At the end of this season the Tar Heels lost the national quarterfinal, an inspiring senior class, and the Uber-talented Sophomore Midfielder Mikey Lopez. Lopez was the ACC freshman of the year in his first season, and he’d go on to play practically every minute last season in the key holding role for the Heels. His work rate and uncompromising tackling afforded the defense cover and his ability on the ball helped the Tar Heels keep possession and break down defenses. He was the kind of swing player whose dynamic play could buy the Heels a close game. But he’s gone, off to bigger and better things in the MLS.
Replacing Lopez is a seemingly impossible task, as players in his role are rare and often either limited offensively or defensively. But say nothing of impossibility to Carlos Somoano. While it’s always dangerous to say that anyone could replace The Mikey Lopez, I’m going out on a limb to say that 2013 recruit Colton Storm will be able to step into Lopez’s shoes and run the Tar Heel Midfield like a pro.
Storm certainly has the pedigree. He spent a year in residence with the U-17 National Team, a standout in a group composed of the best young players in America. He’s also ranked as high as 5th in the ESPNU soccer recruit rankings, so to say that nabbing Storm as a junior was a recruiting coup is an understatement. He lent his ear to Virginia, Akron, Wake Forest, and Georgetown, but all it took was a trip to Chapel Hill to convince him to make UNC his home. (Being the national champions at the time probably also helped)
Colton is a box to box midfielder, with a specialty for playing the holding role. Considering that the Tar Heel system is based on having this type of player in the midfield to free up attacking virtuosos of the make of Danny Garcia or Enzo Martinez, his contribution is invaluable. But to say that he’ll be a holding midfielder playing box to box is to say that while he’s a holding midfielder, but he’s simply too skilled on both sides of the ball to keep away from the attack. Remind us of anyone?
He should fire in the team right away. Right off the bat fans can get behind him for his dynamic play, but what we’ll likely love most will be his work rate on and off the ball. Some holding midfielders try to take the Gary Neville approach and substitute tactical acumen for pace and stamina. That’s not Colton Storm. He’ll wear out more socks than anyone in the squad next year, and we can expect to see him haring across the field to support the attack or steal the ball.
Storm has a place in the starting 11 right off the bat, and he’s one of the few players in America who can handle such responsibility as a freshman. Oh yeah, he also has a seriously cool name. Just sayin’.