With the end of the college soccer season, two institutions have released their All-American honors lists. Among those honored by being identified in the four All-America teams are 4 Tar Heels. Mikey Lopez and Boyd Okwuonu were senior All-Americans, with Top Drawer naming Lopez to their first team and Okwuonu to the second while NSCAA named Okwuonu to the second team and Lopez to the third. Jonathan Campbell and Danny Garcia were all freshmen, with Top Drawer listing Garcia as a first teamer and Campbell as a second teamer. The NCAA list has yet to be released, so in the end there may be more Tar Heels on the All-American teams.
This is a suitable haul for the Heels considering the performances this season, and while certain players may feel hard done by not to be named, there can be no argument that the four Tar Heels honored are fully deserving of their title.
Mikey Lopez has for two years embodied the jack of all trades midfielder. A hardnosed player ahead of the defense and a dynamic attacker behind the forwards, he had only 2 goals and an assist this year (down from his 3 goals and 4 assists a year ago), but the 2011 ACC Freshman of the Year and veteran of the USMNT U-20 team was still good worth for his minutes. He showed against Clemson that he could turn a game on its head at will, scoring his only goal this year but netting an absolute cracker. He had 21 starts on the season, behind only the back line and Scott Goodwin.
Boyd Okwuonu was one of the five players who had more starts than Lopez. The center back was a staple of the top defense in the land, and he has lived up to his blue chip billing coming into college. Clinical in the challenge and possessed of supreme concentration, Okwuonu is gifted with a definite comfort on the ball, an invaluable trait among defenders and a vital skill for a defender in the Tar Heels’ formation.
After winning the national championship, UNC lost center back Matt Hedges to the MLS, where he has proven to be a massive prospect with an impressive rookie campaign. There may have been some concern at the start of the season about replacing an NCAA All-American with a freshman, but Jonathan Campbell has filled in for Hedges this year without a hitch. He may even be as talented as his predecessor, and along with Okwuonu he made a central defense to be feared. I wrote on several occasions as to the futility of putting crosses into the Carolina box, and it was his and Boyd Okwuonu’s play which made this possible. He even chipped into the attack with a goal and an assist as a rookie.
Danny Garcia is a player whom fans and critics (myself included) love to love. Like Campbell, Garcia has filled in as a freshman for a departed All-American, in this case Enzo Martinez. Like Campbell, Garcia has proven himself an able replacement. Garcia is a player who, though a prolific scorer at the youth level, has shown his true talent to be making goals with his classy passes and his ability to dribble the ball. It seems that no matter what the situation, he is never likely to lose the ball, and his runs during his rookie year betrayed the type of skill and poise that can’t be taught.
But also notable are the exclusions from the All-America teams. Just as a case could be made for Okwuonu and Campbell, the same could be made for the rest of the Tar Heel back line. Jordans Gafa and Mcrary were both rock solid all year, and both made some brilliant attacks from the back. Jordan Gafa’s golazo was the difference maker in the Duke victory, and McCrary played a season of silky perfection, locking down the flank whilst beating men off the dribble and making some lovely crosses into the box.
Additionally, the clean sheet record of Scott Goodwin should have guaranteed him a place. He made one mistake all season, and was the hero of two knockout stage PK shootouts. He is the most successful keeper in UNC history, and he was team captain for much of the year. We can only hope that the senior can cap off what has already been a glittering college career with an NCAA All-American nod.