After going down in the early minutes of the final, Lindsey Wilson won it all at the 2011 NAIA Championship, going a perfect 25-0 and upsetting No. 1 at the time Hastings by a 3-2 scoreline. Here's a look at the individual players from the 2011 NAIA Championship tournament who might make a claim to be a part of an MLS squad in the future.
Had a crash course in NAIA soccer by spending a week from November 28th to December 5th in Orange Beach, Alabama play-by-play announcing and filming for the NAIA Championship's online internet stream. Saw all 15 games of the 2011 NAIA Championship and a lot of these players in 2, 3, or 4 highly competitive games in a five day period. Some players showed up everyday and really impressed, and other players who came in with big numbers didn't blow the scouts away and disappointed. My top ten players from the tournament, who the Columbus Crew scouts should give a camp invite or keep their eye on are listed below; And I'm sure some of these players are on the radar of the Crew as Brian Bliss was in Orange Beach, Alabama at least for the first day of the tournament. I definitely remember seeing him in the stands on day one. There were also D.C. United jackets, Toronto F.C. jackets, and Division I college scouts as well in the stands looking for transfers from what I saw on each day.
Another interesting note, former Crew player Ezra Hendrickson was in town on the final days of the tournament and was booked for another week in Alabama to scout NAIA players in the Tourbeau Sports Group NAIA Player Showcase the week following the tournament. Ezra was there relaying information to the Seattle Sounders and former Crew manager Sigi Schmid.
Former Crew aside, without further or do this is Crewture's Top Ten Players from NAIA's 2011 Championship Week. Yes, there may be some bigger players on the radar like DeShorn Brown. But, this is who impressed during tournament week.
#1- Francois "Paco" Navarro
William Carey University Crusaders- 16 goals, 7 assists in 2011
From: Paris, France
Review: Was the conduit that nearly every William Carey attack ran through during tournament week. Good with both feet, could switch to the left and right wing and had the freedom to take it down the middle as well. Excellent footwork, the ball almost sticks to Navarro's feet. Best footwork and debatedly footskills in the whole tournament.
Showed up every game and put William Carey on his shoulders at times to get them to their first NAIA Fab Four appearance in 10 years. Only time "Paco" was a little off was in the Semifinal when he put himself in two excellent opportunities to tie and then win the game against Hastings in the second half, and couldn't finish. Usually was as cold as a cucumber as far as nerves, looked so relaxed out there on the ball like he was on a Sunday stroll down the Champs-Élysées. But, possibly the third game in four days started to get Navarro a little mentally fatigued and off of his game.
But, a very exciting player to watch. Always looked forward to watching him and William Carey in this tournament. Always like a good underdog team, as nobody probably expected Carey to beat #3 Mobile and #4 Rio Grande to face off against Hastings in the Semifinal.
Francois Navarro Video- Just recently compiled, good look at his skills:
#2- Niall Crick
USAO- University of Science and Arts Drovers
From: Leith, Scotland
Review: Crick was just 3 assists away from breaking University of Science and Arts assist record after gaining an assist in USAO's win on day two of the tournament and a goal in a loss against Hastings on day three. The short in stature Crick played like a big man in a defensive midfield/midfield role clogging up the opposing midfield on Championship week and even giving Hastings difficulty at times when it came to controlling that area of the field in their Round of 8 matchup.
Crick, not a big talker, did his talking on the field. Very intelligent player. Excellent footwork, excellent passer, unselfish at setting up teammates, and had a hell of a goal in the closing minutes of USAO's tournament run. Very good central/defensive midfield player. Deserves a look, can set up oodles of goals, and at the end of his college career.
Niall Crick highlights:
#3- Samuel Asante
Lindsey Wilson College
Review: Speed kills and Samuel Asante has it. He also has good vision and skills. Everyone talks about Lebogang Moloto and Moloto won the MVP of the tournament for Lindsey Wilson, but Asante was their best player in my opinion.
Just showed up for the entire tournament, when Moloto it appeared took 15 minutes off at times. But, Moloto did come up big when Lindsey needed him and that's an important quality as well.
Surprisingly this is the only video on the senior Asante, all the other videos on youtube that popped up are of the Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Samuel Asante. FYI, someone at Lindsey needs to make Lindsey Wilson's Asante a highlight tape because he impressed all of us in the play-by-play booth:
#4- Jordan Green
Hastings University- 21 goals, 7 assists in 2011 regular season, 3 more goals and an assist in tournament week
Review: Green has good height and size. But, the thing that impressed me most about the whole Hastings squad is their stamina. The strikers Jordan Green and Nate Polak and company could run for days. Great conditioning.
