Porter rebuilds defending college champs Akron

Veterans, new recruits expected to challenge for national title

In the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, one college team stole the headlines: Caleb Porter’s Akron Zips represented five of the first eight picks on the day. In all, MLS clubs picked up seven starters from the 2010 national college champions.

As the departed Zips gear up to make an impact in MLS, Porter has been busy preparing for the fall 2011 season as he looks to build another championship-winning side.

So far, so good.

“It’s been very positive," Porter told MLSsoccer.com over the phone. "We had prepared, like always, to lose guys, so we had some bullets in the barrel. I think we’re pretty close to being done [rebuilding].”

Tuesday morning, the Zips officially confirmed a nine-man recruiting class, many of whom will be fighting for a starting spot as the spring season nears its start.

MLS academies are helping to supply this year’s infusion of Zips. Midfielder Wil Trapp, from the Columbus Crew Academy, is one of the nation’s highest-ranked youth players and perhaps the centerpiece of the class. He’s joined by fellow Crew Academy teammate and defender Kyle Culbertson.

Along with the Ohio-based pair, forward Andy Chiu (Real Salt Lake), midfielder DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders) and defender Bryan Gallego (New York Red Bulls) will all be eligible to play for the Zips in the fall.

Another Ohio recruit, David Murrow, Chilean forward Diego Navarrete, and two transfers, forward Luke Holmes (Notre Dame College) and defender Kayvon Afsarifard (Loyola University-Chicago), round out the intake.

Five of those – Holmes, Navarrete, Culbertson, Murrow and Afsarifard – are already enrolled and training with the Zips. One or two more international students could also be added before the fall.

These new faces will join a number of holdovers, but even with the turnover rate high, Porter indicates nothing will change the way Akron plays.

“We want to continue to play the right way,” he said. “I think when you’ve bred a certain culture and certain style within your players, it’s easier to plug in individuals because it’s not so much about the individuals, it’s about the team.”

Porter also revealed plans to play roughly eight games in the spring, including a spring-break trip to Madrid to play against the reserve teams of Real Madrid, Getafe and Atlético Madrid. Along with that, national powerhouse Maryland will visit Akron for one last fine-tuning match before the players depart for summer break.

The addition of the new recruits alongside the remaining members of last year’s College Cup-winning team helps compensate for the loss of seven players.

“We have three or four guys who we think are ready to step right in and are right at the level of some of the guys we lost,” Porter said.

First off, there are starters like goalkeeper David Meves, forward Darren Mattocks and midfielder Scott Caldwell among the veterans who will lead the charge. In addition, a number of talented players who simply didn’t get a chance last season will be expected to step up this year, such as Costa Rican youth international Reinaldo Brenes and forward Richard Diaz.

While the process is going to be challenging, Porter hopes to deliver on his promise of keeping the Zips in contention for national championships on a yearly basis. That will be put to the test this fall.

“We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, we want to keep competing to win national championships,” he said.