Ten players to watch at NCAA Tournament

Can the players who dominated regular season replicate success?

There’s a huge difference between regular and postseason
college soccer. In the playoffs, the stakes are raised and one misstep can be the
difference between moving on and going home.

With the pressure on, coaches hope that they can get big
performances from their big players. Here’s a look at 10 of the season's best who could
prove to be the difference between the next round and a trip home.

Justin Meram,
Michigan, FW

One part of a three-pronged strike force in Ann Arbor,
Meram’s experience as a senior will be almost as vital as his 12 goals were for
the Wolverines this year. He stepped up big time in the Big 10 tournament final
against Penn State. If that continues, Michigan is going to be tough to shut
down.

Kofi Sarkodie,
Akron, D

Anytime a right back can tally seven goals and assist on
five while in your starting lineup, he’s certainly a special player. Such
is the case for Sarkodie, the US youth international who adds exciting pace
and a seemingly unstoppable element to the Akron attack.

Ben Sippola, Butler, FW

Not many folks knew the Northfield, Minn., senior before the
start of the season, but the midfielder’s eight goals and nine assists led the
undefeated Bulldogs. He will need to replicate that form to assure a Butler
run.

Tony Cascio,
Connecticut, FW

Cascio is the linchpin of a talented Connecticut attack, and
the onus will fall on his shoulders to make sure the inconsistent Huskies comes
out firing. With the best defense in the league, Cascio must get on track and ignite Connecticut's offense to put the Huskies within College Cup reach.

A.J. Soares,
Cal, D

The Pac-10 Player of the Year is one of the most important
for the Golden Bears. A towering central defender, Soares’ leadership is key to
keeping the defense organized.

Will Bruin, Indiana, FW

Some have contested whether or not the Hoosiers rate as a
top 16 seed, but with Bruin hungry and ready to battle for the national scoring
lead (his 16 goals are just two off the lead), Indiana should be able to quiet the
doubters and string together a couple of wins. 

Matt Kassel,
Maryland, MF

Even with so many weapons at the Terps’ disposal, a lot of
the playmaking falls on the shoulders of Kassel, a product of the New York Red
Bull Academy. The midfielder has shown a nose for goal this season with eight
tallies, while also leading Maryland with nine assists.

Charlie Rugg,
Boston College

BC’s goal-scoring leader is reminiscent of former Eagle
Charlie Davies – this stage will test Rugg to see if he is capable of taking
his game to the next level.

F Colin Rolfe,
Louisville, FW

The junior forward has gone from pure goal scorer to a dual
threat, turning provider on five goals to go with six scores of his own. His
all-around improvement is one of many reasons the Cardinals have enjoyed a high
level of success in 2010.

Kirk Urso, North
Carolina, MF

For a team to be battered so much by injury, Urso was the
glue that held things together for the Tar Heels. Unless one of the unproven
forwards steps up in the tournament, the responsibility will once again fall on
Urso and the midfield.

Honorable Mentions

Ryan Finley (Duke, FW), Soony Saad (Michigan, FW), Anthony
Ampaipitakwong (Akron, MF), Tyler Polak (Creighton, D), Zac MacMath (Maryland, GK)

Think you know the game? Test your powers of prediction with MLSsoccer.com's new fantasy game, Pro Soccer Picks. Play NOW!