealand attacker Abdulla Al-Kalisy to run alongside. NC State commit Izzy Evans (’95) joins up with S-SM to bolster the attack. Akeem Ward (’96) moves onto the U18 roster and will likely see major minutes in the midfield and attack. The diminutive play-maker from Virginia has one of the quicker football-brains at this level.
Going forward should not be an issue for S-SM, and much of the teams success will come down to how the defense holds up. Geoffrey Dee (’95) will be key to linking the defense to offense. Dee remains one of the more underrated players in the nation. Cole Poppen (’96) is a consistent presence. Panama U17 defender Francisco Narbon (’95) will anchor the back-line in front of either last years #1, Canadian Joseph Melong or ultra-talented 6’3” Marcel DaSilva (’96).
The U16s lose top scorer Akeem Ward to the U18s but do bring in a number of talented youngster as only S-SM could. Bryan Missana (’97) returns to the U16s and will likely take over the creative duties. Former Florida stud Uyiosa Omorogbe (’97) joins up with S-SM and could likely lead the team in scoring. The U16 defense will be buoyed by the return of Polish-American David Pedowski (’97) and Kevin Meinecke (’97). Both were consistent starts last season. Pedowski’s quality play earned him a call-up to a Polish youth team last season. United Arab Emerites’ Karim Sawaf joins up as does young Anthony Huerta-Apanco (’99). Look for both to make an impact.
The most important player for the U16s will undoubtedly be Luke Haakenson (’97). Haakenson commands the pitch and is one of the top ’97s in USSDA play. He spent time with Real Madrid apart of the Adidas Select program this summer. Haakenson should be in line for US youth camps over this season. Haakenson’s also had real interest from a number of English clubs including West Ham, Fulham, Bolton, Wigan, Ipswich and Reading.
Academy Star: Ricardo Lopez-Espin (’95)
Academy Talisman: Geoffrey Dee (’95)
Academy Prospect: Luke Haakenson (’97)