The University of Michigan Press Release
University of Michigan men's soccer head coach Steve Burns announced today (Wednesday, March 4) the commitment of nine players for the 2009 season. The talented class boasts four players with United States Youth National Team experience; one National Junior College Player of the Year; three 2008 MHSAA Dream Team selections and 12 all-state selections between them.
The Maize and Blue received National Letters of Intent from Brian Klemczak, a defender from Livonia, Mich.; Justin Meram, a forward from Shelby Township, Mich.; Kofi Opare, a defender from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada; Hamoody Saad, a midfielder from Dearborn, Mich.; Noble Sullivan, a midfielder from Grand Rapids, Mich.; and David Yang, a midfielder from Ann Arbor, Mich. Burns also accepted commitments of Seung Tak Nam, a midfielder from Seoul, South Korea, and Alex Martinez, a forward from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, both of whom have enrolled at U-M for the current winter semester, and Latif Alashe, a midfielder from Northville, Mich.
"The quality and quantity of this class of players is unmatched in the history of our program," Burns said. "Our staff did a tremendous job identifying great players that were great fits within our team because they possess the right blend of athleticism, soccer guile, toughness, and personality. We've worked with more than half of this group in our soccer camps and feel we know them rather well. This class is just a great fit for Michigan."
Klemczak was named an ESPN Rise All-American as a senior at Livonia Stevenson High School. He also earned national high school all-region honors and was a state high school Dream Team member while at Stevenson. Klemczak has competed with the Region II ODP team for the past four seasons, attending numerous national and international events with the team. With the Derby County Wolves, Klemczak won five state cup championships and was a USYSA national finalist in 2007.
"Klemczak is very talented at winning the individual duals and, as important, working in tandem to complement his central defender partner," Burns said. "Whether it's pouncing on knockdowns or covering a teammate, his positioning is very good. His strength of character and ability to concentrate and organize lead me to believe he's going to have a great Michigan career.
Bringing with him the experience of two NJCAA national championships at Yavapai College, Meram will return closer to home where he had a standout career at Utica Eisenhower. Meram picked up a trophy case worth of hardware in his two seasons at Yavapai, scoring 2008 National Junior College Player of the Year, NSCAA and NJCAA All-America honors and an ACCAC Conference Player of the Year accolade. During the first of his two national title runs, he was named MVP of both the regional and national tournaments. He also etched his name into the Roughriders record books, setting the program record for points (132) while finishing second in goals (51) and assists (30) all-time. At Eisenhower, Meram was a two-time captain and earned all-state and the MAC Conference Player of the Year award as a senior.
"Justin has truly developed into a dynamic attacker within the last two years at Yavapai College," Burns said. "He has an innovative way of playing the game and an excellent first touch, and like most dynamic attackers, he loves to run at defenders. While he has a nose for the goal, his greatest trait is his ability to create scoring opportunities for his fellow teammates. Justin is a genuine team player who has a burning desire to win championships at Michigan."
Opare, a Canadian-based American defender out of St. Paul High School, was called into the last United States Under-20 Men's National Team camp for a trial in late January. As a prep, he guided his school to back-to-back Sossa Zone championships. Opare played his club soccer for the St. Catherine's Concord Gunners where he won two Ontario Cups and finished fourth in the Canadian Club National Championship in 2007.
"Probably the best athlete of the group, Kofi is the type of central defender that strikes fear in opposing strikers," Burns said. "He reads the game brilliantly and has the technical ability of a creative midfielder. His combative nature and strong leadership qualities will inspire the team to many victories."
A four-year standout at Dearborn High School, Saad picked up all-state recognition three times. As a senior, he completed his step-by-step rise from third team all-state as a sophomore to being on the state's first and dream teams. He was also National High School Soccer All-Region Team in his final prep year and earned a four-star rating from TopDrawerSoccer.com. After attending the U.S. Soccer Under-14 National Camp in 2004, Saad was a member of the Region II ODP Regional Team/Pool, participating in the 2005 Texas Interregional Event and 2006 Italy International Festival. Saad spent five years with the Michigan Wolves before moving to the Vardar Academy in 2008. He won four State Cups with the Wolves and now wears the captain armband for Vardar.
