Louisville dominates Major League Soccer draft

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Now we know just how good they were.

Three University of Louisville soccer players — Austin Berry, Nick DeLeon and Colin Rolfe — were picked in the first round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft last week. Kenney Walker was picked in the second round.

The average salary in the MLS is $154,000 annually, according to the New York Times.

  • Midfielder DeLeon was the No. 7 overall pick by D.C. United.
  • Defender Berry was No. 9, going to the Chicago Fire.
  • Forward Rolfe was No. 18, going to the Houston Dynamo.
  • Midfielder Walker was selected 38th in the second round by the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Rolfe was interviewed by a Houston soccer site following his selection:


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Colin Rolfe, U of L bow out in NCAA soccer quarterfinal

Colin Rolfe’s outstanding four years in soccer at the University of Louisville came to an end Saturday with UofL’s 1-0 loss to UCLA in double overtime at Cardinal Park. A first team All-America player the last two seasons, Rolfe scored a school record 33 goals and 21 assists during  his college career. He was also the first UofL player to be nominated for the Herman Trophy, college soccer’s most prestigious award.

He led UofL to the NCAA championship game in 2011 and to the quarterfinals this season.  His dad, Jay Rolfe, indicates that Colin has had feelers from Major League Soccer and is confident he will be a first round draft pick.

The student section was loud and rowdy, having a great time until UCLA punched in the winning goal, depriving UofL of a second trip to the Final Four. The NCAA quarterfinal game attracted 4,832 fans to Cardinal Park.  For heartily cheering on the photographer, these guys make Card Game’s banner (at top of page).

U of L soccer may be peaking at right time in NCAA tourney

By Andrew Melnykovych

A few thoughts while awaiting the University of  Louisville men’s soccer NCAA quarterfinal match up with UCLA at Cardinal Park on Saturday – a rematch of the Cards’ 2-0 win in their season opener, which was itself a rematch of the epic 5-4 UofL win in the Snow Bowl quarterfinal a year ago, (and which could lead to further rematches):

  • High national rankings and conference championships are nice, but the most important thing is using the season to get into and ready for the NCAA tournament, and then making a run to the College Cup. The W-L may not be as impressive this year, but Cards Coach Ken Lolla has this team playing at its peak at precisely the right time.
  • That is exemplified in the play of senior striker Colin Rolfe, who seems to be back at full strength and is again a dominant offensive force. With a goal and three assists, he had a hand in every tally in UofL’s 4-2 defeat of fifth seed Maryland, which was surprisong only that it occurred on the Terps’ home field.
  • As the Maryland game showed, seedings mean little in the men’s tourney. Sure, the 1, 2 and 3 seeds are in the quarterfinals, but then it’s 7, 12 (UofL) and 13 (UCLA), along with two unseeded teams. (In contrast, the women’s semis include the top four seeds.)
  • On the other hand, conference affiliation is telling. With three of the eight teams in the quarters (No. 1 UConn, No. 7 South Florida and the Cards), the Big East has cemented its spot as the toughest conference in the land. No other conference has more than one team left in the mix.
  • Louisville gets to play this game at home only because Rutgers (there’s the Big East again) knocked off No. 4 Boston College before losing to UCLA in the round of 16, leaving the Cards as the highest remaining seed in their quarter of the bracket.
  • With a win Saturday, the Cards could set up a rematch of another rematch in the semis. They are on the same side of the bracket as top-seeded North Carolina, a team they defeated in the semis last year and lost to early this season. Two other teams that defeated the Cards earlier this season, UConn and USF, are on the opposite side, so any possible rematch with one of those two would come only in the final.

Finally, about that weather…low 40s or high 30s at game time. But no snow in the forecast. Yet.

What went wrong for UofL soccer

By Andrew Melnykovych

What happened to the University of Louisville soccer team, everybody’s preseason No. 1 team?

