Male Athlete of the Year | Yaro’s Speed, Skill Bolstered Stout Defense

FILE PHOTO: JULIA HENNRIKUS/THE HOYA Sophomore center back Joshua Yaro was an All-American in 2014.

Sophomore center back Joshua Yaro was an All-American in 2014.

National acclaim has flooded in for sophomore defender Joshua Yaro after his second season at Georgetown. As part of a series of postseason recognition for the best center back in the country, he was named a Hermann Award Semifinalist, first team All-American and Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

The most important recognition of all came when Major League Soccer and Orlando City SC offered Yaro a chance to leave school early and become the first overall draft pick, which he turned down to return to Georgetown. He is quick to credit his teammates for his success.

“I remember last year, when I turned down the Generation Adidas [contract], one of the things that came up was ‘if you do well individually next year, you should be fine. As long as your team does well.’ It always comes back to the team,” Yaro said.

In soccer, no single player can win games without the 10 other players around him. But no player consistently impacted the game as much as Yaro did this season. His elite speed and ability to cover mistakes — both those of his teammates and, very occasionally, his own — served as the last line of defense between the opposition and senior goalkeeper Tomas Gomez.

“I trust myself to not panic under [pressure], and I try to be really calm when I play because that is something that is needed in my position as a center back,” Yaro said. “If I make a mistake back there, it is going to go.”

Fortunately for the Hoyas, Yaro rarely made a mistake. Georgetown recorded 10 shutouts, allowing an average of 0.61 goals per game over the course of the season. That number ranked Georgetown eighth in Division I, even after playing one of the most difficult schedules in the country.

Central defenders rarely involve themselves in non-set piece offense, but Yaro’s darting runs from the back have caused fits for opposing defenses. It is a skill that has some experts wondering if he might be better suited to a role as a defender or a midfielder. Meanwhile, fans at Shaw Field have seen his world-class pace and confident touch render visiting defenders useless.

Yaro’s quickness, skill on the ball and confidence under pressure may make him the most highly rated prospect in college soccer, but his success is not limited to physical talent. Named a team captain for the 2015 season, he has received as much praise for his conduct off the field as he has for his play on it.

“He does everything right,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said. “His professors love him, his teammates love him [and] his peers love him. He just handles himself really well in all arenas of his life.”

The emphasis Yaro places on academics and obtaining a Georgetown degree has been well documented. He still finds areas of his game to study up on, as well. Having received the title of captain, he wants to improve his leadership and organization on the field.

“I think I can do a lot more getting some of the guys on the field going because I’m often really quiet on the field. As a center back, one of [the] roles is to organize … I feel like I haven’t been doing that a whole lot, which is something I look forward to improving for next season,” Yaro said.

Whether or not he grows into a vocal leadership role — though the safe bet is that he will — Yaro will continue to anchor a back line that enters its third season as a unit. With continuity that most professional teams would envy, Georgetown’s defense will once again be the foundation of its success.

Statistics have a difficult time revealing the importance of individual defenders. Yaro’s one assist over 23 starts last season hides the fact that he was visibly the best player on the field throughout the year.

The numbers also do not show his success off the field and in the classroom. In his impressive sophomore season, Yaro achieved at the highest level both as an athlete and as a Georgetown student. For Wiese, he represents the best of Georgetown soccer.

“He is very much emblematic of what you like to get in a player,” Wiese said “He is a poster child for our program, and we are proud to have him be that for us.”

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