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Aug 23, 2022

Clemson United 2022 Season Preview

The 2021 National Champion men’s soccer team is primed to defend its title. As the team turns the page to 2022 there are plenty of new faces ready to write their own story, as well as key returners set to add chapters to theirs.

Despite graduating seven starters, the Tigers and Head Coach Mike Noonan are confident they will not see a drop off in performance, as there is a budding sense in the soccer facility that this team has what it takes to keep Clemson on the peak of the mountain.

“From a starting standpoint, these seniors are ready to go,” began Noonan. The team boasts six seniors including captains Alvaro Gomez and Isaiah Reid. “They’re more than ready and they’re more than capable…you look at Mohamed Seye coming off a major injury…excited for him, excited for Trevor Manion, Enrique Montana, guys who have played their roles but now are teaching the culture to younger guys and have embraced that responsibility.”

Manion is tasked with filling the space once occupied by George Marks, and Noonan has confidence that the senior has the ability to do so, in his own way, that is.

“Trevor is his own man, and he’s a talented goalkeeper. The best part is that he has been in pressure-filled situations,” Noonan said in reference to the spring 2021 penalty shootout against Marshall. “Trevor’s demeanor is less demonstrative than George’s, but it’s just as effective and he has embraced an opportunity to compete and compete well.”

There are experienced players on this team that are just now getting their chance to shine. Midfielder Dylan Sullivan is one that the staff is excited to see make an impact.

“The most unsung player on the team is Dylan. He’s a rising senior, can play all over the field, he’s fitter than he’s ever been. I think he’s been a catalyst for how the tradition and culture has moved forward because he’s one of the most selfless players I’ve had here at Clemson, and that’s an example I’m asking the freshmen to look at.”

That combination of experience with a healthy dose of younger guys looking to make an impact is what makes this team dangerous. While much of the team and the expected contributors were along for the incredible ride of 2021, many did not get to contribute as much as they will be asked to this season, and they have a visible hunger and determination that Noonan views as a weapon.

“The neat thing is there are guys that people haven’t seen. Adam Lundegard, Tristan DeLoach who looks fantastic, guys who redshirted that understand what it takes because they went through the experience but are still hungry. That is a key quality of this team because after what happened last year that hunger and desire is still so apparent.”

One of the Tigers’ many strengths last year was in their defense that featured MAC Hermann Trophy Finalist Oskar Ågren, as well as two MLS SuperDraft picks in Charlie Asensio and Justin Malou. From that group, Hamady Diop is the lone returner, but Noonan is still extremely bullish on this back line.

“Enrique Montana has experience, and that’s an important element. He played in many games last year in an attacking element and was probably our best attacking right back. Joey Skinner is an experienced player, he played 18 games at UNCG last season and was one of their staples. With a back line, it’s all about how they meld together…from a talent standpoint it could be even better than what we had last year.”

Among a class of 14 newcomers, one of the more intriguing ones is a graduate transfer from Brown, Derek Waleffe. He served as Brown’s captain last season and Noonan has praised his leadership qualities and has already seen the impact he’s had on the freshmen class that have arrived at Clemson alongside him.

Of last season’s freshmen, midfielder Elton Chifamba and forward Tim Ströbeck made the strongest impact. Noonan feels the best is coming for both of those players

“We always have said that we see the best out of international players in their second season, and we expect that out of Tim this year. Elton was a key cog in the championship team, and we expect him to grow into his role.”

While this team has the talent to compete at the height of collegiate soccer once again, there is one variable yet to be seen that could make or break the season: resilience.

“Every year we are working to build a National Championship team, and this year is no different. But the resiliency that this team must show, and the consistency are the two real touch points that will be on display. I’m not worried about the soccer piece; they’ve got the talent. Last year, we lost two straight to Pitt and Notre Dame, and they played their best game of the year on the road at Wake Forest to respond. This team is going to face that situation, and they will need to respond.”

The pieces are in place for the Tigers to defend their title, and only time will tell as to whether or not the intangibles will be enough to meet the challenge. Regardless, Clemson fans need wait no longer to see a few familiar faces, a few fresh ones, and a brand-new crest with the program’s third star, representing last year’s championship, on the front of the kit take the field at a bustling and electric Historic Riggs Field.

The Tigers open their title defense on Friday, August 26 at Historic Riggs Field against No. 13 Indiana. The match is set to kick off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU. Tickets are available HERE.