With regular season play approaching fast, the USF Men’s Soccer team is working hard physically and mentally to make this season a success. A very young team with lots of new faces (19 freshmen, a new assistant coach and only five seniors) head coach Erik Visser is calling the year “a building year” with hopes to “integrate the new freshmen, build team chemistry and look to compete in conference not only this year but in the years following.” The Dons are predicted to place sixth in the West Coast Conference according to preseason coaches’ polls, underneath Bay Area rival Santa Clara. With a loaded preseason schedule including Northwestern, UC Berkeley, Stanford and the ever-challenging WCC the team definitely has their work cut out for them if they want to win a championship this year. But work is just what the boys have been doing all preseason: physically, with intense three-a-day training sessions, weight lifting and lots of running; and mentally by working with the team’s sports psychologist.
Last year the Men’s soccer team graduated a group of extraordinarily talented players. Forward Connor Chinn, mid-fielders Jonathan Levi, Leon Williams, Victor Wennberg and center defender Omar Elmasri were all major contributors both on and off the field. Chinn is now a regular contributor for the New York Red Bulls soccer team and defender Elmasri just recently quit the team to go play professionally in Monterrey, Mexico. Fortunately, the freshman class is a disciplined group of players with lots of potential.
The extremely athletic, soccer savvy freshman class is full of future star talent. “The new freshmen have really bought into the system,” said senior captain Victor Cortez, and they “know when to joke around and when to get down to business.” Karl Krafft, a midfielder from Norway, has already scored two goals for the Don’s in their opening game against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Other standout freshmen include Mauricio Diaz de Leon, Fred Loechen, Vergard Karlsen and Tommy Balistreri. Diaz is easily recognizable by his explosiveness on the ball, tricky moves and confidence on the field and will need to play a pivotal role in the upcoming season if the Don’s are to be successful. Fred Loechen is a 6’7” center back that will hopefully be able to use his size to anchor the defense. He has high-level experience playing in Norway with fellow teammate Krafft.
With so many promising new recruits it is easy to forget the hard work that the senior class has put in over the last three years. Looking to finish his college career strong with a WCC Championship, captain Cortez looks at the youthful team with hope and emphasizes the seniors’ loads of experience in West Coast Conference play as well as the incredible fitness of the team as major strengths that will help the Don’s achieve their goals. The team was ranked sixth in preseason polls during 2008 and ended up winning the WCC. This year the tactics will be adjusted to make up for the loss of a stellar mid-field but the formation will be just the same: a 4-3-2-1 with 4 defenders in the back and one forward playing high up top. The team has been working hard in practice playing in small teams to encourage passing and to learn how each other plays. This year will be a building block for future seasons as the young team will continue to learn and become closer friends.
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