#24 VCU Men's Soccer 2013 Preview

VCU Rams

Overall Rank: #24
Conference Rank: #2 Atlantic 10
#24 VCU Men's Soccer 2013 Preview
Virginia Commonwealth Team Page


After three years under Coach Dave Giffard, VCU burst onto the national scene. It has been a pretty quick building job by Coach Giffard and now it is time for the Rams to prove that they can sustain that success and become a consistent participant in the NCAA Tournament. The tournament appearance itself was disappointing as the Rams were upset by Syracuse in their opener, but they will be back.

2012 Record: 12-4-5, 6-1-2
2012 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Dave Giffard

The strength of the Rams will likely be in the midfield where Romena Bowie, Nate Shiffman and Mario Herrera Meraz are back to lead the way. Bowie has been a starter for the better part of three seasons and his athleticism helps VCU on both sides of the pitch. Bowie is not going to score or even tally too many assists, but he sparks the offense. The man that gets the ball to Bowie is often Shiffman. Shiffman is the man in the middle of the field who distributes out to Bowie and Meraz. Meraz had a breakout season in 2012, netting six goals and leading the Rams with eight assists. With some newcomers coming in, including redshirt freshman Dakota Barnathan and DePaul transfer Ray De Leon, Coach Giffard has plenty of depth and talent in the middle. The back is not bad either thanks to the return of keeper Andrew Wells and defenders Dennis Castillo, Assane Keita and Juan Monge Solano. Wells has been around the program for a long time, but saw his first consistent starting duty in 2012. That year of experience will help the 6-1 goalie be more productive in 2013.

Before heading to the MLS early, Jason Johnson scored 13 goals and added six assists during his junior campaign. That is some major production that needs to be replaced. Johnson, who was drafted 13th overall by the Houston Dynamo, was a dynamic scoring threat who took over a quarter of all of VCU’s shots. Meraz will have to remain involved in the attack and look to shoot more often. Fellow midfielder Devon Fisher, who could also move up top, is in the same boat. He did net six goals as a freshman, so the potential is there. Kharlton Belmar and Jose Manel are the other returning options, but expecting anybody to come close to Johnson’s numbers is asking too much.

Final Projection:
However, as a group, Johnson is replaceable. The opposing defense may not have to worry about an individual taking over the game like Johnson would often do, but the offense is capable of scoring just as many goals as they did in 2012. The midfield will create plenty of quality opportunities for the strikers and sometimes all they will have to do is slot into the back of the net. This will be an interesting season for the VCU. The schedule is absolutely brutal and includes non-conference matches against Maryland, Akron, Wake Forest, Virginia and Indiana. They will have opportunities to make a big splash on the national level, but they could also lose all those contests quite easily and be playing catch-up throughout A-10 play.

Projected Postseason: NCAA

Returning Leaders:
Goals: Dennis Castillo, Sophomore, D, 6; Devon Fisher, Sophomore, M, 6; Mario Herrera Meraz, Junior, M, 6
Assists: Mario Herrera Meraz, Junior, M, 8
Shots: Devon Fisher, Sophomore, M, 54
Saves: Andrew Wells, Senior, GK, 62


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