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Five Things to Look for in Cardinals Spring Opener

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Former Louisville standout Paolo DelPiccolo is set to return to Cardinal Park on Saturday with Indy Eleven.

Blog written by Doug Paccione

This Saturday the University of Louisville men's soccer team returns to the field for the first time since November. The team is excited as the players look forward to hosting pro franchise Indy Eleven, which will begin its inaugural season in the North American Soccer League in April. With a 7:30 p.m., ET kickoff at Cardinal Park, the match features many storylines. Here are just a few reasons to check out this preseason friendly:

1. DelPiccolo and Mares Return to the Ville: A homecoming of sorts will occur on the pitch Saturday. Former Louisville soccer players Paolo DelPiccolo and Dylan Mares will suit up for Indy Eleven as the team looks to piece together a roster for the upcoming season. DelPiccolo, a four-year starter in the midfield for the Cardinals, is the school's career leader in assists (23) and was a member of the 2010 team that reached the NCAA title match. Mares spent three years at UofL, highlighted by his redshirt sophomore season in 2012 when he lead the team in goals (7) and total points (20), before finishing his collegiate career at Indiana. "Playing with those guys was a great experience," said Louisville senior Daniel Keller. "It's going to be fun to be on the field with them again."

2. Louisville Coopers Looking to Make Some Noise: The Louisville Coopers, a local group established to celebrate the city's emerging soccer culture and advocate for a pro club here in the River City, will be on hand to support the Cardinals on Saturday night. In an effort to rival the Brickyard Battalion, Indy's fans who will also be attendance, the Coopers have planned a tailgate and march to Cardinal Park, with the hope of establishing the "I-65 Derby" between the two soccer towns. This will be the first match and public appearance for the group, so expect a spirited turn out.

3. Kicking It For a Great Cause: The game this Saturday is a charity match with the proceeds going to Family Scholar House. This organization focuses on support of single parent families, by providing assistance through education. Housing assistance, family support, and education services are all provided to the less fortunate by FSH. The proceeds from ticket sales of the game will go to Family Scholar House as well as donations of gently used children's books for a book drive.

4. A Couple of First Impressions to be Made: Louisville midfielders Ben Strong and Will Vitalis will be using the friendly to launch their return to the pitch for the first time in more than a year. Both players sat out in the fall and are looking forward to getting back on the field. A transfer from Virginia Tech who will compete in his senior year this fall, Strong spent his time in Blacksburg playing center-mid and stood as the primary free kick and corner taker for the Hokies. Vitalis, who will also be a senior, was Mr. Kentucky Soccer as a prep senior at South Oldham High and has tallied five goals and eight assists in his time with the Cardinals.

5. Looking Forward to Lynn: As the hype grows for the move, Louisville fans who come out Saturday will get to learn more about the future home of Louisville soccer. Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium will open in August as one of the premier soccer facilities collegiate soccer has to offer. The new venue will seat more than 5,300 and include many features for a truly unique fan experience. A preview of Lynn Stadium as well as season ticket information for the upcoming fall season will be available at the match, making the game a can't miss.

Saturday's match is set for a 7:30 p.m., ET kickoff at Cardinal Park. The game begins the spring campaign for Louisville, which includes fixtures vs. Lindsey Wilson, Akron and SIUE as well as a match against the Columbus Crew of the MLS.

It wasn't all that long ago that Andrew Farrell and Paolo DelPiccolo were starring on the field at Cardinal Park in Louisville. During their tenure, the University of Louisville men's soccer team went to three straight NCAA Elite Eights and one College Cup final.

On Thursday morning, the duo that many fans came to know as "Salt n' Peppa" through their YouTube variety series last year returned to their college home. Both were present bright and early as this year's Cardinal squad met for training.

As the Cards await this Monday's release of the NCAA tournament bracket, Farrell and DelPiccolo brought plenty of valuable stories with them that they shared during a team meeting that lasted just over a half an hour. They talked to the team about everything from being a professional to how to improve as a player every day.

