Depth and experience will be key for the men to find success in the new season
The 2014 season did not go the way that the men’s soccer team wanted it to. Making the jump from the PACWEST conference to the Canada West conference of CIS, the highest level of university soccer in Canada, proved to be a challenging experience. The team posted a record of 2 wins, 8 losses and 2 draws, en route to a last place finish in the Pacific division of Canada West.
But last season is in the rearview mirror and this is a team that has shown the ability to take the tough lessons they learned last year and build towards a stronger 2015 season. Pre-season was extremely promising for the team as a more confident group of WolfPack players displayed a tight defence and a greater urgency in front of goal to record five wins, all while still going through the tough process of getting to know new teammates.
The man between the posts is a player that TRU will feel comfortable with, as fifth year goalkeeper Travis Froehlich has started in all of the WolfPack’s games each and every year he has been on campus. Froehlich more than proved his worth as a shot-stopper last year as his 81 saves in just 12 games were good enough for the fifth most saves in all of CIS soccer. Keepers play a much larger role than just stopping the ball however: “He’s the first guy to organize our team… if he’s not vocal and he’s not organizing, there’s breakdowns all over the park. But he’s able to take his role as a leader and his experience as a player and just ensure that we stay organized and tight on defence,” said head coach John Antulov.
One of those players that will be working with Froehlich to organize the defence will be centre-back Corey Wallis. A versatile player who can not only shut down opposing strikers but also roam up the field himself, Wallis scored a hat-trick in an August pre-season game. This team co-captain entering his fifth year will undoubtedly be a pivotal player for the WolfPack this season. Partnering Wallis at centre-back is second year defender Finlay McPhie, who had an outstanding rookie campaign in 2014, playing in all 12 of the WolfPack’s games. Perhaps the scariest thing for opposing strikers is that McPhie is still young.
“I don’t think Finlay’s tapped his potential as of yet, and so far this season he has looked even better than last year,” Antulov said.
With 14 players listed as midfielders, Antulov has undoubtedly achieved his off-season goal of acquiring more depth. The versatile players that are listed as midfielders allow Antulov to switch formations on a game by game, and sometimes half by half, basis.
“A lot of the players we have in midfield are very diversified, they can play in the back [or] they can play up front as well too, so having that depth creates depth in other areas that those guys can play in as well,” he said.
Returning to help stabilize the TRU midfield are fifth-year players Kyle Fertile and Braeden Burrows, who both missed the soccer season last year after being leaders on the team in years previous. An attacking option from the midfield is always welcome and fifth-year Oriol Torres provides just that for TRU. When Torres has the ball at his feet he becomes nearly untouchable as he blows by defenders with ease; he led the WolfPack in goals last year with two in 11 games.
Offence is the area that Antulov feels his team improved the most in over the summer.
“Our ability to attack and score goals, with the addition of Mitchell Popadynetz and Ryan Glanville and Kyle Fertile, those are key guys that are going to help our attack because they’re very offensive-minded players that are going to be able to do some damage.”
Popadynetz and Glanville come to TRU with a winning pedigree as both have won national championships with the UBC Thunderbirds: Popadynetz two years ago and Glanville in 2007. One of Glanville’s key attributes is his presence on the ball and the ability to shield it from defenders.
“That was one thing we lacked last year … you know we worked very hard in winning the ball back and a lot of times it was given right back, and Ryan gives us that calming presence and ability to hold onto the ball and have players work off him.”
This is a TRU team that enters the 2015 season substantially improved in all aspects of the game. Whether it is new players coming onto the team or players who have come back from the struggle of last season more experienced, it is clear that this is a team poised to take a step forward as the 2015 season gets underway.