Ok. “Evidence” might be a strong word. To be fair, I don’t watch almost any club/youth soccer. So when these incoming players are announced every year - especially from out of state - it’s tough for me to gauge their potential off of more than what can be found on Top Drawer Soccer (decent amount of info, but can sometimes be almost entirely self-submitted) or just simple googling. So this year, we’re trying something new.
For each player announced, Gopher Soccer Head Coach Stefanie Golan gives a blurb about their strengths and what they can bring to the program. But even Golan doesn’t truly know what she gets until the player gets on the field, competes against upper classmen, and then some true Big Ten opponents. And we can’t wait until the future. So we’re going to use the best clues we do have from the past.
Here’s the plan:
Sophia Boman (Edina, Minnesota)
Coach Golan on Sophia: "Sophia is a player who has everything that it takes to be successful at this level. She is the player who seriously stands out on the last day of a tournament because she is still playing at the highest level while others have fatigued out. Her tactical awareness is fantastic and her technical proficiency on top of it allows her to truly dictate the tempo of the game. This year, we have seen her grow into a more dangerous threat as a goal scorer from the midfield as well. Sophia is going to be an excellent addition to our midfield, and we are excited to keep such a talented Minnesotan home."
Clues From The Past: The only player who got as much credit for her flat out effort last year was Sadie Harper, and — as we’ve been very clear to point out — Harper absolutely did have top shelf hustle. The praise for her tactical abilities most resembles last year’s description of Katie Duong, who landed on the All Big Ten Freshman Team. For what it’s worth, Duong also showed a strong work rate, even if it wasn’t the focus of the one blurb we’re pulling from.
Verdict: Having both the physical tenacity *and* the soccer IQ is so critical to adjusting to the next level. If Boman ends up having an on-field impact somewhere between Harper and Duong — as our very scientific model suggests — she will be a fantastic freshman contributor in the midfield.
Maddie Baker (West Bend, Wisconsin)
Coach Golan on Maddie: "Maddie is a player that is unlike anyone we have ever had in my time with the program. At 6'1", she is an intimidating physical presence, and that is not your typical frame for a forward. The amazing thing is that she is incredibly mobile, so smooth & creative with the ball at her feet, and she is a threat to put the ball in the back of the net in a variety of ways. We have seen her score with her head off service, off of great timing being played in through a seam and finishing with composure, off slotted balls back from the endline, off of receiving balls back to goal and creating a small window under pressure, as well as off the dribble. We are excited to add such a dynamic attacking player in this class."
Clues From The Past: There are some similarities to how Golan described both Manthy Brady and Paige Elliott — and maybe hints of Yacovella. The strength in the air and versatility of Baker both echo the selling points of Brady and Elliott. But Golan is also clear to use direct language about Baker being unique from anyone “we have ever had.”
Verdict: Color us intrigued. If Baker can be the kind of physical attacking presence that Elliott and Brady showed the ability to be, it will be a huge win. Not just because you can always use more big, dangerous attackers AND because it may allow Elliott to stay at centerback (where she showed so much promise in the later part of the season), but also because the word is that Manthy Brady will be leaving the program to pursue her mission as part of her Mormon faith. We’re happy that Brady will be doing work she is passionate about, but we are also equally sad to see her go. She was so fun to watch. Also, word is that Baker had a full ride offer to play basketball at Wisconsin so jokes about whether this super tall person plays basketball *will* be allowed.
Abbey Canfield (Jackson, Wisconsin)
Coach Golan on Abbey: "Abbey is an athletic center back who brings the defensive tenacity that we saw in Rashida Beal previously. She is physically strong and will lay out in a tackle, fast enough to cover the space behind the back line, and she has shown a lot of growth in the range of passes she can connect from the back. Abbey is a fierce competitor and we are excited that she will be wearing the Maroon & Gold this fall."