Farrell was drafted first overall by the New England Revolution, and helped the team to their first playoff appearance since 2009. The former Louisville center back made the transition to right back starting in 32 of the Revs' 34 MLS regular season matches.

"I enjoyed it," Farrell told the team about his season with the Revolution. "We had a good year (in New England), and I think I played well even though I'll keep getting better. The biggest adjustment was the pace of the professional game, so working on tactics was a huge focus for me this season."

DelPiccolo took a different route to MLS, making a brief trip to Frankfurt, Germany for a stint with Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt before eventually landing with the Montreal Impact for the remainder of the 2013 MLS season.

"Living in a different culture was tough," said DelPiccolo to the team about his time in Germany. "It wasn't quite like MLS, and it definitely wasn't like it is here at Louisville. With that said, I learned a lot and it helped me when I got to Montreal, where I got to learn again."

While the two took different paths to MLS after their respective departures from Louisville after the 2012 season, they remain good friends and had some poignant messages for the 2013 Cards. Among those sentiments was a reminder to enjoy every moment of their college careers and work hard in a great soccer environment at Louisville.

"The time that Andrew and Paolo have had with our guys and the experience they've had over the last year is so valuable, and we're glad to have them back as part of the family for the next few days," said head coach Ken Lolla on Thursday morning.

The selection show for this season's NCAA Men's Soccer Championship field will be available on NCAA.com at noon ET on Monday. Tune in and follow the Louisville men's soccer here on the Scoop de Ville, and follow the Cards on Twitter and Instagram (both @UofLMensSoccer), as well as on Facebook.

New Season Starts This Weekend for Louisville Men's Soccer

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One goal for the Louisville men's soccer team has been checked off the list with the regular season American Athletic Conference title in hand. They clinched the title outright on Sunday with a 0-0 draw against the USF Bulls. Now, the Cardinals turn their attention to the pursuit of another trophy, the AAC tournament championship.

"It's definitely a new season now," said senior goalkeeper Mike Mauro following the USF match. "If you lose, you go home, so we need to focus on having a great week of training to be ready to go on the weekend."

No matter how the AAC tournament ends, the Cardinals' season won't be over. Still, the team won't take anything lightly as they kick-off the postseason with their first match on Saturday in an AAC quarterfinal. They know that their regular season title has led to a home game and a distinct advantage in the journey to the first ever AAC tournament title.

"The goals we set build off of each other," said head coach Ken Lolla.

Another conference title will certainly help to build their resume for the NCAA Tournament as well as the AAC bracket includes a familiar and highly ranked foe in the second seeded Connecticut Huskies.

The Cardinals haven't taken home a conference tournament trophy since they won the Big East Tournament with an overtime victory over Providence at New Jersey's Red Bull Arena in 2010. That season, the Cardinals made their first appearance in the NCAA College Cup before falling to Akron in the national championship match.

Sure to help Louisville in its quest for its first postseason conference championship in three years is Ricardo Velazco, who was named AAC Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season on Monday. Velazco leads the Cardinals and the conference in points with 23.

While Velazco has made headlines as the team-leader in goals (seven) and assists (nine), senior center back Jimmy Ockford has turned heads in the conference as well. In his first season as a Cardinal, Ockford has been named defensive player of the week twice. Both Velazco and Ockford could be in line for postseason awards when the conference meets for the championship banquet next weekend.

On Saturday, Louisville will set their sights on Toyota Stadium, home of Major League Soccer's F.C. Dallas and host to this year's AAC semifinals and final. In the meantime, the Cards await either eighth seeded Rutgers or ninth seeded Cincinnati, who play Friday afternoon in a first round match at Cardinal Park. Saturday night's conference quarterfinal at Cardinal Park is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Should Louisville win on Saturday night, they will take on either Temple or USF in the conference semifinals a week from Friday in Frisco, Texas. As postseason play begins, stay tuned for more coverage of Louisville men's soccer here on the Scoop de Ville, and follow the Cards on Twitter and Instagram (both @UofLMensSoccer), as well as on Facebook.

