Head coach: Jason Weides (97-78-18, 10 years)
2017 Record: 16-3-1 overall; 7-2 GPAC (T-2nd); GPAC tournament runner up
Key Returners: D Angel Alvarez; GK Jack Bennett; D Derek Eitzmann; F Carlos Ferrer; MF Aries Fung; F Matthew Ho; MF Garrett Perry; D Kevin Sanchez; D Joao Pedro Verissimo
Key Newcomers: F Jack Arra; MF Roger de la Villa; MF Carlos Orquiz; F Konrad Sinu
Key Losses: D Luke Batters; D Florian Caraballo; D Toby Down; F Marcelo Hernandez; MF Micah Lehenbauer; MF Lewis Rathbone
2017 GPAC All-Conference: Florian Caraballo (first team); Marcelo Hernandez (first team); Micah Lehenbauer (first team); Jack Bennett (second team); Carlos Ferrer (second team); Lewis Rathbone (second team); Angel Alvarez (honorable mention); Kevin Sanchez (honorable mention)
Even for a program looking to make up for a bevy of goals lost from an accomplished 2017 senior class, many key pieces remain in place. Followers of Bulldog men’s soccer ought to know some of the names like defender Angel Alvarez, goalkeeper Jack Bennett and forward Carlos Ferrer, anchors in different areas of the field. Thus, head coach Jason Weides and his new-look squad are not spending too much time lamenting the losses of each of their first team All-GPAC players (Florian Caraballo, Marcelo Hernandez and Micah Lehenbauer).
Weides and company have earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to replacing star players. Now in his 11th season at the helm of the program, Weides has put together a program that has been the model of consistency. It’s won at least 10 games in each of the past seven seasons.
“Given what we’ve seen so far, we’re confident we can get there over time,” says Weides in comparing the new group to the ones of the past. “It’s a team that will continue to improve as the season wears on. I think some of the early question marks are where are we going to get all these goals from given that we had some seniors who scored and assisted so many goals. I think it’s pretty clear that we have some guys who are going to put the ball in the back of the net. The reality is we’re going to have some tough decisions to make as far as how we put this team together.”
While often preseason rankings are a reflection of the season just gone by, Concordia was offered a sign of respect when it was pegged second in the GPAC behind perennial favorite Hastings, which will break in a new head coach this fall. Concordia and Hastings have met in the GPAC tournament final in each of the past three campaigns.
For current seniors like Bennett, an all-conference keeper, advancing to the conference final has become the expectation, although not taken for granted. The hope is to take this season a step further like the 2015 edition did when it upset Hastings in the GPAC championship game.
Says Bennett, “We’re hungry. Obviously we’ve fallen short the last couple seasons but we’ve made it to three-straight conference championships now. Hopefully we can make it two (titles) out of four this year. It shows that we’re up there with the top teams. We’re just hungry to get that second GPAC title under our belt.”
If the Bulldogs are to celebrate a GPAC title this November, it likely means that Ferrer has become the type of high-end player that Weides envisions. Now a junior, the Chula Vista, Calif., native has been a fixture in the lineup since stepping on campus two years ago. He could very well be next in line to represent the program on the GPAC’s first team.
Ferrer has totaled nine goals in 40 career collegiate games. Though the makeup of the team is still being worked out this preseason, the frequency of Ferrer goals could be on the rise.
“I think his biggest contribution is that there are going to be some teams and defenders that know who he is,” Weides said. “He’s a guy I just see running at teams. He loves to get the ball and run at people. He’s been really effective this offseason and so far this camp at running at players, getting behind them and going at them 1v1. He’s going to create chances. He’s a guy that will create chances not only for himself but for the team. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s putting a few goals in the back of the net.”
Of the returners not previously mentioned, Aries Fung, Derek Eitzmann, Matthew Ho, Garrett Perry and Kevin Sanchez each have some degree of starting experience. Fung already has his undergrad degree from Concordia but decided to return for his final season of eligibility. The native of New Territories, Hong Kong, is the only player left on the roster who saw action in the program’s GPAC title game win in 2015. Meanwhile, Perry, Sanchez and J.P. Verissimo are expected to make leaps after playing extensively as freshmen last fall.
Who’s next among newcomers to impact the roster immediately? Jack Arra (Ennis, Ireland), Roger de la Villa (Barcelona, Spain), MF Carlos Orquiz (Chihuahua, Mexico) and Konrad Sinu (Sutton, England) are some of the prime candidates. Arra and de la Villa are both transfers. De la Villa is one of three new Bulldogs to choose Concordia after beginning their careers at Marshalltown Community College (Iowa).
Said Weides, “I think it’s pretty obvious there are some guys who are going to be able to impact the team right away from day one. We’ve got this group of guys who will impact us, whether it’s day one or day five or at some point throughout this season or career. It’s a really solid class. I think it’s helping to elevate our depth and the quality of training sessions.”
The dynamics will certainly change to some degree in 2018. Last season’s squad set a Weides era high with 51 goals scored while breaking the program single-season standard with 16 wins. It won’t be easy to duplicate that lofty goal number, but there is more than one way to skin a cat.
Nearing 100 career victories (now at 97, to be exact), Weides plans figure out how to make that happen. It will just look a bit different.
“There are a lot of guys that maybe haven’t been in the mix the last couple years that are starting to step up,” Bennett said. “They learned from the guys ahead of them just like I did. A lot of them are going to come into bigger roles this season. That along with the recruits we have coming in will be exciting to see. It will be a battle between what we’ve got and what’s coming in. It’s going to be a good preseason.”
We’ll see what’s in store when the first official game rolls around on Saturday, Aug. 25. Concordia will be at home to host Tabor College (Kan.).
“The reality is that some of it has to change because it’s different personnel,” Weides said. “It’s sometimes this guy plays this way and it fits with our style and here’s how we use him. Now we have guys who have different attributes. We can potentially press differently defensively and look to possess the ball differently.”