The 2004 Clemson Men’s Soccer team is looking forward to a successful 2004 season. With a healthy roster, as well as key newcomers, head coach Trevor Adair feels this season’s team can bring the Tigers back into contention for an Atlantic Coast Conference Championship.
“Overall, this season’s team features no real superstars, but a lot of solid players,” said Adair. “And a team like that can accomplish a lot. This team will be able to get us back to where we need to be: ranked in the Top 10 and challenging for a spot in the Final Four.”
One key player needed to help Clemson back to its old form is senior Steven Rhyne, who missed all of the 2003 season with a knee injury. While Rhyne will be called on to produce offensively, Adair looks for the fifth-year senior to have his greatest impact from a leadership standpoint.
“One of our strengths entering the season is a healthy Steven Rhyne,” said Adair. “Not having him last year hurt us many ways. We lost a lot of pace, a very technical player, and a very good attacking midfielder. Having Steven back has made a big difference.”
Though Clemson lost six senior starters off its 2003 team, Adair feels the young players will be able to contribute to the team success this season. “Last year we had a big senior class, but at the same time we had a lot of young players,” said Adair. “This year, all those players have had a year to develop, and they did well enough in the spring to compete again in the conference and win some of the close games. We’ve got good depth this season. We have a great recruiting class coming in to add to that depth.”
One area to improve upon this season is offensive production. In 2003, the Tigers were only able to manage 30 goals in 20 games. This season, Adair hopes to have a more potent attack. “One of our strengths will be our ability to attack,” said Adair. “Players like Rhyne, Charlie Roberts, Olatomiwa Ogunsola, Stuart Holden, and James Georgeff have been able to develop an attacking relationship that will make us more potent offensively. We shouldn’t have to worry about manufacturing goals like we did at times last year.”
Senior Charlie Roberts looks to be one of Clemson’s leading forwards in 2004. Like Rhyne, Roberts was injured for much of the 2003 season, but he came on strong at the end of the year, tallying five goals and two assists. He earned ACC Player of the Week honors for two consecutive weeks.
“Charlie has filled the role of the attacking player who can play well with his back to the goal and combine with people,” said Adair. “Steven and Stuart offer him great options. Stuart had an outstanding freshman year, then he earned experience with the US U-20 National Team. He is a very dynamic player, who can score and set up goals.
One surprise to the Clemson coaching staff in 2003 was the emergence of Stuart Holden as a key contributor. Unfortunately he suffered a broken arm during the season. He is back healthy in 2004. “We thought Stuart would not develop until his sophomore year, but as a freshman he stepped in and showed he was one of the best players in the conference,” said Adair. “When he got hurt, we missed him dearly. He brings a lot of flair to our team. I know that the players enjoy playing with him because of his ability to hold the ball and get others involved.”
Clemson’s midfield does not return many experienced players. Kenny Cutler, a first-team selection in 2003, and 2003 starter Paul Souders have graduated. Junior Brad Gibson and senior JD Brooks will be called upon to establish the Tiger midfield.
“Losing Kenny will hurt because he was such a distributor in our system,” said Adair. “He always knew where to put the ball. Brad Gibson has benefited from a red-shirt year and established himself last year and this spring as a good defensive midfield player. JD Brooks will get some action in the midfield.
“Then we will have some freshmen pushing for some playing time as well. Mark Buchholz can fill in the defensive midfield role, as can Kevin Howell. We are going to have quite a few options. Brad and JD performed very well in the midfield and have solidified positions. Olatomiwa can play out on the flank, as can incoming freshmen Nathan Sturgis, Danny Poe, and Ryan Roushandel.
” We have balance in the midfield something we lacked last year when Steven (Rhyne) and Charlie (Roberts( were injured. As long a the injury bug does not spread through the team, the Tiger defensive third may be the most consistent area for Clemson this season. Returning starter senior Landy Mattison and junior Nathan Sturgis, a starting defender on the United States Under-20 National Team and transfer Randy Albright.
“Justin and Landy will anchor the center defense,” said Adair. “Nathan Sturgis looks good in the back. He was the starting left back for the US U-20 National Team even though he is only 16-years-old. We played against him in the spring, and he can get up and down the left side and is a great crosser of the ball.
“The right back position is up for grabs. We may look at JD, a couple of freshmen, or Randy Albright, a guy who transferred in this spring. Albright is 6’3″ with a great engine. He was a big surprise. He can run all day and is a big, athletic kid. We are not as deep in the back. If we were to have any injuries, then we would have to rely on some freshmen, or maybe push JD back to the back, but we have a lot of guys that can fill in”
Clemson also looks solid at goalkeeper, returning both Phil Marfuggi and Hunter Gilstrap, who split time in goal during the 2003 season. Adair expects the two to battle for playing time during the 2004 campaign. “Phil and Hunter are both back after good seasons in 2003,” said Adair. “We will wait until preseason to determine who will be the starter in goal. You like two guys pushing each other and battling for the goalkeeper spot.”
Adair believes this season’s freshman class to be among the best in the nation, with some expected to contribute immediately this season. “Our freshmen this season have a good balance of size and technical ability. We have some good pace. If we could get three or four of them to contribute this season, then we may look at red-shirting some others. We have good size, which will help at the end of the season to finish strong. The recruiting class addresses a lot of our needs, so we will just need to see how quickly they can adjust.”
Though the 2004 Tigers may not feature any All-American candidates, Clemson expects to compete for the ACC title by working well together to earn goals and featuring a tough, stingy defense.
“Right now, our chemistry appears to be very good, with not a very wide gap between the freshmen and the seniors,” said Adair. “We don’t have high profile players, but we have a lot of solid guys who work well for each other and like the style we play. “
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