When the Louisville men's soccer team set out at the beginning of the season with its list of goals, one of them was to be the regular season champions of the American Athletic Conference. Following a win last weekend in Memphis, the Cardinals have earned at least a share of that goal and can clinch the regular season title outright with a win this Sunday afternoon against the USF Bulls at Cardinal Park.

Regardless of the result on Sunday, 11th-ranked Louisville has already locked up the top seed in the AAC's inaugural men's soccer tournament. With that, they will await the winner of next Friday's (Nov. 8, 2 p.m., ET) opening round match between the eighth and ninth seeds to be played at Cardinal Park. The following day (Saturday, Nov. 9), Louisville will play the winner of that opener in a quarterfinal match at 7 p.m., ET also at Cardinal Park.

"We are excited to have secured the number one seed going into the conference tournament, as that was one of our preseason goals," said head coach Ken Lolla on Monday afternoon.

Before the Cardinals can worry about wrapping up the first ever AAC regular season championship, they have their final out of conference test on Thursday night when the Saint Louis Billikens come into town. That match, slated for a 7 p.m. kickoff, has implications of a different kind.

While Louisville is aware of the opportunity to win a conference title this weekend, there is another focus that is equally important as teams around the country jockey for postseason positioning in the NCAA Tournament. The RPI rankings are a key piece to tournament seeding, and with Saint Louis currently ranked in the top 40 (#34), Thursday presents a golden opportunity to add to the Cardinals' resume.

"We understand that going into the postseason, it is important to be playing well and increase our RPI standing," said Lolla. "Our games this week will provide us the opportunity to do both." Louisville was ranked 26th in the NCAA's Monday release of the RPI rankings, and is 10-3-2 on the season.

Saint Louis is ranked 20th in this week's Soccer America Top 25 and will carry a 9-3-2 record into Cardinal Park Thursday night. USF will come to Louisville with a 5-3-7 record overall, and is 2-2-3 in AAC play this season.

As the regular season comes to an end, stay tuned for more coverage of men's soccer here on the Scoop de Ville, and follow the Cards on Twitter and Instagram (both @UofLMensSoccer), as well as on Facebook.

Freshman Andrew Brody has a couple of things in common with sophomore Ricardo Velazco, and it isn't just that they are both midfielders in Ken Lolla's starting 11. They're members of different graduating classes, but this pair of Cardinal newcomers has made an unmistakable impact on this year's nationally ranked Louisville squad.

Velazco has tallied a team-leading five goals to go along with four assists in his 10 starts. Those numbers have earned him the most points on the team (14) this season. Brody's season point total of eight is good for second best, and he leads the team in assists with six. Both have already earned all-conference weekly honors this season.

Aside from being the team's statistical leaders, Velazco and Brody share a remarkably similar background that dates back to their club soccer career prior to joining the collegiate ranks. Both were members of a unique academy program affiliated with Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake. The only program of its kind in the United States, RSL's Arizona residency program in Casa Grande began play in 2010.

For Velazco, a Casa Grande native, playing for RSL-AZ was an easy decision. Brody, who hails from Orlando, Fla., had a bit of a bigger move to make. Nevertheless, they have both been a part of Real Salt Lake's success as a revolutionary program in US Soccer's Development Academy system, the top level of youth soccer in the country. Brody was even invited to preseason camp with Real Salt Lake's first team earlier this year.

The two Cardinals are no strangers to success, and they now face the task of continuing a tradition of excellence at Louisville, which is still in search of its first NCAA crown in men's soccer. So far, they have done more than their fair share in helping this year's squad to a school-record five consecutive shutouts. The Cards currently stand alone at the top the American Athletic Conference standings with nine points.

While similar yet different paths have brought them together - Velazco played a year of college soccer at Cal State San Bernardino prior to arriving at Louisville - soccer fans in the Derby City have only seen the beginning of a bright future in the Cardinal midfield.

