#15 Michigan State Men's Soccer 2014 Preview

Michigan State Spartans

Overall Rank: #15
#2 Big Ten
#15 Michigan State Men's Soccer 2014 Preview
Michigan State Team Page


Michigan State enjoyed a tremendous amount of success last season. The Spartans made the Elite Eight, the farthest a Michigan State team has gone since 1968, where eventual national champion Notre Dame ended the Spartans run in a 2-1 defeat. Michigan State’s 14 wins set a new school record and the expectations will go up for the East Lansing school this season. Head Coach Damon Rensing brings back seven starters and welcomes in a recruiting class that comes in with high regards, setting the Spartans up to compete not only in the Big Ten, but beyond.

2013 Record: 14-6-3, 3-2-1
2013 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Damon Rensing

Returning Leaders:
Goals: Tim Kreutz, Senior, F/M, 9
Assists: Jay Chapman, Junior, M, 8
Shots: Tim Kreutz, Senior, F/M, 66
Saves: Zach Bennett, Junior, GK, 120

Other Key Returnees: F Adam Montague, M Kyle Rutz, M Fatai Alashe, M Dewey Lewis, M Andrew Herr, D Ryan Keener, D Jerome Cristobal

Key Losses: M Sean Conerty, M Brent McIntosh, D Ryan Thelen, D Kevin Cope

Jay Chapman and Fatai Alashe form one of the best central midfield combos in the Big Ten conference. The duo will be back for their third year starting together and both are coming off solid 2013 seasons. A native of Canada, Chapman led the Spartans and the Big Ten in assists last season with eight, to go along with three goals. Alashe, who plays in a defensive midfield role behind Chapman, scored four goals, which was good for third on the team, and added a pair of assists. They will be key in linking play between the Spartans high scoring forwards and stout defense. First team All-Big Ten members Tim Kreutz and Adam Montague will partner together again ahead of Chapman. Kreutz led the Spartans in points last year with 23, nine goals and five assists, while Montague added five goals and six assists. Both players were in the top five in the Big Ten in points and goals last season and showed the knack for putting the ball in the back of the net when it mattered, as each player scored four game winning goals in 2013. Defensively, Zach Bennett leads the way. The 6-foot-3 goalkeeper is back in goal after putting together one of the best statistical seasons in the country last year. Bennett was third in the NCAA in save percentage, saving nearly 90 percent of the shots he faced, and was 14th in the country with a 0.70 goals against average. Four-year starter, two-time team captain and All-American center back Kevin Cope departs, but his center back partner, Ryan Keener, remains. Also a four-year starter, Keener will help to anchor the backline, which could feature three new faces. Good news for the Spartans though is that one of those new faces is familiar to Keener. Virginia transfer Zach Carroll, who attended the same high school as Keener, enters this season and should pair with Keener at center back. The former U.S. Youth National Team player spent two seasons at Virginia, starting 22 games, ranking second on the Cavaliers in points, ten, and goals, four, as a freshman before seeing his playing time decrease last season. With the addition, Michigan State gets a quick fix at a position of need and will look to repeat last season’s defensive performances, which saw the Spartans tie a program record with 13 shutouts.

Three players who started every game for the Spartans last year: Cope, outside back Ryan Thelen and outside midfielder Brent McIntosh, are gone, as is midfielder Sean Conerty, who appeared in all 23 games, starting 18. While those positions need to be filled this season, they won’t necessarily be weaknesses. Michigan State gets a pair of Big Ten All-Freshman team honorees back and both should see quality playing time. Midfielder Dewey Lewis scored two goals and added three assists while making 22 appearances on the wing, and should slide into a full-time starting role this season. Andrew Herr also returns, but where he plays could be a mystery. A midfielder, Herr filled in at outside back last season and he could see time in either of the positions this season. In the mix in the midfield will be Kyle Rutz and Ben Myers, while Jerome Cristobal could slide into an outside back slot. Rutz saw the most extensive action last year, appearing in 19 games with eight starts and scoring a pair of goals, including the game winner against rival Michigan. Myers and Cristobal both saw their first action as Spartans last season. A Clemson transfer, Myers appeared in 14 games, with three starts in the midfield, while Cristobal made 20 appearances, all off the bench. Those players will face tough competition from a recruiting class that was named one of the 20 best in the country. Midfielder Jason Stacey and defender Brian Alumbaugh join Carroll as transfers who could step in and have immediate impacts. Stacey, a Michigan transfer who was an All-American in high school, figures to enter the equation in the midfield, while Alumbaugh could grab a starting outside back spot after transferring in from LIU-Brooklyn. Of the incoming freshmen, midfielders Ken Krolicki and Michael Marcantognini and defender Jimmy Fiscus have the talent to be in the mix as well. The midfield is crowded, which could make it difficult for Krolicki and Marcantognini to earn playing time, but Fiscus has a great shot at playing time right away. A four star recruit who was ranked in the top 100 high school recruits by Top Drawer Soccer, Fiscus has the skill set to play a key role on the Spartan backline. A wildcard for Michigan State is Josh Barens. A big-time recruit out of high school who started on defense his first two seasons on campus, Barens has been limited to one game over the past two seasons. If he can overcome his injury problems, Barens could be an impact player as an outside back. There are plenty of options for Damon Rensing in these open spots, and if he can find the right fits, the Spartans shouldn’t see any drop off.  

Final Projection:
If not for Maryland’s move to the Big Ten, Michigan State would likely be the favorite. The Spartans return seven starters off last year’s Elite Eight team and they should be a force to be reckoned with. With Cope and Thelen both departing from the backline, you could see some struggles early as the Spartans look to slide new players in there, but overall, this team has the chance to be as good, if not better than last year’s club. Rensing has a very deep team this season and that should put Michigan State in a great position to make another deep NCAA Tournament run.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Tournament

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 1.48 (65th in nation, 4th in conference)
Goals-Against Average: 0.70 (14, 1)
Shutout Percentage: 0.57 (4, 1)
Save Percentage: 0.878 (3, 1)

Madness 2015 MLS Draft Rankings:
#16 Adam Montague
#34 Tim Kreutz

Madness 2014 Men’s Soccer Recruit Rankings:
#119 Ken Krolicki


See All College Sports Madness Top 44 Men's Soccer Previews