Men’s Soccer: Young players must make quick impact

Men’s Soccer: Young players must make quick impact

By Matt Nielsen

Last season was filled with firsts for the Northeastern men’s soccer team. After posting winning records in five of their last six seasons in the America East Conference, the Huskies played their first season in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). It was also the first year at Northeastern for the entire coaching staff, headed by Brian Ainscough, formerly the coach at Bowdoin College and Providence College.

The Huskies were competitive during their first season in the CAA. All-CAA second-team goalkeeper Sergio Saccoccio, CAA All-Rookie team selection Andrew Konopelsky and leading scorer Greg Kilkenny kept the Huskies in the game, allowing the team to rack up a school-record six draws. However, despite the excitement of joining a stronger conference, Northeastern quickly discovered how tough the new competition was, posting an overall mark of 3-9-6 (2-4-5 CAA) and finishing in a three-way tie for ninth out of twelve teams in the conference.

“The CAA in comparison to the America East was a big step up in class,” Kilkenny said. “We didn’t get to the playoffs and I think that’s where we wanted to be. We had a few hard-luck stories in some games which would have changed the whole season, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

As the summer months roll by and the season looms near, it appears it will be another year of change for the Huskies. Saccoccio, the school’s all-time leader in saves and minutes played, and the player who kept Northeastern close during their recent years of offensive struggle (11 goals in 18 games last season) has graduated, leaving an uncertainty in goal.

“Sergio is a big loss,” Kilkenny said. “He’s a great character and a great player to have in your dressing room.”

It will be up to three sophomore keepers to fill the void left by the departing Saccoccio. Ricky Beliveau, Andrew Madero and Kyle Zinter have almost no in-goal experience, collecting a combined 16:48 of net time last season as freshmen and seeing no shots on goal during that time.

In other ways, however, the Huskies’ youth is their greatest advantage. Last season, 17 players on the 25-man roster were freshmen or sophomores, meaning not only will most of their players return this season, but fans can also expect to see dramatic improvement in their game, along with rising expectations over the next couple of years.

The Huskies will look to junior forward Kilkenny to jumpstart an offense that has scored only 57 goals per game over the last two seasons. Last year Kilkenny, hailing from Bray Wilkow, Ireland, scored five of Northeastern’s 11 goals, including game-tying tallies against CAA rivals Drexel and Towson.

“We have a few players who could step up and take hold of things,” Kilkenny said. “The captain’s armband is still up for grabs.”

The midfield will be anchored by sophomore midfielder Andrew Konopelsky. Konopelsky started 15 games last season, scoring a goal and adding an assist on his way to being named to the CAA all-rookie team. He also missed some time last season to play for the Polish Under-19 national team.

Experience will still be the name of the game on defense, as seniors Brian Koslosky and Matt Handy will look to shut down the high-powered CAA offenses again this season. The duo started a combined 32 games last season.

On the sideline, Ainscough gained the trust of his team early last season and said he hopes to lead them to the post-season on his second go around.

“On the first day he told us all where we stood,” Kilkenny said. “There was no messing around. He said, ‘Play well and you’re on the team.’ I have no doubt he will bring big things to NU soccer.”

Look for higher scoring and more excitement this season as the Huskies field an inexperienced but talented goalkeeping unit and return most of their young offense. Last year may have been one of firsts, but this season the Huskies appear to be coming back for seconds.

The men’s soccer team kicks off the season at home Friday, Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. against Quinnipiac at Parsons Field.

Leave a Reply