No. 11 Louisville finally returns to Cardinal Park on Saturday night after more than a week without a home match. The Cardinals will face off against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at 7 p.m., ET as they continue their AAC slate.

Stay tuned for more coverage of men's soccer here on the Scoop de Ville, and follow the Cards on Twitter and Instagram (both @UofLMensSoccer), as well as on Facebook.

As the Louisville men's soccer team heads to Dallas tomorrow morning for a Sunday evening matchup with the SMU Mustangs, it will carry a scoreless streak that has propelled them to a 3-0-1 record in the last four matches.

The scoreless streak dates back to the first half of their remarkable 4-2 comeback victory over CSU Bakersfield in which they scored all four goals in the second half. Following that victory, the Cardinals ripped off three straight victories.

On Wednesday, Louisville fought the Ohio State Buckeyes to a 0-0 tie after two overtime periods. While it's always disappointing to be held without a goal, head coach Ken Lolla was still pleased with parts of the match.

"In games like that, you have a lot of chances but you also know that it could easily go the other way," said Lolla. "I was proud that our guys stayed tuned in and preserved the draw, keeping the shutout streak."

Louisville's current streak matches a school record that was set twice under Lolla in 2009 and 2011. In 2009, the Cardinals won the Big East Red Division title, while in 2011, they reached the NCAA's Elite Eight round for the second straight year.

These 2013 Cardinals have similar aspirations, including capturing the first ever American Athletic Conference title in men's soccer.

Perhaps a slight change in the lineup has been behind the Cards' elevated play defensively. On Sept. 21, freshman center back Michael DeGraffenriedt was inserted into the back four to play next to senior Jimmy Ockford in Louisville's conference-opening shutout of UCF. That game started Louisville's current streak of shutouts.

Since DeGraffenreidt and Ockford have continued to gel as a pair of center backs in the Cardinals' starting 11, redshirt junior and team captain Daniel Keller has settled into a new role as a holding midfielder. Coach Lolla and his staff have heralded Keller's versatility as much as his leadership and it has paid major dividends as Louisville heads into the second half of the season.

Keller's dominant ability to win balls in the air from a midfield position allows for the back four to serve a different purpose, which has helped the squad to a 6-2-1 record on the season and an undefeated record in conference play (2-0-0).

While the lineup shake-up has certainly helped keep the shutout streak alive, other members of the Cardinal defense have done more than their fair share. DeGraffenriedt isn't the only freshman that has chipped in, as classmate Taylor Curtis has provided Louisville with steady performances as an outside back opposite veteran Jerry Ramirez.

The final piece of the puzzle for the Cardinals' defensive prowess has been German international Joachim Ball. The junior goalkeeper has been fantastic in goal over the past four matches. He has come up with big saves when the Cards have needed it, making six over the streak of clean sheets.

The school record for consecutive scoreless minutes is 496 set during the 2011 campaign. The current streak this season sits at 428 as the Cards head to the Lone Star State to resume conference play. Kickoff at SMU is scheduled for Sunday at 8 p.m., ET in Dallas.

Stay tuned for more coverage of men's soccer here on the Scoop de Ville, and follow the Cards on Twitter and Instagram (both @UofLMensSoccer), as well as on Facebook.

As the 22nd-ranked Louisville men's soccer team (3-2-0) prepares for its first trip to UCF (2-2-2) in program history, they're also preparing for the beginning of their only season in the new American Athletic Conference.

Coincidentally, Louisville hasn't met Central Florida on the pitch since September 21, 2003, exactly 10 years prior to this year's encounter. Louisville was the 1-0 victor in the neutral-field game in 2003.

Saturday night's match in Orlando is only the beginning of an eight-game conference slate in which they will face four new in-conference opponents. This week on the Scoop de Ville, we're taking a look at those teams, how they've fared this season and how the Cardinals have done against them all-time.

The Temple Owls will be the next AAC foe for Louisville when they travel to Cardinal Park on Saturday, Sept. 28. That match will be the first time the two programs have played each other. The Owls are currently 4-2.

