PRESCOTT – With his rookie season and a full year of recruiting under his belt, Embry-Riddle’s Jim Barlow believes the men’s soccer program will continue to climb upward.
The Eagles struggled through a 2-15-2 record last season (a third win came over alumni) with many players coming from the university’s club team. This year, ERAU will exhibit a new look behind Barlow’s recruits.
“That’s the difference this year; we have players coming from solid soccer backgrounds,” Barlow said. “There’s a difference of mentality coming in. I can honestly say my 22nd player (this year) would have started last year. That’s the jump we made.”
Barlow realizes the team will not necessarily be making playoff reservations just yet. But he believes the program has seen a lot of growth over the offseason, beginning with improved play on the field.
“The experience level is huge this year and ability to kick the ball around is greatly improved,” Barlow said. “We have nowhere to go but up ... and we expect to. The players expect to.”
Eleven new players dot the Eagle roster, including a trio from Brazil. Christian Lakars will play his senior season in the goal. Sean Kardous, a sophomore out of San Clemente, Calif., will be a top defender.
On the offensive, attackers Rafael Ferreira, sophomore from Sao Paulo, Brazil; Tyler Legg, sophomore from Phoenix; Rosendo Orozco, junior from San Diego; Andre Kiss, freshman from Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Reid Kanda, freshman from Kanehoe, Hawaii, are all grabbing the coach’s attention.
Lakers is playing his “super senior” season through a rule that allows him to take fewer than 12 units based on his previous academic performance. Kardous was ERAU’s Player of the Year last year. Ferreira is getting over minor injuries. Legg was the team’s freshman of the year in 2004. Orozco was southern California’s junior college Player of the Year. And Barlow expects Kiss and Kanda to have a big impact, the latter coming out of a top club program in Honolulu.
Other top players heading into the season include Andrew Sutton (Fr., MF), Jason Aspelund (Fr., F), Rodrigo Chaves (Soph., F) and Kyle Speck (Fr., MF). In all, Barlow has 23 players on the roster, including four holdovers from the university’s club team days.
ERAU will play a tougher schedule this year, a lineup that includes a couple of ranked teams from 2004. Road trips include the Sept. 20-24 trip to Nevada and northern California, which will include off-field participation in the Northern California Reno Air Races.
To start out, the Eagles will host several matches during orientation week on Aug. 25-27. The opener is set for Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. against California Baptist.