Following a rough introduction to a new conference and the exit of key players during the offseason, the Stony Brook men’s soccer team desperately needed a roster revamp for 2023. Head coach Ryan Anatol did exactly that, bringing in several players to either fill in the holes left by the departing players, or upgrade other areas of the field.
On the attacking side, forward Jonas Bickus carried the load for the Seawolves, as he either scored or assisted in nine of the team’s 16 goals. This season, Bickus will have more help.
Stony Brook’s premier offseason acquisition was forward Johan Velez. In four years playing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) as a Manhattan Jasper, Velez scored eight goals and had a pair of assists in 34 matches played. In 2022, he was an All-MAAC Third Team selection.
Although Velez has primarily played a role similar to Bickus, Anatol said he can contribute in other areas as well.
“I think he’s going to complement Jonas pretty well,” Anatol said in an interview with The Statesman. “Johan can play just underneath him or out wide. He’s a good attacking player. He scores goals, he’s creative in and around the box.”
Velez suffered a strain in his hamstring during training before the preseason, but is expected to be cleared for play before the regular season commences.
Caleb Danquah is another addition to Stony Brook’s offense through the transfer portal. In his freshman season last year, Danquah played for the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers and did not disappoint. Danquah tallied three goals and two assists in just 12 matches. Perhaps even more impressively, he was the team’s third-leading scorer despite missing seven games and not starting a single one.
St. Francis Brooklyn shut down its entire athletics program in the middle of spring, giving Danquah a late start with the Seawolves. He was not able to be present with the team during spring training, putting some questions on his role for the 2023 season.
“He’s got good pace, good energy,” Anatol said. “Each day we’re getting closer to figuring out how he can have the biggest impact. He’s another guy in the attack that can be dangerous.”
Rounding out Stony Brook’s renovated attack is a pair of freshmen strikers: Finlay Oliver and Aidan Kolbe. Oliver attended Oneonta High School, where in 2022, he tied the program’s single-season goal record with 46 and graduated as Oneonta’s all-time leading scorer. Kolbe graduated from Northport High School and scored 15 goals as a senior.
The two freshmens’ intangibles played the most significant part in their recruitment.
“Big bodies,” Anatol said. “That’s one of the things we identified in the [Coastal Athletic Association], it’s a more physical league. Those are two guys that can come in and add to our attack a different dimension with more physicality.”
Arguably the Seawolves’ deepest position is their midfield, as they return five regulars from last year’s rotation. Despite the depth, Anatol brought in more competition at the position.
One of the most highly-touted freshmen joining Stony Brook in 2023 is midfielder Kyle Smith, who Anatol expects to solidify the defense with his presence.
“He’s a guy that will come in and make an impact right away,” Anatol said. “He’s a good, strong defensive midfielder. He’s technical, and can cover ground.”
For the attacking midfielder position, Stony Brook brought in Alex Fléury. Coming in as a 21-year-old freshman, Fléury brings experience to the table.
“He’s played in Europe and was a member of the Canadian youth national team,” Anatol said. “He will have a big impact this year, and he’s a guy that we are looking forward to coming in right away and making us better.”
Down the field, questions arise about Stony Brook’s defense, which was one of the worst in the CAA last year. Matters were made worse when defenders Rondell Payne and Evan Peters graduated.
Fortunately for the Seawolves, Peters’ younger brother Maxx has come to take his place. Maxx Peters is a freshman defender who may see playing time at left-back following the graduation of midfielder Trausti Birgisson, who occupied the role last year.
Also coming in to fill in the defensive holes is Lorenzo Selini from Hofstra, a defensive midfielder. During his tenure with the Pride, Selini appeared in 27 games as a bench option, scoring a goal and assisting a pair. He helped Hofstra win the CAA tournament each of the last two years, and will now try to do the same for its cross-town rivals.
Despite being listed as a midfielder, the lack of experienced defenders on the roster could land Selini on a spot on the rotation.
“He could play a couple of different positions,” Anatol said. “In the middle of the field, in the back, out wide. He’s tenacious and good technically.”
Now reconstructed for its second year in the conference, Stony Brook will look to use its new tools properly and carve out a path to the 2023 CAA men’s soccer tournament. The first-year Seawolves will get to don their new threads and play in their new home stadium on Aug. 24 against the Long Island University Sharks.