Aug. 26, 2008
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 want to be very difficult to score on this season,” said Adair who will be entering his fourteenth season at Clemson and has won 201 matches in his 17 year career as a head coach. “We will definitely be strong in the back and in goal, but we must defend from the front to maximize this.
“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? We have some very talented players that are capable of stepping up and helping us on the offensive end.”
Clemson has 11 letterwinners returning and six starters back from last year. The team also boasts only two seniors, Michael Brooks and Bryson Moore, which Adair believes is exciting for the future of the program.
“We are very technical going forward and want to rely on our movement and speed of play. These are the areas that can bring us success. Many of the young players now have experience playing at this level that we feel will make us stronger and give us more depth in the squad. We must be more dynamic than last year and there have been a lot of strides made towards this goal.”
Goalkeepers Joseph Bendik from Marietta, GA returns for his junior season. Last year, he played and started al 19 matches and had 1.5 goals allowed average and 93 saves. He was in goal for two victories over top 10 opponents, Virginia and Boston College. Goalkeeper Scott Rosman (Kenner, LA) returns for his sophomore season. Another returning goalkeeper is JD Spearman, a red shirt 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 am 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 the depth of this caliber.”
Backs “We are fortunate to have such a quality amount of players in the back. We have great depth and leadership. David Newton from Mount Pleasant, SC, a red shirt junior Captain who has made great strides as a player is becoming more of an offensive weapon with his excellent passing ability and 6’4″ frame.” Newton started 16 games last season and had two goals and two assists and was named to the Academic All-ACC Team in 2007.
Bryson Moore (Madison, MS) adjusted to left back for the second half of last season and has shown much progress there through the spring. Greg Eckhardt of Orange Park, FL who played this past spring with the U-20 national team, will be counted on for his experience and versatility in the back. He was named third-team All-South in 2007. Eckhardt was also selected to the Academic All-ACC Team in 2007. Eckhardt started all 19 matches and Moore played in 15.
Freshman Francklin Blaise (Miami, FL) who has experience playing in Europe and Mexico with both the U-18 and U-20 national teams, is expected to compete immediately. His composure, athleticism and reading of the game could allow him to have a very bright future.
Mackenzie Ward (Fort Worth, TX) , a transfer from St. Johns, had a strong spring and will also compete for time this fall at both right back and center back.
Another player vying for playing time is sophomore Konnor McGee (Summerville, SC), who has made a lot of progress this spring.
“We worked a lot during the spring to improve our individual and team defending. Last season many of the defenders were injured which didn’t allow us to have a consistent line up. We lost a lot of close games on small mistakes and we feel that with experience in the back, we can minimize some of those miscues. A strong defense will be a big plus and will allow us to be in every game and the players in front will be able to gain confidence as the year progresses. It will allow our other positions time to develop and organize.”
Midfielders “We have good pace in the midfield and a lot of players competing for those positions. On the wings, we can play Eric Cava (Annapolis,MD), Tyler Williams (Tallahassee, FL) Hassan Ibrahim (Fairhope,AL), Riley Sumpter (Chamblee, GA) or Nick Burton (Acworth, GA).”
Cava started 13 matches as a freshman. Tyler Williams is a red shirt freshman and Ibrahim is a junior college transfer from Jefferson College where he won a National Championship his freshman year. Ibrahim can play on either flank and will cause many problems for opposing defenders.
Sumpter and Burton are both very versatile players who can play in a number of positions. They both have pace and composure and have had very successful club careers with Georgia power Concorde Fire.
Tommy Drake (Chapel Hill, NC) has continued to improve upon his stellar rookie campaign where he was a Freshman All-ACC player and had winning goals against Virginia, Boston College and Furman, who were all ranked at the time. Much is expected from him linking with the target forward.
In the inside, John Tardy (Staten Island, NY) also developed and can play in numerous positions in the midfield. Other newcomers to the midfield include Connor Barbaree (Marietta, GA), a very technical central midfielder who rarely gives the ball away. Rene Onate (Seneca, SC) and Richard Nova (Alpharetta, GA) will also have the opportunity to compete for a position in the midfield.
Forwards The list of forwards on the 2008 team includes Michael Brooks (Fredricksburg, VA), Eric Cava, Tyler Williams, and Newcomer Nick Burton.
“Michael Brooks plays well with back to the goal. We are anxious to see him injury free. When he is healthy, he can be a good ACC forward and we are looking for consistency from him this season which will allow him to reach his potential.”
“Tyler Williams showed much improvement in practice during his red-shirt season and we look forward to him showing his potential during the fall. Nathan Thornton has good pace and work ethic and is a natural goal scorer. It is up to the team to get him the service in the area where he can be most effective.”
Brooks scored five goals and had one assist last year. He played in 18 matches. Thornton scored four goals and two assists for the Tigers in 2008.
Adair remains very optimistic and excited about the future and is eager to get back to the NCAA’s after missing out in 2007. Finding a way to win the close games will also be a major key. Too many games were lost in overtime or late in the game and this is an area that he hopes to rectify.
Overall, the staff is extremely pleased with the progress that the squad has made since the end of last season. They have worked very hard on and off the field and are ready to reap the rewards of their labors.
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