Braintree’s Caldwell, Akron men’s soccer shooting for another title run

Braintree’s Caldwell is Akron’s playmakerAs a sophomore in 2010, Scott Caldwell (inset below) buried the winning goal, on a corner kick, to propel the University of Akron to the NCAA Division 1 men’s soccer title with a 1-0 win over Louisville.

Last season, the defending national champions were bounced in the third round of the tournament with a 1-0 loss to Charlotte.

“The loss is in the back of our minds because we know we didn’t do as well as we should have,’’ said Caldwell, a 5-foot-8 All-American midfielder from Braintree.

“That’s sort of a motivating factor for us, but we also understand that we have a different team this year.’’

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Featuring a balanced attack, Akron opens its season Friday with a nonconference game against Florida Gulf Coast.

Caldwell, who netted six goals and collected a team-high 11 assists last season, is expected to be a primary playmaker again this fall for the Zips.

“He’s going to be one of our key guys again this year,’’ said Akron coach Caleb Porter.
 “He’ll be playing an attacking mid as he was last year. He’s our playmaker. He was an All-American last year, so obviously he’s one of the best.’’

That notion was confirmed last week when Caldwell was named to the watch list for the prestigious 2012 Hermann Award, presented annually to the top male
and female soccer players at the collegiate level.

“Individual accolades are always nice, but this is just a watch list so it’s not really anything significant in my opinion,’’ said Caldwell.

“If your team is the last one standing at the end of the year, then accolades might come your way at that time. But the most important thing is winning a national championship for the team.’’

Caldwell has been around the game seemingly his entire life. His father, Larry, played professionally in the North American Soccer League with the Hartford Bicentennials. Scott’s three siblings all played collegiate soccer, including his sister Amy, who was a standout at Boston College, scoring 42 points in 82 games before graduating in 2010.

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As a high school freshman, Caldwell played at Milton Academy before landing a spot on the US national team, essentially spending his final three years of high school at Edison Academic Center in Bradenton, Fla. Despite playing for the U18 national squad, after runs with the U17, U15, and U14 teams, and earning Parade All-American honors in 2008, Caldwell was not heavily recruited out of high school.

“He was a player that almost everybody knew because he was with the U17 national team so everyone knew his name,’’ said Porter.

“People worried a little about his athleticism, but I never worried about it. At the end of the day I want soccer players, so I thought he was a perfect fit.’’

After a solid freshman campaign, Caldwell broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore, starting the last 15 games at midfield. He developed a flair for the dramatic during the postseason, scoring the game-winner in a 3-2 decision over West Virginia in the second round of the NCAA tourney, and finding the net again in a shootout victory against Cal in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Caldwell saved his best for the championship game, when he drilled the game-winning goal on a mid-range strike that found the top right corner in the 79th minute against Louisville.

Caldwell earned Most Outstanding Offensive Player honors for the College Cup national tourney.

“He scored in every game during the tourney, so he really came on strong during the end of the season,’’ said Porter. “He really got hot at the end and got into a rhythm and was a big reason why we ended up winning it. I think a lot of teams focused on other guys and he ended up punishing them for that.’’

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Caldwell, 21, is scheduled to graduate from Akron with an accounting degree, although he hopes to play professionally. Akron has a strong reputation as a feeder system for pro soccer; the school sent seven players to the Major League Soccer draft following its national championship season.

Due to the MLS home-grown player rule, the New England Revolution has the option to bring Caldwell onto its roster without having him enter the MLS SuperDraft. Caldwell trained with the Revs for the majority of the summer.

“I suspect that is what will happen with Scott,’’ said Porter. “Interestingly, he’s still a guy that is a bit under the radar. He’s not an elite athlete and he’s not the fastest guy, but he’s one of the most technical players I’ve coached and one of the smartest players I’ve coached. We built our style around possession and there is no one better out there when it comes to possessing the ball.’’

Here and there

The Boston College football program will be without the services of defensive back Al Louis-Jean
 for the first several games of the season. The Brockton High graduate sustained a left foot injury in practice on Aug. 13 and is expected to miss several weeks. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound sophomore played in 10 games as a true freshman last season and had 15 tackles, three pass break-ups, one interception, and one forced fumble. The Eagles host Miami in the season opener Sept. 1. . . . The Tri-County Saints Youth Hockey program is accepting registrations for its fall house league, run at the Taunton rink. Visit tricountysaints.com.

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