But, Green also has shifty footwork and good speed. Has it all really, could be a dynamic project forward for some MLS team.
Here's Green's power header in the final, shocking Lindsey Wilson in the first few minutes before Wilson would regroup and win the 2011 final 3-2:
#5- Chris Williams
Lindsey Wilson College- 2011 Championship Tournament Defensive MVP
Review: Williams formerly duoed in the backline with Joe Tait, who went on to play with the Dayton Dutch Lions and has now signed on with the Philadelphia Union of MLS. I believe that Williams has similiar ability, even though he's getting up there in his mid-20's. Strong, tough defender. Kind of unsporting at times, but tries to exact his will on opposing strikers.
Also, has the ability to score. Took Lindsey Wilson's free kicks, has a bazooka for a leg; as one of his free kicks was a game winner when Lindsey Wilson struggled in their opener of the tournament.
His central back partner Bouthelezi is no sloutch as well and could probably hold his own in MLS eventually.
#6- Nate Polak
Hastings University- 17 goals, 15 assists in 2011
Review: Polak and Green couldn't seem to find the net in their first game of the tournament, but later on you could see why the duo combined for almost 40 goals total during the regular season. Has a lot of the same capabilities described about as Green. Maybe a touch slower than Green, but smarter positionally and placing himself in the right positions on the field to attack the defense.
Also, more of a distrubutor. You could place this duo on a MLS team and they might eventually reproduce their goal rate if given a few years to learn the MLS game.
Surprisingly no video on Polak.
#7- Lebogang Moloto
Lindsey Wilson College
Review: Started off the tournament slow in the first game, and the first half of the second game. Sometimes would disappear for 15 minutes but came up big with big goals against Southern Poly and in the final against Hastings and that's what you need from a striker. Has a great nose for goal.
#8- Joel Theissen, as well as secondarily Brandon Tyler and Oliver Hewitt-Fisher
Review: All three were excellent in Rio Grande's two games, as Rio Grande had the best outside backs in pushing up and joining the attack in this tournament. All three gave their opponents fits down the wings in their two games before succumbing eventually to a William Carey side that was on top of their game in that point of the tournament. Theissen especially impressed, the 26 year old with one senior cap in the A-League with Syndey F.C. and Australia U-23 experience, might be ready for a NASL side or the bottom end of a MLS roster for depth next year.
#9- Carl Goody
William Carey University
Review: Had to put a goalkeeper in the mix, and freshman phenom Carl Goody was the best at the NAIA Championship Tournament. The 6'4 keeper from Newmarket, England helped propel William Carey to the Fab Four, along with Navarro and a pair of excellent Brazilian midfielders. A player that once he becomes a junior or senior at William Carey should get a lot of recognition from MLS and NASL clubs.
#10- Scott Parkinson
University of Science and Arts Drovers- SAC Conference Defender of The Year
Review: Was injured in the second game but looked like the top defender in the first game and a half, and toughed it out to play for USAO in the second game, as the Drovers went down to Hastings. Along with Chris Williams, another strong UK defender that may have a future either here in MLS or NASL, or overseas in the English lower divisions.
Video of Scott Parkinson:
Best Off The Bench- William Carey's Matheus Saroli- The freshman attacking midfielder came off the bench for three goals for William Carey, including two in 3 minutes against Rio Grande to propel William Carey to the Fab Four. A player to watch out for in the future along with Carey's other two Brazilian's Luis Trude and Jose Presti.
Most Disappointing Team: University of Mobile- A team everyone was talking about coming into the tournament as tournament hosts, who were crushed 3-nil by William Carey. Thanks for playing; apparently Mobile are not hard to deal with without their top MLS prospect Deshorn Brown.
Most Disappointing Performance: Rio Grande's Richard Isberner- Came in with a bevy of goals, 29 on the season, but the Brazilian looked like he was in Brazil as he barely got a touch and seemed lost in the cold November nights in Alabama. Rio Grande would of went a lot farther with Isberner scoring up top in this tournament.
Thing That's Stuck Into My Mind: Baker's fan chant, "I Believe! I Believe That! I Believe That We Will Win! I Believe That We Will Win." Which probably was the worst soccer chant in the history of soccer chants.