Aug. 7, 2008
A strong defense is very advantageous.
For the Clemson men’s soccer team, Head Coach Trevor Adair will be counting on the defense this season as the Tigers find ways to score and mature as a cohesive unit.
“We feel we are going to be very difficult to score on this season,” said Adair who will be entering his 17th year as a Division I head coach with 201 victories. “We will definitely be strong in the back and in goal.
“As the defense is our strength, how quickly we come together as a team will be very crucial. The main question will be, who will step up from the attacking point, and who can we rely on as a “go to” guy when it comes to scoring goals. We have some players that are capable of stepping up and helping us on the offensive end.”
Clemson has 11 lettermen returning and six starters back from last year’s team that had a 7-11-2 record, but had three wins over top 20 teams, including two wins over top 10 teams.
“We are going to have good pace,” said Adair. “We are small so we can’t really rely on playing the ball in the air. We will have to rely on combination play and with our speed, I think we will be successful. We have lots of speed all over the field, more speed than last year. We are going to be much stronger physically and have more depth.
“Our schedule is always demanding with the ACC matches and our tough non-conference foes. There is so much parity in college soccer, so there are no such things as easy games anymore. We do have a great home schedule and we are looking forward to great fan support again this season.”
Goalkeepers Joseph Bendik returns for his junior season in goal. Last year, he played and started all 19 matches and had a 1.50 goals allowed average and 93 saves. He shut out sixth-ranked Boston College near the end of the season and also helped Clemson defeat fourth-ranked Virginia 2-1. He had three shutouts overall. Scott Rosman also returns for his sophomore season, while JD Spearman, is a redshirt freshman from Summerville, SC.
According to Adair, Bendik has the capabilities to become one of the best goalkeepers in the nation. “We are extremely strong in the goal. We are fortunate to have three goalkeepers who push each other in practice. I’m very happy with all three keepers and I feel we can win matches with all three of them. With the limitations on rosters, we are very lucky to have three goalkeepers with their caliber.”
Backs “We are fortunate to have such a quality amount of players in the back. We have great depth and leadership. In the back we have David Newton a red-shirt senior, Bryson Moore is a senior and Greg Eckhardt a junior with two years of starting experience.
“We also added a freshman Francklin Blaise, who will be competing for playing time. He has athleticism and speed and is very composed. He has experience with the under 20 national team as a 17-year-old. We feel we have a lot of depth in the back.”
Newton started 16 matches last season and had two goals and two assists. Eckhardt started all 19 matches and Bryson Moore played in 15 matches. “Mackenzie Ward had a great spring and is a transfer from St. John’s. In the back, we are going to be very solid. We definitely have experience.
“Some of the goals we gave up last year were from mistakes. We lost a lot of games on mistakes and we feel with experience in the back, we can eliminate some of these miscues. With a strong defense this will be a big plus and this will allow us to be in the game and the players in front of them will be able to gain confidence as the year progresses. It will allow our other positions time to develop and organize.”
Other players vying for playing time are freshman Nicky Burton and Konnor McGee.
Midfielders Clemson must replace experienced veteran midfielders Tate Parrish and Mark Buchholz from last year. Parrish was the top scorer last year with six goals and six assists for 18 points, while Buchholz was a four-year starter who had three goals and three assists last year.
“We have good pace in the midfield and a lot of players going after the positions. On the wings, we can play Eric Cava, Nathan Thornton, Tyler Williams and Sam Ibrahim.” Cava started 13 matches as a freshman and had a goal in five assists, while Thornton played in 17 matches last season. Tyler Williams is a red shirt freshman and Ibrahim is a junior college transfer.
“We definitely have a lot to choose from and many different combinations. We have speed and quickness. I like the fact that we have so many options.
On the inside, John Tardy and Eckhardt will also be given a look in the midfield. Other newcomers to the midfield include Sumpter, Connor Barbaree, Bo Godwin and Richard Nova.
Forwards The list of forwards on the 2008 team include Eric Cava, Tyler Williams and Burton.
“Nathan Thornton has great pace and work ethic. He needs to develop his confidence.”
Brooks scored five goals and had one assist last year and is the second leading returning scorer behind Drake. Thornton scored four goals and two assists for the Tigers in 2008 to rank fourth on the 2007 team.
Transfer Sam Ibrahim could see time up front. Eric Cava also gained experience as a forward last season. Tommy Drake also proved to be an offensive threat last year and more will fall on his shoulders according to the coaches.
Cava finished the season with five assists and Drake had five goals and three assists for 13 points as both players return for their sophomore seasons. Drake is the top point leader from last year’s team.
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