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Season preview: 2020 Concordia Men's Soccer

By Jacob Knabel on Aug. 20, 2020 in Men's Soccer

Head coach: Jason Weides (117-89-24, 13th year)
2019 Record: 10-6-2 overall; 5-4-2 GPAC (6th)
Key Returners: D Renzo Bozzo; F Daniel Campbell; MF Mauro Figueroa; MF Caleb Goldsmith; GK Callum Goldsmith; F Moises Jacobo; D Decker Mattimoe; MF Carlos Orquiz; MF Garrett Perry; F Isaiah Shaddick; D Joao Pedro Verissimo.
Key Newcomers: MF Yessine Bessaies; D Iker Casanova; GK Santiago Esparza; F Martin Herrera; F Victor Meneses; MF David Moreno; GK Federico Simonetti; F Ryan Wokutch.
Key Losses: GK Eduardo Alba; F David Carrasco; MF Roger de la Villa; MF Carlos Ferrer; D Evan Hayden; F Matthew Ho.
2019 GPAC All-Conference: Eduardo Alba (Honorable Mention); Renzo Bozzo (Honorable Mention); Carlos Ferrer (Honorable Mention); Moises Jacobo (Honorable Mention); Garrett Perry (Honorable Mention).

Across the GPAC landscape, fall sports play on. The start to the preseason has been unlike any other for Head Coach Jason Weides, who enters his 13th season leading his alma mater. Last season Weides became the winningest coach in program history while Concordia Men’s Soccer ran its streak of consecutive years with at least 10 victories to nine. Reaching the 10-win mark in 2020 would be an accomplishment considering the regular season has been reduced to 14 outings.

A year ago, injuries played a role in sidetracking a Bulldog squad that raced out to a 7-0 start. This August, Concordia is doing its best to keep COVID-19 from derailing the fall season, even if it already has pushed the NAIA national tournament to the spring.

“Everyone is dealing with it,” Weides said. “We’re not unique in that situation. I felt a little like a fish out of water in that it’s such a different preseason for us than we’re used to. I feel like we have experience to lean on and things that we’ve done in the past. We can always tweak those, but we were kind of starting from scratch for our preseason. We’re trying to be tight as a team and encourage relationship building to happen in a natural and organic way. We’re having to manufacture that in different ways. Those are some of the unique challenges.”

Official practice began on Aug. 15 with some players still unable to step onto the field due to travel restrictions, quarantining or other circumstances. Even so, there is a strong belief in the talent that Weides has pulled into the program. Prior to placing sixth in the GPAC in 2019, the Bulldogs had three-straight top-four GPAC finishes and were winners of the 2015 GPAC tournament. They want to get back in the running at the top.

From a personnel perspective, Concordia has a lot of depth to work with. All-conference performers return in the form of sophomore midfielder Renzo Bozzo, sophomore forward Moises Jacobo and senior midfielder Garrett Perry. Jacobo and Perry combined for 11 goals as two of the team’s leading attackers last season. Meanwhile, senior captain João Pedro Veríssimo returns from injury and has all-conference ability.

“I was super excited,” said Perry of the return to campus. “That’s something we’ve all been waiting for since last year, especially with the injuries our team endured last year. It was kind of hard. We thought we had the skill and ability to go far and achieve our goals. I think this year with the new guys and the returners we have, we have a real strong chance to do what we want to do.”

Perry is another of the upperclassmen leaders along with the likes of midfielder Caleb Goldsmith, goalkeeper Callum Goldsmith, defender Decker Mattimoe, Pedro Veríssimo and others. Bozzo and Mattimoe topped the ’19 team with 17 starts apiece while Jacobo started 16 times. A newcomer to watch from a leadership and on-field production standpoint is David Moreno, a transfer from the University of Northwestern Ohio. Moreno played in 41 games while at Northwestern Ohio.

Of those not already mentioned, three others started at least eight games in 2019: Mauro Figueroa, Carlos Orquiz and Isaiah Shaddick. A Lincoln Southwest graduate, Shaddick earned Lincoln Journal Star Prep Player of the Year honors in 2018 and has the ability to be a significant goal scorer as a Bulldog. He helped Concordia outnumber its 2019 opponents in goals, 38-21. Weides is hoping for things to look even more lopsided in Concordia’s favor.

Right out of the gates, the Bulldogs will face a major test with a trip to Central Methodist University, which has won back-to-back NAIA national championships. Originally, Concordia had been slated to host Oklahoma City University on the opening day of the season.

“We get a chance to see where we stack up right away,” Weides said. “We get a great chance to see where we’re at on day one of our first game. I’m really excited for that. I think our players are really excited for that. I’m excited to see who all steps up. We have a good group of newcomers that will be able to impact our team, in addition to the returners who have made an impact previously. There are some good newcomers who are going to challenge the returners for their spots and also help elevate our team.”

The Bulldogs will have a new primary goalkeeper as the Bulldogs attempt to iron out some of the defensive issues that popped up in the second half of last season. A junior from Sevenoaks, England, Callum Goldsmith has the most experience. He’s played in 15 games over the past two seasons. He’ll be challenged by newcomers in Santiago Esparza and Federico Simonetti.

It will be no easy assignment for whichever keeper wins the job. The GPAC is getting stronger as evidenced by its three national tournament bids last season and by the improvement of the bottom of the league. For the first time since 2013, Concordia failed to advance past the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.

Says Weides, “The GPAC has been getting better every year. The depth of the quality teams is improving and those quality teams are competing better at the national stage, more consistently. I think the GPAC is garnering a little bit more respect nationally the last few years. It’s becoming more and more competitive. You have to show up every day in the GPAC if you’re going to get the results.”

The consistency of the Bulldog program has been remarkable and there’s no evidence to say that the 2020 version can’t be right in the thick of things in the GPAC. Every year it’s been safe to expect steady play, at worst, from any team led by Weides.

“We have a lot of skill coming back,” Perry said. “We have a lot of good players here and a lot of good players coming in. They’re going to bring our program to a better level than before. We have no idea what other teams are doing right now. We don’t know what they have but we don’t really care because we’re all in the same boat. We think we have a shot. This year we’re super excited to get back. We’re really pushing for it.”

The anticipated clash with Central Methodist is coming up Saturday, Sept. 5 at 4:30 p.m. CT from Fayette, Mo. The Bulldogs will host for the first time on Sept. 9 when Bellevue will be in town for an 8 p.m. kickoff.