Season preview: 2019 Concordia men's soccer

By Concordia University, Nebraska on Aug. 19, 2019 in Men's Soccer

Head coach: Jason Weides (107-83-22, 11 years)
2018 Record: 10-5-4 overall; 6-2-3 GPAC (4th)
Key Returners: F David Carrasco; MF Roger de la Villa; MF Carlos Ferrer; MF Caleb Goldsmith; D Evan Hayden; F Matthew Ho; MF Carlos Orquiz; MF Garrett Perry; D Kevin Sanchez; D Joao Pedro Verissimo.
Key Newcomers: Eduardo Alba; Renzo Bozzo; Isaiah Shaddick.
Key Losses: D Angel Alvarez; GK Jack Bennett; D Derek Eitzmann; MF Aries Fung; F Konrad Sinu.
2018 GPAC All-Conference: Angel Alvarez (second team); Jack Bennett (second team); Carlos Ferrer (second team); Roger de la Villa (second team); Matthew Ho (honorable mention).

Now entering year 12 of his head coaching tenure, Jason Weides feels the same level of preseason anticipation as any campaign of the past. One would be hard pressed to find many collegiate men’s soccer programs more consistently solid than the one that resides at Concordia University. The Bulldogs have hosted GPAC quarterfinal round contests three years in a row and boast an active streak of eight-straight seasons with at least 10 victories.

Last season Weides became just the second coach in program history to record 100 career victories. Such accomplishments have set a standard of competitiveness within the GPAC. No matter the departures from the previous season, Concordia expects to be in the hunt among the league’s top three or four finishers.

“I think we’re pretty similar to what we’ve been the past few years,” Weides said. “We expect to be contenders this year. It will certainly be a challenging road because there are a lot of good teams in our conference. I don’t think anyone is going to hand us anything. The difference now between maybe four or five years ago is that people expect us to be a good team and expect us to compete. We’re not going to catch anybody by surprise.”

A string of three-consecutive runs to the conference postseason final came to a halt in 2018 at the hands of arch nemesis Hastings. The Bulldogs went 10-5-4 overall during a fall marked by nailbiters, including a memorable GPAC tournament quarterfinal PK shootout triumph over Midland. One of the heroes of that match, goalkeeper Jack Bennett, has graduated and created a vacancy in goal. Thus, the keeper and back line positions raise the biggest question marks.

A two-time second team All-GPAC choice, senior Carlos Ferrer represents the most heralded returner. The native of Tijuana, Mexico, delivers in many ways that are not measured in basic soccer statistics. However, Ferrer has contributed 15 goals and 16 assists over 59 career games played. He is confident he and his teammates can adequately replace Bennett and other mainstays in the back such as Angel Alvarez and Derek Eitzmann.

“We saw our defense play so well (in the spring),” Ferrer said. “Of all the positions I think the back line and the keeper are the ones we’ve had the most change. Evan (Hayden) has done a great job stepping up. His leadership right now is top notch. With Callum (Goldsmith) you can see his confidence getting better. When he played last season you could see as a freshman it takes a little time to get that confidence. You can see that change.”

Weides has consistently found all-conference keepers to replace the ones that came before. In recent years that group has included Brendan Buchanan, Mark Horsburgh and then Bennett. Perhaps Goldsmith is next in line. Goldsmith saw action in 10 games last season, taking over when Bennett was sidelined by injury. The number of goals surrendered to opponents jumped from 16 in 2017 to 30 in 2018.

Whichever player emerges at keeper will certainly have help. In addition to Ferrer and Hayden, six other returners started at least 10 games last season: senior midfielder Roger de la Villa, senior forward Matthew Ho, sophomore midfielder Carlos Orquiz, junior defender Joao Pedro Verissimo, junior midfielder Garrett Perry and junior defender Kevin Sanchez. De la Villa joined Ferrer on the GPAC’s second team by notching a team high eight goals last fall.

There are many others who gained experience last season, including senior David Carrasco, often referred to as a “super sub” by Weides. Added Weides, “Our returners put in some good work this summer. It was evident from day one (of preseason) that they showed up fit and in shape. There’s always a little bit of rust when you first come into training but they were able to dust that off really quickly. The newcomers have looked sharp and are adapting quickly. That’s the difference from the spring obviously with the newcomers coming into the fold. We’re really seeing which of the newcomers are ready to make that impact right away and which are going to take the time to develop and which returners are really going to take a big step forward.”

In recent years, the distribution of goal scoring has been reasonably dispersed without the Bulldogs having one particular go-to player up top. Early indications seem to point towards that same dynamic playing out in 2019. Weides believes his team will have the luxury of employing a host of players capable of creating chances. It’s worth keeping an eye on freshman Isaiah Shaddick, named the Lincoln Journal Star Prep Player of the Year for his work at Lincoln Southwest High School.

Shaddick exploded his senior year of high school and led Nebraska Class A in goals scored. Said Weides, “He’s a dynamic player. I think he’s really good 1v1. He’s one of those guys that has the potential to score goals, create chances and set other guys up. Out of our incoming class he probably has the most name recognition. I think the good news for us is we’re not putting all our hopes and dreams on Isaiah Shaddick. I think he’ll have a great season and be a great player for us, but we have a lot of other freshmen that will do a great job as well.”

Some other potential impact newcomers to consider are the likes of Eduardo Alba and Renzo Bozzo. The hope is for them to help tighten up some of the errors that at times cost Concordia in 2018. Weides wants his squad to be better at the start and end of games than it was a year ago. Too often the Bulldogs found themselves digging out of early holes.

This preseason to date, Weides has seen plenty of competition for spots in the lineup. Weides sees a lot of potential throughout the roster.

“There’s a lot to be ironed out,” Weides said. “I think the good news is that this team is going to provide us with a lot of tough decisions as coaches. We’ve had some good teams in the past. I do think this might be one of the deepest from player one to player 30 in terms of the quality. I think the training each day has set a good standard – maybe higher early on than it has been before.”

Weides has cycled through a completely new roster since the program experienced the high of upsetting Hastings in the 2015 GPAC tournament championship game. The current players would love to feel that same euphoria.

Said Ferrer, “It’s all around the team – winning a championship, making more history and breaking more records. One thing we’ve talked about is winning the regular season. We want to win the regular season. I think we can do it.”

The 2019 team will make its first impression this Saturday (Aug. 24) with a trip to Oklahoma City University for a 2 p.m. CT start. Outside of conference play, the Bulldogs will take on two top 25 squads and another receiving votes, based on the preseason national poll.