For Men's Soccer, 2014 saw a trio of freshman step in as regular contributors for UB. Most notably, Fox Slotemaker and David Enstrom stepped into the backline and each started a grand majority of the team's matches, and while Abdulla Al-Kalisy couldn't replicate his preseason flair (nor remain with the squad into 2015), he started nine matches and played in 14 as part of the UB attack.
In 2015 the substantial young core of Buffalo's team is growing into its own, and I think it less likely that any freshman make a similar impact this year - though the newbies of the transfer variety could make a huge impact - especially since there's only three true freshmen joining the squad as Riddle's rebuilding project comes to fruition.
It's a crowded lineup this year; I think 15 Bulls have a strong case to start the season opener (14 started at least half of UB's matches last season), and the odds of an impact freshman are lower. But should any of them see the field, it's important to be acquainted.
Pablo Fernandez-Paniagua Juez
International talents are nothing new for Riddle's Bulls, from the requisite Ontarians, to the coach's countrymen from New Zealand, but in Pablo (I like to call him PFPJ) UB's got something new and shiny for the program.
Before coming to Buffalo, Pablo had spent seven years in Real Madrid's youth academies and development program, and is the first MAC player to ever hail from the storied organization. He's diminutive - Real Madrid lists him at 5-9, 138 pounds; UB at 5-8, 145 - which concerns me, but in the brief clips below, you can see that he's fast and strong on the ball:
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I think Pablo stands the best chance among the freshman of contributing this year, though I don't think he'll frequently start. UB is listing him as a forward, but Real Madrid had him as a midfielder on the wing, which you can see in the video. Given both his own technical skills and speed, and the weak points of UB's attack last year, which often resorted to ambitious long balls aimed at Marcus Hanson, I think he could be of real value creating space and passing lanes in the midfield and working the ball up the wings.
The big question for Pablo is the same as with many of UB's midfielders and newcomers: Is there room for him to get regular time on the field?
As much as we talk about the possible recruiting advantages of UB starting up a hockey or lacrosse program, New York State high school soccer is pretty good, and Aspenleiter has experienced the best the state has to offer in some deep runs towards a championship, and was named Most Valuable Player of the state tournament his junior year, when Pittsford-Mendon advanced to the final.
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Coach Riddle's comments from Aspenleiter's commitment praise his ability to create out of the midfield, and you can see that in his highlight, where Ryan has a nose for the ball and keeping it by working it into space.
I think he's far less likely than PFPJ to crack the lineup regularly, especially since Russell Cicerone's dynamism kind of demands a central role in the midfield, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a bit of him. One of the few spots hit by graduation was UB's already-spotty midfield, and maybe Aspenleiter's inclination to the middle of the field makes him a good replacement for Kristian Lee-Him's five starts and 15 appearances in 2014.
The last of our group yet again brings some serious technical ability, though I also think he's least likely among the three to see time in 2015. Warner is a local kid who spent time at Starpoint before heading to the fabled Shattuck-St. Mary's program for a few years. He's another reinforcement for the midfield, but is more defensive-minded than Pablo and Ryan. There's less room for such a player to break into a role this season, but in the future Daniel could be the poster boy for Riddle's desired style: a tough, hard-nosed worker who can gain the ball in the defensive third and maintain possession for a gradual buildup from the back rather than a desperation long pass and a 50/50 chance at possession.