Next on the conference schedule will be the SMU Mustangs, a program that has spent its fair share of time in the national rankings in recent years. They're currently 1-5 on the season, and will welcome the Cardinals to Dallas on Sunday, Oct. 6. The only previous match between Louisville and SMU came in 2000 when the Cards fell to the Mustangs 2-1 on a neutral field.

Upon their return from the Lone Star State, Louisville will turn its attention to a familiar opponent from the former Big East Conference, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Rutgers is 3-2-1 this season, and the Cards hold a 4-2-2 advantage in the all-time series. Louisville will be looking to avenge last season's 2-1 loss in Piscataway when the two teams play this season at Cardinal Park.

Perhaps the marquee match of the AAC schedule will arrive at Cardinal Park on Saturday, Oct. 19 when the Connecticut Huskies come to town. Connecticut is the only other ranked team in the AAC (#12 in the NSCAA Coaches' Poll), and they have beaten Louisville in four of the five all-time matches between the two. The Huskies are 2-2-1 this season.

The Cardinals will make the short drive up I-71 to play the Cincinnati Bearcats on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Louisville's most familiar opponent, the Bearcats are 2-3-1 on the year. The October match will be the 39th time the two sides have met, and Cincinnati holds the all-time series lead with a record of 21-16-1 against the Cards.

Louisville's penultimate regular season AAC match will be their second straight on the road when they go to Memphis to face the Tigers on Saturday, Oct. 26. Memphis is 4-1-1 this year, and like Cincinnati, the Tigers hold an all-time series lead over the Cards at 13-6-1. The two teams last met in 2007, with the Cardinals falling 1-0 in Memphis.

In their final regular season match in the AAC, the Cardinals will meet the USF Bulls, who are 14-7-2 all-time against Louisville. The Cards won the last match between the two in a 2-1 victory in Tampa last season. South Florida is 1-1-2 so far this year.

While the Cardinals' stay in the American Athletic Conference will be short, they hope to leave their mark as the first men's soccer champion in conference history. The Cards have quite the road ahead before the AAC meets for that first championship in Frisco, Texas in November.

Be sure to stay tuned to the Scoop de Ville and GoCards.com for updates along the way as the Cardinals commence their pursuit of a conference championship on Saturday night. Kickoff against the UCF Knights in Orlando is scheduled for 7 p.m., ET and subscribers of CardsTV can watch the match online here.

As always, follow the Cards on Twitter and Instagram (both @UofLMensSoccer), as well as on Facebook.

Preseason in the Past as Louisville Prepares for Virginia

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After last Saturday's final exhibition game (a 0-0 tie with the Northwestern Wildcats), preseason training officially reached its end for the No. 10 University of Louisville men's soccer team. Now, the focus of the squad shifts to the regular season where future ACC conference foe and 25th-ranked Virginia is first on the docket.

The team will leave Thursday for its Friday night match against the Cavaliers, but there's still plenty of valuable time left on the training field before the regular season begins in earnest.

Preseason was a critical time for this season's Cardinals in particular, with new faces all over the starting 11. Freshmen Romi Hernandez, Andrew Brody and Michael DeGraffenriedt have joined a massive group of transfers that will have a big part in the team's success this season. Among those transfers that saw time in the starting 11 this preseason are center back Jimmy Ockford, midfielders Nolan Moore and Ricardo Velazco and forward Jonathan Brown.

Louisville went 1-0-2 in the preseason, and while the Cards concede that they would have liked some better results, they see a great opportunity for more growth as the season kicks off.

In the two ties against Michigan and Northwestern, Louisville only scored one goal. Against Northwestern, the team's trademark style of pressing defensively kept a clean sheet and didn't allow a single shot on goal, preserving a draw. Against Michigan, the Wolverines' set piece goal was the difference between a draw and a victory.

As is common with teams with new pieces all over the field, the attacking aspect of the side may appear to be developing slower than their fast-paced defensive tactics. Still, the Cardinals showed that if there was a lack of scoring in the preseason (aside from the three goals scored against Lindsey Wilson), the ability is there for that to change quickly.

