The 2014 Seton Hall Men's Soccer PreviewDate: August 28, 2014
By John Fanta, Assistant Sports Director
South Orange, NJ - Coming off the program's winningest season since 2007, the Seton Hall Pirates will look to keep moving the program forward under third-year head coach Gerson Echeverry.
Last season, the Pirates had an opportunity to play their way into the Big East Tournament with some assistance from fellow conference teams. While The Hall missed out with a 5-0 loss to St. John's, this year's team returns the explosive asset that the Pirates had in 2013. Sophomore midfielder Sam Geiler was sensational with eight goals and 20 points last season, leading him to All-Big East Rookie Team honors. The coaching staff is expecting more out of Geiler, who has taken up more of a veteran role after last year's team did not always have the best in leadership. "The first thing we have to do this season is focus mentally," said Echeverry in an interview this summer. "It comes down to the players' maturity and the leadership at the top."
The Pirates have had two players particularly have a boost in their roles. After starting in 17 games at midfield and compiling one goal and two assists for four points, Bolu Akinyode is expected to take his game to the next level. The Hall's attack will run through the senior captain in many ways. SHU's attack has had a finisher in the preseason that the coaches have praised throughout the offseason. Senior Kai Greene scored five of the blue and white's six goals in the preseason a season after the outside mid had two shots find the back of the night in 2013. Greene hasn't been the only one to find a hot streak. He's just one half of a dynamic duo that also features redshirt senior Victor Manosalvas. The midfielder made a splash during the summer, scoring 12 goals for the 12-0 Red Bulls U-23 Team and earning the National Premier Soccer League MVP Award. Manosalvas also took home the Puma Golden Boot Award, given to the league's highest goal scorer. The midfielder found Greene all three times in Saturday's 3-1 exhibition win over Bloomfield.
Defensively, the Pirates are still trying to figure out what their approach will be when pinned in the box, but the veteran talent is present to a good extent. Junior defender Julian Kennedy has started in every game of his first two seasons. One of three Germans on the team, Kennedy put up a team-high 1,666 minutes last season. He is joined in the back line by not only a leader on the field but also off the field. Senior Mateusz Brela will man the back line at center back. The captain has had the role of raising up some freshmen in the program, and he's done just that. Midfielders Jakub Golabek and Patrick Burd both started in Saturday's preseason match-up and saw significant time.
The goalkeeping scenario is arguably the top priority for The Hall to focus in on a season after giving up a Big East worst 2.20 goals per match. Sophomore goalkeeper Julian Spindler has shown better control with a year under his belt. While there really isn't a back-up in place, it's up to Spindler to turn into more of a communicator. "The miscues and unforced errors inside our own box need to end," said Echeverry. Spindler will hope to do that.
Extra News and Notes
The Pirates were selected to finish ninth out of 10 in the stacked Big East Conference. Last season, half of the league advanced to soccer's big dance. Geiler represented SHU on the All-Big East Preseason Team.
For more info on those items, go to http://www.wsou.net/news/msocpreseasonranks.cfm#.U_7HPTfD-P4.
The Pirates will play eight NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago and will finish with four out of five Big East opponents that advanced last season.
Rhode Island will be led by 6-4 German goalkeeper Nils Leifhelm. URI returns eight starters but has been picked to finish No. 12 out of 13 in the Atlantic 10 Preseason Poll. The Rams went 2-14-0 and 0-8-0 last fall.
The opening kick is at 7 p.m. Friday at Rhode Island. Follow on twitter @John_Fanta and @WSOUSports.
Programming Note: 89.5 WSOU will carry Friday's rivalry match between Seton Hall WSOC and Rutgers. The Pirates were ranked No. 10 in the NSCAA Northeast Regional Poll this week. It was the first time in which they had hopped into the rankings since 2012. Kick is at 5:30 pm on Friday at Rutgers.
To reach John Fanta, e-mail email@example.com or tweet @John_Fanta.