Hayden Gehr Staff Writer
The Dons’ first-year head coach Eddie Soto has seemingly excelled at every level of soccer. He was a collegiate star at Cal State-Fullerton in the early 1990’s, a member of the USA Pro Beach Soccer Team, and an assistant coach for the past eight years at UCLA, which earned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament last season. The Foghorn’s Hayden Gehr met with Soto to discuss the start to the season, the team’s new mentality, and the importance of fan support.
It’s a scrimmage, it’s hard to get too excited about it. But as a starting point, it was good. There was a lot of good things that came from the game, and some things that we really need to work on some more, so it was a good test. Obviously, we’re heading to Madison (Wisconsin) next week, and they’re going to be a really tough opponent, so it was good to play a team like Cal to see what we need to work on.
On applying his UCLA coaching experience at USF:
Wherever you coach, you take the good and bad to help develop you into the coach you want to be. The time I spent at UCLA was great, and I learned a lot about coaching, about managing, about being a better person, and I’m putting all of those things together here to help develop my brand to this program.
On respecting USF soccer’s history and making his own imprint:
It’s important to know the history and respect the history, but I need to keep working on what I’m doing here now. I don’t want our guys or myself to forget what’s been done here, but it was a different time. You know, the game is different, it evolved from when they were coaching here. It’s our opportunity, we’re the stewards of the ship now, and we’re going to do the best we can to compete and hopefully put a product on the field that everybody’s proud of.
On the team’s new mindset:
When I got hired, the one thing I really focused on was changing our mentality, you know, what guys brought every day to training. So it was good to see that, during the spring, the guys really bought in, and really committed themselves off the field. I think the lifestyles that some of these guys lived weren’t suited for a Division 1 athlete, so it was nice to see that they recommitted themselves and were refocused on the cause, which was our program. They came into camp fit, and the freshmen that we brought on are really excited, and that’s why they’re here – to help elevate this program back up.
On putting players in positions to score this year:
It’s through training, and putting them in environments in training that resemble the game. Putting a lot of pressure on them in tight spaces within the Final Third, and training in a lot of game-like situations. Again, everything comes down to what we do on the practice field, and hopefully, that will translate into a game. The practice sessions are key, and what we put together for them is very important.
On what fans can expect to see from the team this season:
I think (fans can expect) a more exciting brand of soccer. We all witnessed the great World Cup this summer, and we all enjoy watching entertaining, attacking soccer. And our fans, our community, our alumni are going to be able to come to a game and sit down and enjoy good soccer, attacking soccer. Hopefully, with that brand comes some wins, so we’ll see.
On increasing attendance at games:
We’d really like to get our student body out and supporting this soccer team. One of our goals as staff here is to fill our stadium and get some people into the stands. Our guys are doing a lot to work on that, our staff is going to be working a lot with the community. We’d really like to get our stadium going, and obviously we know we need to win and put a good product on the field, but if we can get some support, these guys need it. We want to make it a fun, lively environment for our fans, and for our players to play in.