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Back to school: D.C. United Academy alumni college preview

With the start of Division I college soccer this weekend, where are some of the more prominent D.C. United Academy Alumni playing?

As D.C. United fans, we're lucky to live in one of the true hotbeds of youth soccer in this country, as the club has built one of the top MLS academy setups around. As a website, today we're very lucky to have Top Drawer Soccer's Travis Clark, one of the top experts covering amateur soccer in the U.S., stop by to preview the upcoming college season for United's many academy products. Without further ado, here's Travis.

Say what you want about college soccer and its place in development, but for the time being it remains a stepping stone for players from the Development Academy. D.C. United is obviously no different, usually sending between 10-15 players to Division I schools each year.

D.C.'s last homegrown signing, Collin Martin, obviously spent a year at Wake Forest last fall, and played with the team this past spring before making the jump to MLS this summer.

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Several United alumni are gearing up and heading back into action this fall, with most set to play a big role in their respective college teams. Naturally, only a small fraction of these players will ever be considered for a homegrown deal, and particularly for the older group, it's hard to know for sure the status of some Academy players.

Nevertheless, here is a rundown of some D.C. United Academy alumni, where they'll play and how they'll figure in the upcoming college season:

MF Damilola Adetola, Villanova (Sophomore): Played in 13 games as a reserve for the Big East program, and after a decently heavy turnover for the Wildcats, Adetola could get some more playing time this upcoming season. The New Big East should provide a big challenge for what is a rapidly improving Villanova program.

MF Cody Albrecht, Saint John's (Redshirt Sophomore): A box-to-box center midfield, injuries have kept Albrecht off the field the last two seasons, though he is now healthy and ready to contribute on what is going to be a quality St. John's team. How much he exactly sees the field remains to be seen.

Suliaman Dainkeh, Maryland (Freshman): The U.S. U18 Men's National Team defender played left back for D.C.'s U18s last season, and he'll either reprise his role in that spot for the Terps or slot in as a center back, where he also has experience. A quality player, Dainkeh is expected to be one of a few freshman starters at the back for Maryland.

MF James Doll, Duke (Freshman): Finding minutes in a relatively crowded Blue Devils midfield might be a bit difficult, but Doll did go 90 minutes in an exhibition game. Duke is looking to bounce back after a rather subpar 2012 campaign, where they had trouble scoring despite having an excellent defense.

D Jannik Eckenrode, George Mason (Sophomore): A tall and lanky center back, Eckenrode played at Radford last fall, starting 18 games, notching a goal and adding five assists. He made the move closer to home to Mason, where he'll contend for a starting role for the new Atlantic 10 program. The move is a small step up for the Patriots.

MF/D Lars Eckenrode, Michigan (Freshman): Another Academy product debuting on campus this fall, Eckenrode played as a center back and defensive midfielder for DCU U18s. He joins a rapidly improving Wolverine side that has an outside shot at making a run at a Big Ten title and could certainly grab another NCAA Tournament spot.

Nat Eggleston, Duke (Junior): After playing in 22 games as the starting center back as a freshman, Eggleston split time in midfield and defense last year. He's got good size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and decent mobility. As previously mentioned, Duke's defense was one of its strong points last season and Eggleston was one of the reasons for that.

MF Mikias Eticha, Maryland (Junior): Ethicha's stature has slowly but surely grown at Maryland over the past couple of seasons. He picked up an injury during an exhibition game this fall, but assuming he's healthy, will be competing for playing time and probably grabbing a start here or there on the wing for the Terps.

Rafael Fagundo, Wake Forest (Freshman): Add Fagundo to the list of Academy alums bound for Wake in the fall. A center back with rather imposing size (6-foot-3, 170 pounds), he could end up forming one half of an all-D.C. United Academy alumni partnership alongside Jalen Robinson.

D Patrick Foss, Virginia (Freshman): Another quality player who had reps with D.C. United's reserve side while in the Academy, Foss spent a year with the U17 MNT Residency program down in Bradenton, though he came up short of a spot on the 2011 U17 World Cup roster. He enrolled early in the spring down at UVA (a rare feat for a field player from what I understand), and should be ahead of the curve when the fall season starts. Featured as a reserve for the Cavaliers in their two exhibition matches, and could end up playing a number of positions, including left back, center mid, or as an attacking winger. UVA is stacked with a lot of young talent which will no doubt push Foss as he eyes a starting role.