The Cards were returning nine starters to a senior-laden lineup, including all-everything striker Colin Rolfe. They were expected to challenge for the national title that narrowly eluded them last year. A number of factors combined to produce a disappointing season:

  • The loss of sophomore midfielder Dylan Mares for the season with a knee injury incurred during an exhibition game in August. Mares was a top scorer for the Cards last year and was Big East Rookie of the Year. More importantly, he was the creative engine in central midfield – the guy who made the offense go. His loss was huge.
  • No Charlie Campbell. One of last year’s two senior starters, Campbell proved harder to replace than classmate J.T. Murray, an All-American defender. While Austin Berry capably filled in for Murray on the back line, nobody really assumed Campbell’s role as a flank player who not only was an excellent crosser of the ball but also had a knack for being in the right place to receive balls coming from the opposite side.
  • Rolfe, while not missing any games, was hobbled all season by nagging injuries and, while still dangerous in front of goal, was not the 90-minute attacking threat of last year.
  • Aaron Horton to the pros. Horton was instant offense off the bench, scoring memorable last-minute game-winners against UCLA and North Carolina in UofL’s run to the NCAA final last season. He went to the Columbus Crew as an undrafted player under an exemption that allows teams to sign players who came up through their youth systems.
  • Inconsistent defense. The defense, while generally solid, has been prone to periodic lapses and breakdowns at key junctures in games. Berry, Andrew Farrell and Greg Cochrane have been steady, but the fourth spot on the backline has been inconsistent. Fortunately, goalkeeper Andre Boudreaux has had a great year.
  • The Bust. While it occurred back in April, the Marijuana-related arrests of Nick DeLeon and Brock Granger (along with citations issued to Rolfe, Mark Knight and Mike Mauro) certainly didn’t help. All the players were able to get back in Coach Ken Lolla’s graces by the start of the season, but that kind of distraction is not what a team needs.
  • Inability to finish. Time and again, a Louisville player would find himself open in front of the goal, only to put the ball high, wide or right at the ‘keeper. The numbers don’t lie. As a team, UofL placed a lower percentage of shots on goal, and scored on a lower proportion. Kenny Walker put well over half his shots on frame last year; this year, it was just over a third.

The worst thing about losing your finishing touch is that the problem seems to get worse the harder you try to fix it. It kills confidence, makes it impossible to play relaxed and eventually can infect an entire team, leading to results such as the 0-0 overtime game against a Syracuse squad that was out shot 31-7 by the Cards.

So where does that leave UofL heading into the NCAA tournament selection Monday? Although there has been some criticism of Lolla for playing an extremely difficult non-conference schedule, it will likely be a strength when the 48-team field is selected and seeded. That schedule gives the Cards a likely top-16 RPI and, with it, a first-round bye, the near-certainty of hosting their opening tournament game, and a good chance of hosting a round-of-16 game if they win the opener.

One more time around for UofL Soccer seniors

The Louisville men’s soccer team takes the field against Providence Thursday at 7 p.m. for a first-round game in the Big East tournament, after the schedule was reshuffled following last week’s snow storm on the east coast.

Yes, this year’s season has not lived up to expectations. But those lofty expectations would not exist had this group not been the core of a team that reached the College Cup final last fall. They are:

  • Colin Rolfe, perhaps the best player ever to wear a UofL jersey. The dangerous striker is a two-time All-American, repeat all-everything in the Big East, a two-time Herman Trophy nominee as the best college player, the first Herman finalist ever at UofL, and, despite struggling with injuries this year, still the heart of the Cards attack.
  • Andre Boudreaux. At 5-11, he’s considered undersized for a top-shelf goalkeeper, but he makes up for it with quickness and a great feel for the game. Holds the school record with 35 shutouts and counting.
  • Austin Berry. Almost never out of position, he’s the Cards’ most reliable defender who has ably succeeded the graduated J.T Murray as leader of the back line. A second-team All-American last year, he’s also a danger to score with his head on corners and other set pieces.
  • Kenny Walker. A versatile player who can fill in almost anywhere, Walker has been invaluable this year as the Cards have struggled with injuries to key players. He has an absolute bomb of an outside shot.
  • Nick DeLeon. He made an immediate impact after transferring from UNLV last year. A threat on the flanks, DeLeon also can create space for himself in the middle, and has scored some highlight-reel goals as a result.
  • Mark Knight. Came back for another season after what should have been his final year was derailed by an early injury. Has been an able spot starter and sub at the striker position, both when Rolfe has been hurt and in tandem with his fellow senior.
  • Jimmy Crick. The only local product (St. X) among the seniors, Crick has been a solid role player in the midfield, seeing action mostly off the bench. He’s an excellent student, winning the award for the highest cumulative GPA among players at the College Cup last year.

Coach Ken Lolla has a formidable task ahead of him in replacing this group, particularly those five core starters. They are, after all, among the players who helped him lift the Louisville Cardinals into college soccer’s elite. They deserve our appreciation.