Stock Rising: Class of 2024 Midfielders in Maryland
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Following the highly accomplished ’22 and ’23 classes from the state of Maryland, the Class of 2024 in the Free State is a much less-heralded group than the two that came before them. Saying that it’s a class that is…
Following the highly accomplished ’22 and ’23 classes from the state of Maryland, the Class of 2024 in the Free State is a much less-heralded group than the two that came before them. Saying that it’s a class that is deeper than it is elite would be a fair assessment, even if there’s no shortage of Division I-bound talent from the greater Annapolis, Baltimore, and D.C. metro areas.
Let’s take a look at some of the unranked midfielders in Maryland who have raised their stock in the past 12 to 18 months.
McCleary is athletic to the point that it looks like he’s floating whenever the ball is in his stick. So sudden in his movements, the lefty combines that burst of speed with a much-improved dodging repertoire and outside shot, seamlessly getting back to his dominant left hand with a swim, split, or rollback. This summer, it quickly became clear that he gained a lot of confidence following a breakthrough junior year, as McCleary aggressively attacked his matchup off the dribble and got underneath of opposing defenses, often doing so in eye-popping fashion. There’s no doubt that he’ll become more of a focal point for defensive coordinators when game-planning for Prep, so McCleary will need to continue to polish his game — particularly his right hand — before he arrives at Homewood.
Arguably the most dramatically improved recruit on this list, Averno has built quite the three-sport resumé, one that includes a MIAA wrestling title in the 165-pound weight class. Somewhere in the ballpark of 6’3 and 190 lbs. at this point, he’s evolved into an absolute wrecking ball of a two-way middie, using his grit and athleticism to power through double teams on his way to the rack. He has the mentality of a linebacker between the lines and on defense, thriving at events like Platinum Cup and NHSLS this summer before flipping his commitment from Jacksonville to the Terps in mid-August. Averno’s versatility is certainly an asset, even if it remains to be seen how and where Averno will be used at the next level. Last month, Maryland went the football route and listed his position as an ‘athlete’ in a social media graphic announcing his NLI. That’s a first, yet appropriate.
Beard’s blazing speed and overall ability to impact the outcome of a game are qualities that are hard to miss, and there’s no denying how critical he is to each of his teams. A pure competitor and speedster who embraces every role, he has made tremendous strides with his 6v6 offensive skill set and is always providing a steady boost off the wings and in transition. Beard is so dynamic in the sense that he’s able to make a living by putting defenders on skates with his shiftiness, but also has a knack for putting his body on the line and scoring under duress after getting through the teeth of the defense. Earning All-State recognition with a 26-goal, 17-assist junior season, he’s a crafty and well-rounded scorer but also has underrated vision, finding teammates with skip passes when he’s not dodging to score.
In a short time, Robertson went from a complementary piece to arguably the best offensive weapon on his club team. Recruiters took notice, as Utah had to fight off a handful of blue-blood programs to secure Robertson, who kept getting better and gradually started to draw more and more slides. That opened up a lot of looks for his teammates, and this summer, his vision and IQ were on display with some superb bang-bang plays. As a scorer, he gets back to the middle of the field for high-percentage shots and can also produce when inverting due in part to his first step and fearlessness around the cage. Dialing in his shot along the way, Robertson scored in big moments for the Bears and seems poised for a big last hurrah at Landon.
Since Ivy League programs aren’t beholden to letters of intent, Brown was able to flip Pels from Syracuse six months after he picked the Orange late in the spring. He fits the Bears’ style of play with his tenacity and takes pride in his work as a defensive midfielder who never fails to get his hands on opposing midfielders. At 6’2 and 190 pounds, Pels passes the eye test and has an impressive athletic background as a member of the Eagles’ football team this fall. Although the All-WCAC voting may have shown otherwise, he may have been the most impactful defensive midfielder in the area, forming a strong duo with Maryland-boundfor a program that takes pride in developing talent at the position.
Fiery and fleet-footed, Brown shoots the ball like he’s angry at the net. He makes his presence felt with his hustle all over the field and assertiveness as a dodger, often using a hard jab step or split dodge to gain separation. Becoming more consistent with time, his shot is both fundamentally sound and snappy, but he’s plenty capable of making stops on defense and pushing transition as well. In all likelihood, Brown will be called on to make an impact early and often once he arrives at Fairfield, where he’ll join a handful of former teammates.