"The attacking will come," said associate head coach Mario Sanchez after training Tuesday. "Every practice is getting better and guys are getting more comfortable with the timing and spacing of it. We have some very talented players in the attack, and we know that they will be able to create chances to score goals this year."

With classes underway as of Monday, the team has settled into a new routine with morning training sessions at 8 a.m., daily. They will have four sessions on the training field before they depart for Virginia late Thursday afternoon.

Friday's match at Virginia is set to kickoff at 8 p.m., ET and live audio will be available through CardsTV at GoCards.com. Stay tuned to the Scoop de Ville and GoCards.com for more from the team as their departure to Charlottesville for the season opener draws closer.

As always, follow the Cards on Twitter and Instagram (both @UofLMensSoccer), as well as on Facebook.

Cardinal Soccer Prepares for Lindsey Wilson

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The 2013 Louisville Cardinals men's soccer team hit the training field on Floyd Street for the first time Wednesday morning after a brief team meeting inside Cardinal Park. They worked for about two hours total before heading to lunch a little before noon.

It was the first time that the coaching staff was able to see the team in action together. With only one day before their first exhibition match tonight, plenty of full-sided work was on tap as both the morning and afternoon sessions featured 11 v. 11 games. At first sight, head coach Ken Lolla and his staff liked what they saw.

"The energy level was very good, the intensity was excellent," said Lolla. "There's a lot of teaching and growth that will go on because of how many new players we have, but the team is very open to change and receive information."

Change and growth will be a familiar tune as the young preseason continues to unfold for the youthful Cards. While veterans like Daniel Keller and Marlon Hairston appeared to be picking up where they left off last season, there were plenty of new faces that made a good first impression as well.

This season's Louisville roster features transfers from all over the country creating an intriguing dynamic with newcomers to the program who bring experience at the college level.

"The transfers that came in the spring will have a significant impact this season," said Lolla. "Jimmy (Ockford), Nolan (Moore) and Derek (McCaffrey) have done a great job acclimating themselves through the spring. Ricardo (Velasco) is used to the speed of play and should be able to step in and contribute."

Velasco was not with the Cards in the spring but has hit the ground running, quickly acclimating himself to the side and spending time practicing with the starting group. The Cal State San Bernardino transfer is only a sophomore, but looks poised to be able to make a difference with whatever time he sees on the field.

Tonight's match against NAIA powerhouse Lindsey Wilson should prove to be a worthy test for the Cardinals. While the new team is still working to gel for the regular season, there are still things to accomplish in the eyes of the coaches.

"We're looking at two things," said Lolla. "The energy level of the group as a whole will be important. We aren't expecting the attacking to be completely organized, but keeping our shape and getting good pressure will be the focus."

Kickoff tonight at Cardinal Park is at 7 p.m., ET and admission is free. The team will have a full day on Friday with two training sessions and the inaugural Kickoff Banquet at the Galt House Hotel downtown.

As always, be sure to check back here at the Scoop de Ville as well Twitter and Instagram (both @UofLMensSoccer) for the latest happenings as the Cards get into their preseason schedule. Also, remember that Coach Lolla will be taking questions on Twitter today at 12:30 p.m. Use the hashtag #AskKen when submitting your questions to @UofLmenssoccer.

Preseason Preparations Begin for 2013 Season

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This morning marked the official beginning of the 2013 campaign for the Louisville Cardinals men's soccer team. While they won't hit McDonald's Field (practice field) for their first training session until tomorrow morning, there was plenty of excitement around Cardinal Park as the team gathered for meetings. Here's a look at the schedule.

8 a.m. - Coaching staff and introductions

The team met at Cardinal Park for a set of meetings starting with an address from head coach Ken Lolla. It was the first time the coaching staff was able to meet with and address the team as a whole. Coach Lolla introduced the staff and discussed some general expectations of the players, stressing a high standard of excellence on the field and off.

