HOOVER, Ala. -- Giuseppe Gentile is the best freshman player in this year’s College Cup. You’ll get no argument on that point from Gentile. It’s not because he’s cocky although such hubris has the supporting body of work.

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The 6-foot, 165-pound forward leads Charlotte in scoring with 10 goals and two assists. He leads the team with five game-winning goals, and in the NCAA tournament leads the team with three goals and an assist.

Head coach Jeremy Gunn would prefer he not speak prior to the tournament. In Gunn’s eyes, and in the eyes of everyone who has watched him this season, his play speaks for itself.

“Really he’s doing his job as a striker,” Gunn said. “He’s getting in front of the goal and finishing chances, just like we’d want any forward to do. He’s has a tremendous year."

“We started him off a little bit quieter. We had a couple of injuries, so he had to accept a little bit more responsibility. He’s come through it with flying colors. We always knew he would be. With a name like Giuseppe Gentile you can’t fail to be a good soccer player, can you?”

Gentile, a native of Charlotte native was familiar with the 49ers’ coaching staff and players through the city’s soccer community. As transitions to the college game go, this was among the smoothest.

“We’ve worked with him at the local club, so it wasn’t all entirely new to him,” Gunn said. "He had teammates on the team. Quite a few of our guys were in the Charlotte Soccer Academy. It sort of allowed him to settle in.”

He got acclimated to the college game early working out with 49ers players over the summer. It was through those drills that the team found out it had a very special player.

“Working with him in June in captain’s practices, you could see that he was a class above the other incoming guys,” Ike Caughran, the 49ers’ junior midfielder, said. “He was one of those really naturally gifted kids. He got here early and definitely put in the work. Everything is kind of falling into place for him this year.”

Working with him in June in captain’s practices, you could see that he was a class above the other incoming guys
-- Charlotte midfielder Ike Caughran

So much so there was no surprise that it was Gentile who essentially put the 49ers into the finals. In the quarterfinals, down to Connecticut, 1-0, on a goal scored in the 81st minute, the season looked all but over. But Gentile put in the tying marker in the 85th minute and Charlotte went on to win on penalty kicks.

“He’s a supreme athlete, a great goal scorer who finds inventive, weird ways to score goals,” Owen Darby said. “In a situation like that, that’s kind of what you need. Just being a freshman and being able to score and put up point it impressive. To be a freshman, he doesn’t play like one. You can’t overstate that enough. He makes big plays.”

Gentile’s goal steeled the team’s resolve for sure. Gunn said his team is enjoying the competition against the best teams in the nation. And although they respect for the other teams in the country, they’re also happy to go up against them.

“To us, if we don’t have the household name logo on our jersey, that’s not too important to us,” Gunn said. “We find ways to win.”

Because his big-time players, like Gentile, make plays.

“You just kind of shrug your shoulders because he’s done in time and time again throughout this tournament,” Caughran said. “We’ve kind of relied on him to be that guy to get the equalizer or the game-winner, and he came in big once again.”

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