In these past few weeks, Fairfield men’s and women’s soccer coaches, Carl Rees and Jim O’Brien, respectively, have made great accomplishments. Carl Rees notched his 100th MAAC win as a coach and Jim O’Brien finished the season as the first ever coach of an undefeated Fairfield women’s soccer team at home.
For Coach Rees, the 100th career MAAC win came in a 2-1 victory over the Canisius Golden Griffiths on Oct. 12. A second half goal scored by Reco McLaren ’14 clinched the win for the Stags and gave Rees a rare accomplishment in his 20th season as the men’s soccer coach. Rees has had a prolific and seasoned career with soccer both locally and internationally.
When asked about the historic 100th MAAC win, Coach Rees had this to say, “To record a 100 wins is very rewarding. More than the victories on the field, it represents all those players and assistant coaches along the way who have played their part in the success of our program.”
Growing up in Bebington, England, Coach Rees played for both the Everton and Liverpool Football Club youth teams. In 1984, he moved to the United States to attend Hartwick College where he played as a defender and a forward. In 1988, he signed with the Albany Capitals of the American Soccer League where he spent two years. Before coaching at Fairfield, Coach Rees served as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Hartwick College. In addition to coaching at Fairfield, he is the director of coaching for Everton America, a partner of Everton Football Club.
Coach Rees was the first ever men’s soccer coach to garner a postseason berth for Fairfield, which was done in 1999, 2006, 2008 and 2011. In 2006, he became the first Fairfield coach to win an NCAA tournament game with a 2-1 win over the University of Connecticut. In the other three years, the Stags lost in close games.
Additionally, Coach Rees was responsible for the team receiving its first ever national ranking back in 1998. The Stags received the number 24 ranking by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in a top 25 poll. The team had a national ranking under Coach Rees for another five seasons.
Under Coach Rees, the Stags have won about 60 percent of their games overall and 65 percent of their games against MAAC opponents. His men’s teams have advanced to seven MAAC championship games and won three of them. Coach Rees now has over 300 wins in his 20 years as coach of the Fairfield men’s soccer team. He has won MAAC Coach of the Year in 1998 and 2011.
Coach Rees had this to say when reflecting on his career at Fairfield, “It is a privilege to work for Fairfield University. I am extremely fortunate to do a job that I love. The players I have shared the experience with competing on behalf of the University have been the most special thing for me. The personalities and friendships formed with players and staff far surpass any individual honors.”
Similar to Coach Rees, women’s soccer Coach O’Brien has received his share of success in recent weeks. Last Saturday, the Stags won their seventh home game against the Niagara Purple Eagles, notching their first undefeated season at home. The only home game which they did not win resulted in a tie with Quinnipiac University. So Coach O’Brien became the first Fairfield women’s soccer coach to ever coach an undefeated team at home.
“I’m very proud of the girls because that was one of the goals that we set: to win our home games, in particular the ones in conference. We’ve achieved one of those goals we set for ourselves in the beginning of the season.” Coach O’Brien had this to say about his achievement.
As a former player, Coach O’Brien played as a goalkeeper for the men’s soccer team at Southern Connecticut State University. In the two seasons he started with the Owls, he had 17 shutouts and led his team to the 1988 NCAA Championship game. His coaching career started with his alma mater, where he led the women’s soccer team to an NCAA Tournament berth and got to a number seven rank among Division II teams.
Now in his 11th year, Coach O’Brien has led the women’s soccer team to one MAAC regular season crown, two NCAA Tournament berths and has received numerous accolades and honors. In 2008, the team finished with 15 wins and had an NCAA Tournament berth. This year, Coach O’Brien was named the NSCAA/Adidas Northeast Region Coach of the Year. Also, Fairfield received 16 votes in the final NSCAA National poll.
In the 2010-11 campaign, women’s soccer put together an 11-6-2 record and won their first league title since 2002. Also, the team won a share of the regular season title and Coach O’Brien won MAAC Coach of the Year. They finished this season with a program-record 11 shutouts behind MAAC Defensive Player of the Year goalkeeper Kelly Boudreau ’11.
Being a former goalkeeper himself, Coach O’Brien’s team is touted for its excellent defense. So far this season, the team has seven shutouts and is led by Kathleen Early ‘15 as goalkeeper and Jac Ley ’14 as defender.
In light of the excellent season the women’s team is currently putting together, Coach O’Brien said, “We follow up with the MAAC Tournament. The goal right now is to get a top seed so we can get a bye in that first round.”
These soccer teams coached by Rees and O’Brien are each putting together solid seasons and have made their coaches proud. By gaining accolades such as a 100th win and an undefeated home season, Rees and O’Brien, respectively, are recognized as successful coaches who can lead their teams to great triumphs.