Clues From The Past: There isn’t too much in terms of overlap with how last year’s class was described except shadows of midfielder/defender Lauren Roberts. Though the mention of tenacity sounds a bit like the way Keziah Inniss was described as well. Inniss hasn’t seen the field yet, but the other direct comp Golan makes for Canfield is none other than former All Big Ten, NWSL draftee Rashida Beal! All Beal did was play 60+ games and win most conference awards that exist. So, no pressure, Abbey. But we are officially excited.
Verdict: Back line is probably the hardest position to predict as players jump from high school to college — especially center back. If Canfield can come in a meet even the spirit of her comparisons above, she might be the rare freshman who successfully makes that jump immediately. Plus we stole her from Wisconsin, so she’s going to come in as a fan favorite.
Josie Wood (Columbus, Georgia)
Coach Golan on Josie: "Josie is another athletic player who will compete for time either in our forward group or as an outside back. She has the athletic ability to compete in either of those positions, and she is someone that will bring a solid attacking presence in either of those roles. She loves the ball at her feet and taking players on, and she has the quickness to lose defenders and draw the next. Josie is a player who will help us create more opportunities to score goals, and we are excited to bring her up north this fall!"
Clues from the past: It turns out the attacker or outside back language was used for Harper and Yacovella last year as well. Ball at her feet really only compares to the description of Duong directly but also somewhat speaks to on and off ball abilities of a couple other attackers. It’s been a while since we saw a recruit’s willingness to take players on so directly put in their description so we will take that as a massively good sign.
Verdict: If Wood is willing to (excuse the language) try sh*t in the final third, we love her already. Haley Hartkemeyer won over the coaching staff almost entirely because she decided play time was over and she was going to GO AT SOME PEOPLE. Here’s to hoping Wood has a signature move like Celina Nummerdor’s shoulder shake because Golan’s description is putting future highlight reels of Wood clowning defenders into our imagination already.
Abi Frandsen (Monticello, Minnesota)
Coach Golan on Abi: "Abi is another Minnesota talent we are excited to welcome to the Gopher Soccer family. She is a fantastic athlete who brings a versatility to this class. Abi will be a player that is exciting to watch in our pressing system as she can cover ground very quickly and has a strong defensive presence when she does. She is also a player who is willing to take players on in the flank space and has the athletic ability to blow past defenders when she does. She is strong in the air, she can finish, and she can provide quality service in the attacking third. We are excited to work with her this fall."
Clues from the past: Versatile (Brady, Elliott) and strong in the air (Elliott). Good in the press (Harper). These are all good comps to be in the company of. It might be noteworthy that Golan did not specifically call out any of last year’s recruits for their ability to finish. Plenty of Gophers players who have been dangerous over the years have not really been great finishers, so it’s interesting to see Frandsen specifically getting credit for her finishing ability, even if it’s brief.
Verdict: The front six next year might be sorta bonkers. Albrecht played some minutes there and Hartke saw some spot minutes there, but not many minutes up front are graduating. In other words, every new body that can compete and provide some impact will only make the rotation even more competitive. But if Frandsen has even marginally better heading and finishing ability that the rest of the team, she could easily carve out a role as a freshmen over better all-around players.
Lauren Holland (Skokie, Illinois)
Coach Golan on Lauren: "Lauren is an athletic center back who can cover ground, defends well, demonstrates composure on the attacking side of the ball, and brings a strong aerial presence to both ends of the field. She has all of the tools to be successful at this level and we know she will compete to get minutes in our back line early in her career. She is a tremendous addition to the Gopher Soccer family."
Clues from the past: Not much direct comparison to last year’s defending group, though the feel of this language matches some of the language used for Paige Elliott — who ended up playing on the back line. Golan doesn’t necessarily mention a player competing for minutes early lightly, so that is noteworthy as well.
Verdict: Canfield and Holland are both essentially going to have a shot to prove that they can be the physical, aerial presence that is needed at centerback. Kuehn can play there but might make more impact in the front six. Elliott can play there but the team might want her size up front as well. The conservative scenario at center back would be Kuehn and Elliott both starting there to stabilize the back line. But our gut says one of them moves forward as long as Canfield, Holland, or mystery candidate X (outside back or holding mid shifting to center back) steps up to earn the other spot.
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