MF Ian Harkes, Wake Forest (Freshman): It's a last name every D.C. United fan knows, and this fall, John Harkes' oldest son Ian heads off to school at Wake Forest. Coincidentally enough, the signing of Collin Martin by United this year probably opens up the door for Harkes to get more playing time in 2013 as they share a similar position. Primarily an attacking midfielder, Harkes is well-built, good on the ball and can offer up that final pass to unlock the defense.

MF/F Ryan Harmouche, George Mason (Sophomore): The midfielder made an appearance in all 19 games last year for the Patriots, a decent return for a freshman, scoring three goals and adding three assists.

GK Braden Horton, Pittsburgh (Freshman): The first-year goalkeeper is heading to a program just joining the ACC, but it's one that has struggled mightily in recent times. Horton could certainly claim the starting job, as he's seen time in preseason for the Panthers. He was the Academy's U18 goalkeeper with 22 starts in the 2012-13 Academy season.

D/MF Myles McGinely, Princeton (Junior): Able to play both at the back and in the midfield, McGinely earned a starting nod last year for the Tigers, and he'll likely reprise that role once again as Princeton chases an Ivy League crown. Their season starts a bit later than the rest of Division I, as they kick off next weekend.

GK Dakota Niedermeier, Maryland (Redshirt Freshman): The goalkeeper took a redshirt last season after battling an injury in the 2012 preseason. He's one of four goalkeepers on the roster in College Park so playing time is going to be hard to come by, as freshman Zack Steffen from the Union Academy was named the starter ahead of the 2013 campaign. However, don't be shocked if he makes his debut at some point this season, as he's highly rated by the Terps coaching staff.

Kennedy O'Shea, Coastal Carolina (Freshman): Another quality freshman heading off to school, O'Shea is part of a massive recruiting class (Coastal added 16 players this year) to join the rising power. The graduation of Ashton Bennett leaves the door open for potential goal scorers, which happens to be the O'Shea's spot -- but he'll have to earn the playing time.

GK Kody Palmer, High Point (Redshirt Sophomore): The Big South freshman of the year, Palmer is the incumbent starter in goal for High Point, posting solid numbers last season after redshirting his first year of eligibility.

MF/F Dario Redondo, Radford (Junior): While not featuring for the highest profile program, Redondo is a central midfielder who was named to the Big South All Freshmen Team in 2011, and started all but one game in 2012. He'll play a big role as Radford tries to hunt down conference favorites Coastal Carolina.

MF/D Tyler Rudy, Georgetown (Junior): The outside back/midfielder played heavy minutes last year for the national runners up, and he'll likely see a lot of the field once again as the team lost four strong seniors from that squad. Rudy primarily played last year on the right side, either at the back or in the midfield, but as the team forges a new identity could shuffle around the field a bit.

MF Michael Russo, James Madison (Sophomore): After making 13 appearances, nine of them starts, for Central Florida last year, Russo transferred much closer to home to James Madison. The CAA is an underrated conference despite the losses of a few programs this year, and he should feature there frequently.

CB Jalen Robinson, Wake Forest (Sophomore): Robinson is perhaps the best alumni in college at the moment. Played as a center back in 2012, though he might not have the height to play there in MLS. Trained with SC Freiburg over the summer and there were rumblings that D.C. approched him to try and sign him before school started, though he's back on campus for another season.

Marcus Salandy-Defour, Virginia (Sophomore): The winger is part of a young and talented Cavalier squad that has a lot of potential for big things in the fall. He should slot back into the starting lineup, but needs to be at the peak of his game as there is plenty of talent at head coach George Gelnovatch's disposal. The good news for him is that he started both exhibition games over the past two weeks.

MF Michael Sauers, Maryland (Freshman): According to Cirvoski, Sauers can play just about any outfield spot as he has in the past for D.C.'s Academy squad. This year, he's more likely to play either a midfield role or get time as an outside back depending on how he adapts to the collegiate level.

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