Much of our Men's Soccer talk on this site over the last year has centered around the promising glut of young talent that head coach Stu Riddle has assembled in his short time at UB. Russell Cicerone and the other Bulls who followed Riddle to Buffalo have formed the core of the team, and Buffalo is returning tons of experience to a side that has graduated only five seniors total over the last two years.
Even in 2015, UB features only three seniors. But it's likely that all three will play key roles in the team's success, and while you're more likely to know the names Marcus Hanson and Nicolay Netskar, midfielder Dylan Cope could have just as much of an impact.
More on Dylan Cope
More on Dylan Cope
A transfer from Iona, Cope only joined last season, and appeared in all but one of UB's matches, though he started only eight. I wish that I had film to demonstrate, but I was generally impressed with Dylan's play on the ball and work to help Buffalo keep and build possession; while the young defense improved over the course of the year, and Russell Cicerone and Hanson provided plenty of scoring pop up front, UB's midfield struggled and frequently gave opponents lots of space to work within. Memorably, Cope's insertion turned the tide in a too-little-too-late effort against Canisius, and he earned a start in UB's next game, a victory over Detroit that was tactically one of the season's best.
Unlike Cicerone, Cope is unlikely to create scoring chances on his own. Generally in 2014 he would replace fellow midfielders such as Kristian Lee-Him or Braden Culver when subbing in, but would be replaced by more attacking-minded players such as Nicolai Berry or Steven Stryker when subbing out, usually as UB looked for a goal while behind or in a tight game.
There's reason to believe Dylan will be a much more regular part of the lineup in 2015, and not just because he's another year older. While UB's forward corps is loaded with Cicerone, Hanson, Scott Doney, and even Netskar and Stryker, there aren't many midfielders to fill out the pitch. Lee-Him has graduated, and Berry, Abdulla Al-Kalisy, and both Norman brothers have left the program. Coach Riddle likes to progressively build possession up from the very back of his team's formation, and Dylan's security with the ball could go a long way for a team that was at times bullied in the midfield last year.
Cicerone and Ryan Pereira will certainly get plenty of time, but Cope should also see more opportunities in the mix with Culver and Braden Scales. Even if he doesn't slot into a more regular starting role, I fully expect to see him and his responsible play in nearly every game once again this season.