Zajac, Gainford, Nanchoff, Stevenson
Here again, I object to fielding a 4-3-3, as this formation has not often been employed during the previous decade.
Marcel Zajac is another product of Sigma FC in Toronto. What an excellent youth program they have up there! Upon first watching Zajac practice in 2016, it was readily apparent that he was all about scoring goals. His overall focus is on finishing, which is a difficult instinct for a player to acquire from a coach. Some have it; some do not. It is very tough to instill this into a youngster, and it is nearly impossible to introduce this at the collegiate level. Marcel is a willing passer, but he will first look to score. He uses either foot well enough, but his calling card has always been his thunderous left-footed shot. This guy can really put the laces through the ball! In the 2018 postseason, Zajac enjoyed perhaps the most statistically prolific NCAA tournament in Akron Zips’ history. In eight postseason matches, Marcel Zajac scored 8 goals and provided 2 assists for 18 points. Every one of these points occurred at critical junctures in the respective matches. It was magical! Marcel garnered multiple awards and accolades along the way; these are listed on the official website. I believe Marcel Zajac deserved to be All American in 2018, and that he was hampered in that regard by early season injury.
Few Akron Zips past or present are as beloved as Sam Gainford. From 2014-2017 Sam routinely made opposing players, many with more athletic ability than him, look rather silly. It mattered not if the opposition was bigger, or stronger, or faster. Sam found a way to best them. Savvy! He is fluent and versatile with either foot. He would overpower faster players that were smaller than he. He would frustrate players stronger than he by patiently retaining the ball and inviting the foul. And the opposition was in for a very long night should Sam Gainford ever find out he was faster than the guy defending him. Good Lord! Gainford’s trademark is his exquisite ball skills, no doubt acquired in the Liverpool FC youth academy. Sam would analyze the opposition accurately and quickly. While his counterpart would be thinking that maybe he should guard #7 tighter, Sam would have already figured out how to skin the poor guy. Every year Sam would employ the same move. Probably still does it now. He slowly drags the ball to his left with his right foot, and then quickly cuts back with the outside of his right foot. Inexplicably, MAC defenders just could not catch on to what he was doing. I guess Sam sold it so well. Sam Gainford showed up in 2013 but redshirted his freshman year. And he has never really left Akron, as he is currently a member of the coaching staff. Sammy, You’ll Never Walk Alone! ZipsNation is with you!
Did Michael Nanchoff ever really play Left Wing during 2010, his only year in the previous decade? The name Nanchoff is tantamount to Akron Zips MSOC royalty. So, if this is all about fitting Mikey on this Team Of The Decade, well, I get it. I am very familiar with this player (if not the person). I have watched him since he was a freshman in high school. I even coached against him a time or two, much to my chagrin. But I doubt Michael would consider himself a Left Wing; not before, during, or after his time at Akron. I suppose we can ask him, as he is currently the Assistant Coach on Jared Embick’s staff. I would describe Mikey as an offensive minded Midfielder. Michael can offer only 2010 as justification for election. But what a brilliant year 2010 was, of course, culminating in a national championship. I am not going to list all the numerous accolades earned by Nanchoff in 2010. The most telling one was election to College Cup All-Tournament Team. It is the proverbial sour grapes in noting that had Michael Nanchoff not been injured in the 2009 post season leading up to the 2009 College Cup, Zips very well may have prevailed over Virginia. Also, I would be remiss in failing to mention that Michael Nanchoff is arguably the best taker of free kicks in Akron Zips MSOC history.
FINAL ANALYSIS: I am not going to complain much about the election of Michael Nanchoff to this squad. All hail the champions! But Sam Gainford contributed more to the program over his 4 (5) years than Nanchoff did in one year. Moreover, Zajac in 2018 logged an absolutely legendary post season, even though it ultimately resulted in second best. My pick is Marcel Zajac. In all candor, I would rather have Darren Mattocks 2010-2011 in my lineup than any of the four candidates listed above, irrespective of formation or system or years played. No disrespect intended to anyone.