Junior striker Jarred Dass kicks the ball down the field during a game against Army in August 2017. Dass started in all 18 games in 2017 and played a total of 1,190 minutes.  ARACELY JIMENEZ/STATESMAN FILE

Stony Brook Men’s Soccer went into the 2018 season in need of a solution to its latest challenge: how to replace a class of 11 seniors departing from the program. 

“We knew it was going to be a completely different group,” head coach Ryan Anatol said. “We knew heading into preseason that there was going to be a lot of new faces. The first goal was to get everybody on the same page, understanding the way that we want to do things here, and then show them the way that we want to play tactically, offensively, defensively.”

Though the men’s soccer season is just getting underway, the team has shown up with energy. The Seawolves have displayed flashes of great performance, but haven’t played consistently for a full 90 minutes yet. Anatol said that the team is making strides toward accomplishing consistency.

“In soccer we don’t get a lot of time, about a week-and-a-half of preseason, before our first game,” Anatol said. “So we knew we had to do a lot of things quickly, but we knew it would be a talented group.”

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Anatol emphasized that the solution would be a combination of contributions from a host of newcomers and guys already on the roster stepping up. The team has added seven freshmen to the roster, and junior defender Gustavo Fernandes transferred from Iowa Western this year. Players like junior midfielder Gabriel Fernandes and sophomore defender Matias Prando could see a rise in playing time.

“We had some guys that were here that didn’t play as much or get to play,” Anatol said. “They’ve still got at least a year under their belt from a training standpoint.”

Senior midfielders Serge Gamwanya and Martieon Watson and junior striker Jarred Dass are some of the players who could take on a leadership role this season. All three have already played significant minutes in past seasons but could earn a bigger role in 2018.

The top priority for the new players is figuring out their strengths — who plays best in which lineup, and what is tactically their best formation. Anatol’s goal for the new Seawolves is to establish their roles within the team by the time conference play rolls around.

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One player who has risen up the ranks quickly is freshman goalkeeper Christian Miesch. The Swiss native joined the team in August and made enough of an impact to be named the starter for the opening week.

“Christian was another guy that we knew had good experience,” Anatol said. “Coming over from Europe, [he] played at a high level. We knew coming into preseason we were going to have three goalkeepers that would be competing for the starting spot. All of them have done a very good job, it’s probably been the hardest decision to make as a coach.”

Anatol clarified that the competition for the starting spot is by no means done and expects it to be a battle as the season progresses. Junior goalkeeper Jacob Braham received starting time last season when injuries brought him into the lineup and freshman goalkeeper Yamil Montenegro competed with Braham this preseason. Anatol stressed that the team has confidence in all of the goalkeepers, no matter who is in the net.

The team’s main focus for now is preparing to be in its best form in time for conference matches. Anatol sees the early weeks of the schedule as a good opportunity.

“Of course, we want to win games along the way,” Anatol explained. “But we also want to make sure that the group is preparing and getting better every day. It’s not so much about the opponent; it’s making sure that we’re continuing to develop and get a better understanding of the way that we want to play.”

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Anatol also discussed the America East, describing it as a top soccer conference with plenty of talented competition. In particular, the programs at Vermont, which had the best regular season conference record last year, and UMass Lowell, the No. 2-seed in last year’s playoffs, could be adversaries for the Seawolves, with both teams returning most of their players.

“I think just based off of last season you would have to think that those teams are the frontrunners,” Anatol said. “But when you look at our league, every year, the team that’s predicted to finish first never finishes first. Teams that are predicted to finish at the bottom never finish at the bottom. It’s just the nature of our league.”

Stony Brook was ranked sixth in the America East Men’s Soccer Preseason Poll, but the team believes that it can beat anyone on any given day.

“It’s going to be competitive,” Anatol said. “Every game is going to be a battle, we just want to make sure when it comes time to play we’re playing our best soccer, and that we’re healthy. If we can continue to get better, I’m confident that we’re going to be one of the teams competing for the championship at the end of the year.”

Player to watch

Amid all of the moving pieces as the season begins, one player to keep an eye on is freshman goalkeeper Christian Miesch. Miesch has earned the praise of the coaching staff and his teammates for his quick work in rising up the depth chart since joining the team in August.

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“Christian has been able to assimilate very quickly,” head coach Ryan Anatol said. “I think his feet have been very good, and we’re asking our goalkeepers to be very involved in building the attack this year. Christian has done a very good job in that area, and he’s brought a good presence, a good personality. What he’s shown in the first couple weeks of preseason has put himself in a position to be the starting goalkeeper at this point.”

Miesch’s efforts did reward him with the starting job, and he’s held opponents to just four goals in the first three games of the season, including a shutout in the home opener.

“This is his first season as a college player and we all like him,” Gamwanya said. “He’s very good with his feet, and he’s got some good hands. He’s very mature and spoken. He’s gonna become a great leader for this school.”

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