I have two broken record moments when it comes to Men's Soccer this year: The defense has a ton of experience and improved plenty over last season, and there's going to be a real crunch in the lineup trying to fit UB's attacking depth onto the field.
There's 21 student-athletes on the roster this year, and the team is deep enough across the board that I think there's only three or four players that have no chance whatsoever at starting the season opener in 18 days against Seton Hill. As a result, even though I've run out of time on the individual player previews, even the small group covered in this single post contains names that will play a big role this season.
The biggest name missing from the earlier series is defenseman David Enstrom, who quietly started in all but one game last year and scored one of the Bulls' most thrilling goals on the season - an 89th-minute equalizer against Bryant just one minute after the Bulldogs had take a late lead. Though that goal was overshadowed later in the game, it's a fitting example of Enstrom's quiet seasonlong effectiveness in starting the most games of any of UB's defenders. At 6-2 and 176 pounds he joins Fox Slotemaker as the largest Bulls defenders, and is most likely to catch your eye when using his height to defend on crosses and corner kicks.
Among midfielders, I'd expect at least one, maybe two, of Ryan Pereira, Braden Culver, and Braden Scales to start regularly in 2015. UB has a number of attacking options, and while it's likely that some forward types could play lower in the formation, there's still always a need for truer midfielders who can challenge for loose balls and pass well.
Culver is the most likely, having started 10 of his 13 games in 2014. I haven't written much about him in the past, but last year he most frequently played a somewhat central, somewhat low-lying defensive role in the midfield, though he did score the season's first goal against San Diego. Pereira saw action in 15 games, starting nine, and was a little more offensively-minded than Culver even though he finished with no goals. Barring injury, I'd expect him to see minutes in every game in 2015. Scales played in only a few matches, none of them against conference competition.
Behind Cameron Hogg and Joseph Kuta, UB's third goalie is Ryan O'Mara. The junior from the Syracuse era appeared in a single game as a freshman, for only 10 minutes, and has not played since. I wish I had more to say there.
Also new to the squad is assistant coach Davie Cunningham, a onetime teammate of Stu Riddle who comes to UB after a successful four-year run turning around D-II Lake Erie college. I believe right now UB has one fewer coach on staff than last year, as both Ben Frederickson and Kevin Brenner are no longer around, so it's probably good that the fellow coming in has head coaching experience.
With this, we've hit every individual name on the team this summer. Men's Soccer's full preview day this week will be Tuesday. Go Bulls