Maturity and depth assisting Mens Soccer in 2015
By Carl Straut-Collard
September 1, 2015
After finishing fifth in the America East last season, the University at Albany men’s soccer team will use its foundation of depth and maturity to its advantage with 13 upper classmen and eight starters returning this fall.
Head coach Trevor Gorman stresses consistency and execution of the little things, two objectives he believes will factor into the team’s aspiring contentions for the America East crown and NCAA postseason.
“This group has largely been together for a number of years now. It’s a mature team that’s very close on and off the field,” said Gorman. “We believe we’re good enough to play against, and beat, anyone out there if we’re performing at our best. Embracing these types of challenges is the mark of a mature, motivated, team.”
The departures of starting forward Brandon Wilson, starting defender Dominic McGarr and starting goalkeeper Tim Allen is not expected to hurt the team in the fall. Gorman admits last year’s seniors were great representatives of the program and its philosophy, but says replacing them is part of the process and their impact on the players returning will remain in the team’s identity.
Junior defenders Keith Traut, Bernardo Mattos and Luke Palmateer started every match last season and will lead the way for a Danes backfield that allowed 1.26 goals per game in 2014. The defense continues to develop its overall shape, positioning and ability to give opposing offenses a challenge in penetrating.
Offensively, Gorman says the goal is to establish the best attacking combinations and apply pressure with versatility, pace and movement. The Danes scored an average of 1.11 goals per game last season. Sophomore forward Afonso Pinheiro, UAlbany’s biggest scoring threat after a team-leading seven goals and sixteen points in 2014, will accompany junior midfielders Leo Melgar, who scored four goals and ten points in 19 matches, and Pedro Espindola, who scored a goal and two assists in 18 matches last season.
Junior goalkeeper Michael Pizzuto will take over the starting role in net after allowing 1.97 goals per game and making 14 saves in four starts a season ago. Redshirt sophomore Eric Orologio returns to the lineup after taking a redshirt season last year.
Highlighted among the seven offseason additions is freshman Nico Solabarrieta, a product of Santiago, Chile, who has been in the Chilean youth national pool at numerous under-21 age groups. Solabarrieta’s dynamic scoring ability as an attacking forward brands him as a constant threat and immediate impact player in the fall, according to Gorman.
Reid Conde, a freshman from Manchester, Vermont also joins the 2015 squad and presents a flexible option in the midfield. Conde is a two time all-state selection from Vermont who tallied 39 goals and 30 assists with Burr & Burton Academy and earned an invite to the U.S Soccer Training Center.
UAlbany is scheduled to play the three-time defending conference champions, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers, on October 10 in Baltimore. The Danes are responsible for UMBC’s lone in-conference non-victorious result last season in a 1-1 double overtime tie.
UMBC finished 6-0-1 in the America East last season, became the conference’s first team to reach the NCAA College Cup and finished 2014 ranked fourth in the country. The America East coaches consider UMBC one of the favorites to repeat for the title again this fall. UMBC has not lost an in-conference regular season match since October 2012 when the Danes won 2-1 at home.
UAlbany will have its hands full in a competitive America East field, but Gorman is overtly confident in his experienced team’s ability to fight like dogs on the pitch.
“We have a lot of older players who have significant match experience from their career; that kind of experienced depth is something we consider a major strength,” said Gorman. “The college soccer season is an intense grind that’s very physically demanding. To have so many guys prepared to handle it is something I’m excited about.”
The schedule consists of matches at George Mason on September 5, the 31st overall team in the NCAA Division I preseason rankings, and at Syracuse on October 6, who is ranked 15th overall.
After a tough loss to Villanova in their first game, the Great Danes rebounded with a 1-0 win over Rhode Island on Sunday afternoon to even their record with one win and one loss.