Second-year Virginia Commonwealth University Head Men's Soccer Coach Dave Giffard recently announced his 16-player recruiting class. Here's an inside look at each of the Rams' 2011 recruits:
CHARLIE AHN, MIDFIELDER (Vienna, Va./Oakton High School)
Two-year member of McLean Youth Soccer Development Academy… Current teammate of fellow recruit Isaac Owusu at McLean… Four-year starter at Oakton High School… Also served as team captain… Member of Virginia State ODP squad in 2009… Selected to play for Chelsea USA in 2007 and 2008
Coach Giffard on Ahn: " To me Charlie is one of the most talented players in the state of Virginia. He fits us very well and I believe will blossom in our environment. He can play in a variety of positions, but as one of several attacking mid's is probably his best role."
JUAN ARBELAEZ, MIDFIELDER (Oakwood, Ga./Georgia Perimeter College)
Transferred from Georgia Perimeter College, where he played for head coach Marc Zagara… Scored eight goals and collected 11 assists as a freshman, helping lead GPC to a national runner-up finish… Received All-Region recognition in 2010… Was a member of the Alianza Soccer Club, under the direction of Carlos Jacinto and Sergio Magana… Played high school soccer at West Hall, finishing his career with 51 goals and 70 assists… Named Area Player of the Year as a senior
Coach Giffard on Arbelaez: "Juan joins us after spending the last two years playing at Georgia Perimeter, including a national runner-up finish in 2009. Juan is a player I first saw several years ago at Disney with his club team. I was a big fan of his then, and think he will add a lot to the right side of our team next fall."
KHARLTON BELMAR, FORWARD (Salem High School – Virginia Beach, Va.)
Four-year starter at Salem High School… Leads team with 18 goals… Member of the Virginia Rush/AJ Auxerre Academy team under the guidance of head coach Jay Hoffman… Market Training Center invitee… 2010 Honorable Mention AAA Virginia All-State selection… 2011 AAA Virginia State Player of the Year candidate
Coach Giffard on Belmar: "Kharlton was a player that we identified after only a few weeks of being here at VCU last winter. He is a fast, strong and powerful athlete who can play as a forward or as a winger for us depending upon our team shape. He has really hit his stride this spring scoring a lot of goals for his high school team and I feel like his best days are ahead of him and I can't wait to get him here on campus and get to work."
JACK BATES, DEFENDER (Chester, Va./Thomas Dale High School)
Four-year starter at nearby Thomas Dale High School, under the guidance of head coach Mark Fowler… Named captain during junior and senior seasons… All-District performer… 2011 Virginia AAA All-State candidate… Also served as captain for Richmond Strikers Academy, coached by former VCU standout Erwan Le Crom… Market Training Center invitee
Coach Giffard on Bates: "Jack is a local product of the Richmond Strikers Academy. He is a good sized kid, who has good feet for a defender and has the character traits that I think will allow him to become very successful over the next several years here with us."
GARRETT CYPRUS, GOALKEEPER (Toronto, Canada/Northfield Mount Herman)
Completed prep season at Northfield Mount Herman, same as current VCU player Assane Keita… Member of Canadian U-17 National team, which participated in the CONCACAF championships (five caps)… Traveled with the provincial team prior to joining the U-17 squad… Starting goalkeeper for Toronto FC Academy… Named to Western New England Preparatory School Soccer Select team under the guidance of head coach Jim Burstein
Coach Giffard on Cyprus: " Garrett's experiences with Toronto FC, Canada, and with the Canadian provincial team have prepared him well for the college game. A strong leader and organizer, he is also a very good distributor of the ball and adds the ability to play out of the back in a variety of different ways. I think Garrett has a very bright future ahead of him."
CAMERON FOSTER, MIDFIELDER (Alexandria,Va./Bishop Ireton High School)
Played at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Va…. Participated in Virginia State ODP from 2008-2010… Member of GFA 92 Blue, under the guidance of head coach Mark Ryan
Coach Giffard on Foster: " Anytime you play an attacking/possession style, you need players who's qualities fit what your team is trying to do. Cameron fits our team very well and will add another player who's feet are very clean and will thrive in our style of play."
DEVON FISHER, MIDFIELD (Indian River High School – Chesapeake, Va.)
Co-captain at Indian River High School… Current member of Beach FC… Played for former VCU standout Leroy Wilson ('94) with Chesapeake United Soccer Club Arsenal… Named to the Atlantic Soccer League All-Event team at both the Jefferson Cup as well as The Triangle Friendlies… 2008 Virginia State ODP selection… First team All-District as a junior at Indian River… 2011 AAA Virginia All-State candidate
Coach Giffard on Fisher: "Devon is a player we first identified at our camp last summer and has a very bright future ahead of him. I think he is a classic late bloomer and I am very excited to see what he can do for us here over the next several years. He has all the tools necessary to make himself into an impact player for us. He is a guy who I think will thrive in our daily training environment."
OLIVER FLOOD, DEFENDER/MIDFIELDER (Roanoke, Va./Patrick Henry High School)
Member of Roanoke Star Elite, coached by Danny Beamer and Martin Smith… All-District and All-Region performer at Patrick Henry High School, under the direction of head coach Chris Dowdy
Coach Giffard on Flood: " We discovered Oliver at our camp last summer and think he has the potential to play anywhere on the left side for us. Like several other players in our class, I think Oliver's best days are ahead and believe that we are catching him at just the right time."