"Hamoody will provide invention and a threat from long-range for us at the attacking midfield position," Burns said. "He reads the game at an extremely high level and knows how to bring his teammates into play with exquisitely textured and timed passes. I haven't met many people that are as passionate about the game of soccer as Hamoody."
Sullivan was a four-year varsity letter winner at Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School and twice earned all-state honors during his prep career. In 2008, he garnered first-team honors after being elected to the all-state third-team as a junior in 2007. At the club level, Sullivan helped the Derby County Wolves win the Michigan Boy's State Cup tournament. He has been a member of the Michigan State ODP '91 boys team for each of the past two seasons and has been a member of the ODP Region II player pool, competing with the Region II '91 Team Europa Judendcup Germany/Austria team in 2008. Sullivan was also recently added to the TopDrawerSoccer.com "Players to Watch" database.;
"Noble is an electrifying winger who combines work-rate, flair, and intelligence to cause havoc in opposing defenses," Burns said. "He loves to take defenders on 1v1, but also understands how to unlock tight defenses with combination play. Even in a hectic and intense atmosphere, Noble will play with a smile on his face."
A four-star rated prospect by TopDrawerSoccer.com, Yang earned first-team all-state honors for Ann Arbor Pioneer while also serving as a team captain. At the club level, Yang was a member of four state champions with the Michigan Wolves and also helped his club team win the Disney Cup. He has been a four-time member of the regional ODP team and was also a national ODP team member at the Under-14 and Under-15 levels.
"David is a versatile player who is fully equipped to play anywhere in the midfield or on the outside of defense," Burns said. "He possesses an exquisite first touch, and has a high ratio of connecting his passes. He is a feisty 1v1 defender and is another player in this class that has a great soccer brain."
Coming off of a two year stint with FC Atlas of the Mexican Second Division, Martinez spent last year at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Martinez also has played with the Vancouver Whitecaps U-15 youth team, qualifying for the North American Super Y League finals twice. Martinez was named the athlete of the year at the Saint John's School in 2005.
"Martinez is a versatile left-footed attacking player," Burns said. "He may be one of the best on our team at playing the high striker position and rolling off his mark with his first touch to find his shot. He has quick feet and is very technical. Because he enrolled this semester and is presently training with our team, he's adapting nicely to the college game."
Tak Nam joins the Maize and Blue as a transfer after playing two collegiate seasons at the University of Central Florida. With the Knights, Tak Nam played in 27 contests, making 15 starts while tallying one goal. Prior to his time at UCF, Nam helped IMG Academy capture the Dallas Cup and Sun Bowl Championship tournaments, serving as team captain while also earning team Most Valuable Player honors. Tak Nam has also been a member of the Florida state ODP program.
"Nam is a technically gifted midfielder, with great awareness," Burns said. "He plays with veteran-like composure and does a great job of connecting the field. His relentless work ethic and soccer intuition allow him to break up many attacks in the middle of the field, which will be a huge asset to this team."
Alashe is the No. 15-rated prospect by TopDrawerSoccer.com and was a member of the United States Under-18 National Team's tour of Uruguay and Argentina in 2008. In his senior season of high school soccer at Northville High School, Alashe earned MHSAA Dream Team honors. On the club level, Alashe has played with Vardar, Ann Arbor Arsenal and the Michigan Wolves, twice earning state cup championships (2004, '05).
"Latif consistently imposes himself on the game as a defensive midfielder," Burns said. "He is a terrific athlete who has tremendous range, menace, and off-the-charts competitive willpower. I don't see a top-end limit to his potential."
Michigan graduated eight seniors from a 2008 squad that went 13-6-3 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Championship.
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