8:20 a.m. - Sports Information

Sports Information Director Garett Wall met with the squad next, discussing interview policies and how media requests will be handled. Also discussed was the new postgame protocol for this season with postgame press conferences inside Cardinal Park. Social media etiquette was another key topic as the season ramps up.

8:30 a.m. - Compliance

Representatives from the Louisville compliance staff addressed all issues pertaining to NCAA rules and guidelines to brief the team on what to expect and how to make sure they stay eligible for competition.

9:30 a.m. - Health Care

Head trainer Steve Hoelscher talked with the guys about procedures in the training room as well as daily routines surrounding training sessions. Recovery and hydration were hot topics as the Cards enter their preseason schedule that includes two practices everyday. As the team prepares for their first exhibition match on Thursday, quick recovery will be a focus as training begins tomorrow.

10 a.m. - Equipment

"Christmas in August" came last on the docket before a break in the day. The players received their training gear and much more courtesy of adidas, the official outfitter of Louisville athletics. It's safe to call this part of the proceedings the overwhelming favorite for all involved.

After a bite to eat for lunch and a little bit of down time, the Cardinals reconvened this afternoon for team pictures and an academics meeting to establish goals in the classroom the fall.

Tonight, it's dinnertime at the Lolla's for a team meal and one final meeting before the Cards hit the pitch for training tomorrow morning. As practice begins, be sure to check back here on the Scoop de Ville as well Twitter and Instagram (both @UofLMensSoccer) for regular updates and insight on Preseason 2013.

Expectations Remain High for the 2013 Soccer Cardinals

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Welcome to the men's soccer section of Scoop de Ville, the official blog of the UofL athletic department. Throughout the season, this will be one of the best ways for fans to get an inside look at the Louisville men's soccer program as well as insight into what's going on around the American Athletic Conference and the NCAA.

The 2013 season promises to be another exciting one for the Cardinals after three straight Elite Eight trips in the NCAA Championship. With the departure of nearly half of the starting 11 that took the field last December in the NCAA quarterfinal loss at Maryland, this year's preseason will be a pivotal time for head coach Ken Lolla and his staff to evaluate a host of newcomers.

The NSCAA will release its Division I preseason rankings for 2013 on Aug 13. Louisville finished ninth in the final poll of 2012 after starting the season ranked seventh in the nation. One ranking to note that will likely have an impact early is Top Drawer Soccer's class rankings for the incoming class of 2013. They slotted Louisville's freshman class as the 11th best in the nation, the highest ever for an incoming class in program history.

Joining the historic group of freshmen is a large group of transfers, some who saw action during the Cardinals' spring slate earlier this year. Mitch Lurie (University of Portland), Derek McCaffrey (Boston University) and Nolan Moore (Cal Poly) highlight the transfers that played with the spring squad.

Key returnees for Louisville from last year's NCAA starting 11 include midfielders Marlon Hairston and Ade Akinsanya (also a Boston University transfer), center back Daniel Keller and goalkeeper Mike Mauro. Keller was named a team captain for 2013 and will be the man to watch in the back four as the Cardinals look to fill the other center back spot vacated by the MLS SuperDraft's No. 1 overall selection, Andrew Farrell. Hairston, a standout in his freshman season a year ago, and Akinsanya will need to be cornerstones of a midfield with holes left by the departing Paolo DelPiccolo (Montreal Impact) and Greg Cochrane (L.A. Galaxy).

The 2013 edition of the Cardinals will officially begin their preseason preparation on Tuesday (Aug. 13) when they convene for meetings. They'll take the practice field for the first time on Wednesday (Aug. 14) ahead of their first exhibition match against NAIA powerhouse Lindsey Wilson on Thursday (Aug. 15). Kickoff against the Blue Raiders at Cardinal Park is set for 7 p.m.

Keep an eye out for preseason updates starting next week here on the blog, and be sure to follow the Cards on Twitter and Instagram (both @UofLMensSoccer), as well as on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/UofLmenssoccer).

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