Last season was a disappointing one for Fairfield University Men’s Soccer. After finishing 7-8-1 and 3-4-1 in MAAC play, the team is looking forward to a new season. Sophomore George Newton, a captain from Cheshire, England, said there were some reasons for last year’s disappointing season.
“[In 2011], the team won the MAAC tournament and went on to the NCAA tournament, so I guess there was a bit of complacency. We had a good squad; it was just a year where things didn’t quite click,” he said.
Senior Reco McLaren added: “We were tipped to win it again, everyone wanted to beat Fairfield. There was a lot of pressure to live up to expectations and people were saying that this was one of the strongest groups that Fairfield soccer team had had.”
So far, the Stags have started out strong, posting a 1-1-1 record in their first 3 games. The Stags started off with a frustrating 1-1 tie with Hartwick, which could’ve been a win if it weren’t for an offside call on a goal by James Taylor ‘16. They then proceeded to lose a disappointing game at Northeastern 5-2, but both Newton and McLaren both agreed that there were many valuable lessons from that loss. McLaren stated that inexperience in the back four was one reason for the loss: “In our back four, we have Joe, who is a freshman as well as Joan, and we needed to go through those growing pains. We needed time to gel as a team.”
Newton also added that there was a lot of shuffling around, with players getting hurt and different teammates having to step in. The team then headed up to Yale for what was a gritty game. The Stags ended up with a much-earned 1-0 win, after Jon Clements ‘14 converted a penalty kick late in the game.
“You see that [5-2 loss] that we had at Northeastern was a huge defeat, and for us to come back the next week and beat Yale away from home again, shows how united our team is,” Newton said.
This year the team is very optimistic, especially with the combination of the returning players and the incoming freshman class. “This year the coaching staff really wanted a smaller squad, so they focused this year a lot on the freshmen, like real quality freshmen,” said Newton.
Four of the five incoming freshmen are from abroad, and Newton and McLaren both agreed that it takes time for European players to adapt to the American style of play, which is more physical.
“Joan and Joe look great out of the back; they will have no problem remaining in the starting lineup,” McLaren affirmed.
“Martin has showed us he’s very versatile. He played midfield in the preseason and got an assist,” said Newton. “Since then he’s been playing very well in defense. He can play midfield and defense and that’s very important especially when you’ve got a small squad and through the thick of the season players get hurt and others need to fill in.”
McLaren also pointed out that Ben Whitcomb ‘17, a defender who played on England’s Under 17 team, is a smart and solid defensive player.
Also, there’s Austin Dacunha ‘17, a goalkeeper who was a CT All-State selection player. “I think goalkeeper is our strongest area right now. Austin is a really athletic goalie who works really hard. It’s good for Joe to have Austin pushing him and keeping him on his toes,” affirmed Newton.
This year’s MAAC soccer tournament will be held on Fairifled’s campus, which is a huge motivation for the team. “It gives you a lot of motivation knowing that the post season in our your field, because you don’t want to be watching the finals instead of playing it on your home field. It gives you a sense of pride, especially for the seniors; it’s their last post-season so it’s an extra motivation for us,” Newton said.
McLaren and Newton both agreed that the game against Iona on Oct. 16 is one circled on their calendar. “It was our first night game last season and they beat us pretty handily at their place and a lot of us want to get revenge on them,” Newton concluded. The Stags were voted to finish in third place this season in the MAAC coaches’ preseason poll. There are high expectations for the team this year, as they look to rebound from a tough season last year.
“We want to show people and other teams that we aren’t below the NCAA tournament,” Newton said. “We have what it takes to make it, and make a deep run in the tournament, but first, of course, our goal is to capture the MAAC in front of our home fans.”