MEN'S SOCCER | Better Than Ever: GU’s Quest to Top Last Season
Published: Friday, November 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, November 1, 2013 01:11
Living up to last year’s accomplishments is no easy feat for the Georgetown men’s soccer team. But so far, the Hoyas are doing just fine.
Georgetown (12-3-1, 5-1-1 Big East) is ranked second in the nation by both the National Coaches Poll and by the Rating Percentage Index, a mathematical formula used to determine seeds for the NCAA tournament. Sitting at No. 2 and locked in a tie for first place in the Big East, the team is faring even better than last year’s team was at this point last season.
“Every team has its own footprint and legacy. Last year’s team was born from the team before, which was born from the team before,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said. “There is always that constant string that connects every team.”
Georgetown had a breakout season in 2012, finishing as runner-up in the NCAA College Cup after a 1-0 loss to Indiana in the championship game. The team finished the 2012 regular season with a 15-2-1 record and a 4-2 conference record that earned it a second seed in the Big East tournament in which it finished second.
“It was probably the best soccer experience I have had in my life. It was something where the team really came together to do something special,” senior forward and
captain Steve Neumann said.
Eighteen players from last year remain on the roster, including nine current starters. Four of the five seniors on the 2012 squad — defender Tommy Muller, midfielder Ian Christianson, forward Andy Riemer and midfielder Jimmy Nealis — were drafted into the MLS. These four, along with then-senior midfielder John Snyder, created a core of seasoned and talented veterans that stabilized the team even in the most nerve-wracking games.
Alongside Muller, Christianson, Reimer and Nealis was then-junior Neumann, who earned second-team All-American and College Cup Offensive Player of the Tournament honors last season. Still a captain, Neumann is now a senior and one of the best players in the country. He will be one of the frontrunners for the Hermann Trophy Award, which is given to the best college player in the nation. Although he tries to keep talk among teammates about his potential postseason recognitions to a minimum, he will certainly be drafted into Major League Soccer. According to Neumann, the older players of 2012 still influence his decisions as a leader.
“Having past success definitely helps you with future endeavors,” Neumann said. “It is something that me and Joey [Dillon] and Keon [Parsa] especially took from last year. We learned a lot from last year, and heading into the postseason we can really take some lessons.”
This year’s roster has six seniors, but only Steve Neumann and midfielder Joey Dillon have made the starting 11 regularly. Nevertheless, every senior has played a major role in the accomplishments of the season. Wiese emphasized the character of players such as defender Nick Van Hollen and goalkeeper Keon Parsa, who maintained their work ethic despite limited playing time. The presence of seniors both on the field — in the case of Neumann, Dillon and defender Ted Helfrich — and off the field has helped to keep a young team disciplined and focused.
Despite senior leadership, an unseasoned Georgetown began 2013 with a shaky start. In their opening game, the starting 11 featured two seniors and seven underclassmen. To begin the season Georgetown posted a mediocre 2-2 record before going on a 10-1-1 run. In 2012, the 11 players who took the field against Virginia included four seniors, three juniors and just a single freshman in the starting lineup. This 2012 team started the season 10-0-1.
“From day one, that team was flying. Whereas, this year, from day one we [were] looking like it was day one,” Wiese said.
This contrast in play, physical and mental, runs deeper than just the beginning of the seasons. The three-game foray through the 2012 Big East tournament included two overtime games. Then, the Hoyas won two penalty shootouts in the NCAA tournament; in the eight combined games from both tournaments, the team only won by more than one goal once. The current team, in contrast, has won by a single goal just five times all season, which is the same as the number of wins by at least three goals. Both Wiese and Neumann emphasized the ability of last year’s squad to win close games.
“They went down a goal, they scored two. They don’t go down a goal, then they win 1-0. A very stressful team,” Wiese said of the 2012 team.
Currently, the youth on the field has become a trademark of the budding elite program. In college sports, where recruiting can be just as important as performance on the field, success begets success. Soccer news website topdrawersoccer.com lists seven recruits who have verbally committed to Georgetown, including prominent names like Christopher Lema and James Marcinkowski. Here, in yet another facet of the game, the 2012 team has impacted the future of Georgetown soccer.