SHAWN GROSS, MIDFIELDER (North Royalton, Ohio/North Royalton High School)
Member of the Cleveland International Soccer Academy, where he served as co-captain in 2007, 2008 and 2009… Named to list of top players in Ohio by ESPN Rise… Earned First Team All-Greater Cleveland and Second Team All-State honors… Played under VCU Head Coach Dave Giffard with the Cleveland Internationals
Coach Giffard on Gross: "Shawn is a player I coached with The Cleveland Internationals when I lived in Ohio. He is a soccer junkie that will thrive in our environment. Holding midfield is probably his best position, but could plug in to other roles as well over time."
DANIEL HAEHRE, FORWARD (Norway)
Has played for Stabaek U-19 Elites and Reserves during the last four years... Scored 18 goals and tallied seven assists in 22 games with the Stabaek U-19 Elites in 2009... Finished Runner-Up for Norwegian U-19 championship... Competed in the Norwegian 2nd division as a member of the Stabaek Reserves... Traveled the world as part of Stabaek Academy, which also produced Mikkel Diskerud who is a member of the U.S. National Team
Coach Giffard on Haehre: "Daniel gives us a different type of striker than any of the options we currently have on our roster. His movements and tactical awareness are very good and he is very clean technically. I could see him playing in either a two or three forward system and adds a guy that can create dangerous chances with his movement as well as his tactical awareness and has the ability to score in a very tight game."
GARRETT HARVEY (Jacksonville University – Richmond, Va.)
Transferred to VCU during the spring semester after playing freshman year at Jacksonville University… Started every game as a freshman… Richmond, Va., native and Mills E. Godwin graduate… Was an All-District selection at Godwin during junior and senior seasons… Member of the Richmond Strikers Academy team
Coach Giffard on Harvey: "Garrett joined our squad this January after starting and playing every minute of every game for Jacksonville University this fall as a freshman. A local product of the Richmond Strikers, Garrett continues what we began last fall by bringing the top local talent from Richmond and the state of Virginia here to VCU. Garrett has the ability to be a major influence in our team in the back and should compete for a starting spot in the fall."
CLARK HANKINS, GOALKEEPER (College of Charleston – Montgomery, Ala.)
Two-year starter in goal at College of Charleston prior to joining VCU… Posted seven shutouts with 99 saves during his two seasons with the Cougars… Was a captain in soccer, basketball and football at St. James High School in Montgomery, Ala.
Coach Giffard on Hankins: "Clark has started 30-plus college games at 2010 NCAA tournament participant College of Charleston and should give us competition for playing time in the goal as well as an experienced, very hardworking goalkeeper to push and lead our team everyday in training. He joined us this spring and has had an immediate impact within our team."
LEO KOWALSKI, FORWARD (Richmond, Va./Deep Run High School)
Member of the Richmond Kickers Academy squad coached by Jesse Myers… Led Kickers Academy with eight goals… Local product out of Deep Run High School… Began soccer career in Brazil
Coach Giffard on Kowalski: " Leo is the third player in the 2011 class that we identified at our camp last summer. I love his work rate and his finishing touch around the goal, it seems like each time I go to watch Leo play, he scores. His feet are clean, however he is going to need some work in the buildup phase of our attack before he is ready to impact the game as well as he can, but I believe he has a very bright future ahead of him here at VCU."
RAGNAR LEOSSON, MIDFIELDER (Akranes, Iceland)
Member of Iceland's U-17 and U-19 national teams… Made international debut in 2007… Appeared in 10 matches for U-17 squad, scoring two goals before seeing action in six matches as a member of the U-19 team… Played 47 matches for Akranes Football Club, scoring eight goals
Coach Giffard on Leosson: "Ragnar is an attacking player from Iceland who will add a different dimension to our attacking group. He has the ability to play up high, on either wing, or just under the forwards. He has represented Iceland at U-17 and U-19 and will probably get his first cap for the U-21's this summer before he arrives."
JUAN MONGE SOLANO (Costa Rica)
Member of the Costa Rican U-17, U-20 and U-23 teams… Recently participated in his first ever training camp with the Costa Rican Olympic Team … 2009 CONCACAF champion as a member of the U-20 squad
Coach Giffard on Solano: "Juan is an attacking left back who also has the ability to play in midfield. He has been a part of one of the most successful age groups in Costa Rican Soccer history, advancing to the World Cup at both the U-17 and U-20 level. His U-20 team in 2009 were champions of CONCACAF beating the USA in the finals 3-0. Juan still has several areas that he will need to continue to improve in, but I expect him to be one of the best attacking backs in the country before his career with us is done."
ISAAC OWUSU, DEFENDER (Sterling, Va./Potomac Falls)
Two-year member of McLean Youth Soccer Development Academy where he played for Zack Samol and Kristopher Ward… Current teammate of fellow recruit Charlie Ahn at McLean… All-District performer at Potomac Falls High School
Coach Giffard on Owusu: " Isaac has the athleticism and feet to be able to develop into a top notch right back in the college game. I have watched Isaac have exceptional games on both sides of the ball and as he continues to develop consistency in his performance I believe he will grow to become an impact player for us in that position."