The Stony Brook University men’s soccer team started its new season on Aug. 28, giving it a chance to kick off its quest to improve from last year’s performance. Coming out of a 4-13-2 season where they ranked 188th out of 205 teams by RPI, the Seawolves certainly have ample room for improvement.
However, the Seawolves got their season off to a great start with a 1-0 win over Central Connecticut State University and scoreless draw with Sacred Heart. Now, the goal is to win more games in this defensive fashion.
“We want to be defensively sound, we want to not give up a lot of opportunities and ultimately not give up goals,” head coach Ryan Anatol said ahead of the start of the season. “We want to be compact defensively, get numbers behind the ball and be able to press teams in our block. We feel as though we can be very dangerous in transition. Some of the guys we have up top and some of the pace we have going forward, we want to be very quick to get forward and dynamic in the attack so we can create goals.”
That game plan was executed against CCSU just as it was drawn up. The Seawolves took advantage of their pace, with long balls over the top and kept their opponents to only one shot in the first half.
Such strategy fits the Seawolves well. The team is athletically talented and looks to be one of the fastest teams in the America East. However, the team’s youth is also apparent. The Seawolves lack the development of some other, older teams in the conference.
However, cohesion and chemistry is sure to play as big a part this season as it did last season. Such a counterattacking style may give the Seawolves the chance to exploit their pace in transition if a more developed side dominates possession.
The team most likely looks to set up in a 4-4-2 formation. Anatol has rarely, if ever, strayed from a four at the back setup.
“We looked at it last year and felt as though we need[ed] to score more goals,” Anatol said. “We need to create more opportunities. With this part of the year, we’ve been playing with two up top as opposed to one up top in previous years. We’ve put Martin Giordano in a more central location up top. He’s been one of our leading goal scorers, so we’re trying to get him closer to the goal.”
Roster wise, depth seems to be the strength over having a couple of star players, an aspect Anatol praised. In goal, the competition seems to be between junior Jason Orban and redshirt sophomore Tom McMahon, with Orban getting the first start of the season. The back line is highlighted by the return of Tavares Thompson, who missed most of 2014 due to injuries and looks to be a key cog in the defense Anatol hopes to rely on.
Senior midfielder Alejandro Fritz and sophomore midfielder Thibault Duval look to be the attacking mid duo, which will supply the creativity and playmaking for the Seawolf offense, with freshman midfielder Serge Gamwanya and freshman midfielder Martieon Watson providing cover and support from deeper positions. Finally, senior midfielder and captain Martin Giordano, a second team all-conference selection in 2014, looks to be both a creator and a scorer from the forward position.
“We have high expectations, we want to do well out of conference and be successful to propel ourselves into conference play,” Anatol said. “The schedule that we put together we know is one that will challenge us, with some of the teams that were playing against us. So, we’re excited for the challenges that we have out of conference and our goals in conference are always to compete and to put ourselves in the best position to win a conference tournament championship, and this year is no different. Our expectation is to win the conference tournament, which gives us the opportunity to get into the NCAA tournament.”
The Seawolves face a tough schedule on their quest for a conference championship. Before conference play even starts, they face tough challenges, such as hosting Harvard at home and Louisville away. Louisville ranked No. 18 in the preseason coaches poll and offers a stiff challenge for the Seawolves.
The Seawolves’ greatest challenge, however, comes in the America East Conference. Their final game of the regular season looks to be their biggest, as they travel to Baltimore to face off against nationally 12th-ranked UMBC. Not only did UMBC win the America East last season, but it was able to advance to the Final Four of the College Cup. This game will be a great test for the Seawolves if they are able to make the America East playoffs. If Stony Brook hopes to fulfill Anatol’s goal to win a championship, the Seawolves will have to be able to beat UMBC.
For every David, there must be a Goliath.