Men's soccer: cheers, tears, and hospital trips

By Daniel Kerwin

In their last home game of the season last Friday night, the men’s soccer team saw their slim playoff hopes dashed, losing 2-1 in overtime in a must win game against Gustavus Adolphus. It was a hard fought match from start to finish, with Gustavus sneaking in a late goal with just over a minute left in overtime.The loss was doubly tough since it was the seniors’ last game in front of the home crowd at Macalester Stadium.

“If we were going to have a last home game as a loss, this was a good one,” Dave Hanold ’09 said.

The team will wrap up its season tonight with an away game against Augsburg. Although a trip to the playoffs isn’t on the line, the team still has a lot to play for. The team needs a win tonight to match its conference win total from last year, and also the team hasn’t lost to Augsburg for years.

Despite the disappointment of missing the playoffs, the team is ending the season in better shape than the past two seasons.

“I think more importantly what I said to the crowd when I was introducing the seniors Friday is that the seniors leave us in probably better shape than they found us is my feeling of this season,” Barker said. “And remember, when they were freshmen they won the conference.”

Macalester has the same problem as any program that has been highly successful in the past in that any year that doesn’t bring a conference championship leaves an unfulfilled feeling.

“We haven’t won the conference for three years now; it’s quite a long dry spell for us, by our standards,” Barker said.

Still, considering the circumstances the team found itself in this year, by even having a shot of making the playoffs in the final week of the season it can’t be seen as too much of a failure.

“A reasonable goal for the group would have been the conference playoffs, somewhere in the top four,” Head Coach Ian Barker said. “I think in light of how the season’s unfolded personnel-wise, we can’t be too unsatisfied with where we find ourselves.”

The team was severely hampered by injuries to key players throughout the season. Top striker Carson Gorecki ’09 missed the whole season, Jeff Swick ’09 suffered a broken leg after only a few games, and Stephen Murphy-Logue ’11 suffered a deep bone bruise in last Friday’s contest against Gustavus.

“I spent a lot of time in hospitals this year,” Barker said. “We have been quite compromised by injuries, but that’s allowed us to give, somewhat unscheduled, seven of our freshmen playing time. Coming in next year I’ve got sophomores who are very proven, which is very encouraging.”

The team relied on seven key freshmen to step up throughout the season, in particular midfielders Reid Usedom ’12, Jesse Geary ’12 and Ryan Marshall ’12. Usedom and Marshall also contributed heavily to the team’s goal scoring, combining for 9 of the team’s goals during the season. Other notable freshmen were Matt Weyer ’12, Jeremy Carp ’12, Evan Elderbrock ’12 and Andrew Lund ’12.

Although the team has been infused by this young talent, it will be losing a great chunk of experience, especially in defense, with the graduation of this year’s class. As always, success next year could depend on bringing in a strong new recruiting class.

Ironically, the first 2009 recruit could already be playing on the team. Because of his season long injury, Gorecki still has a season left of eligibility and there is the potential that he may return next year.

“The challenge for Carson is a ninth semester at Macalester, so he really hasn’t decided yet, but we would welcome him back if he wanted to come,” Barker said. “If he’d have played this year and performed at expectations, he would be a strong candidate for conference player of the year, so there’s quite a lot left unfinished for Carson.”

Recruitment should be easier next year with the establishment of the new athletic facility on campus and the presence of full-time men’s soccer staff, and what Barker argues is arguably the best infrastructure for men’s soccer in the state of Minnesota. However, the current state of the economy has added further difficulties in obtaining recruits.

“When we’re recruiting we have to match the niche of Macalester with good quality athletes,” Barker said. “The pool of recruitable athletes is relatively small, but the competition for those athletes has always been relatively small. If economies change maybe that pool gets smaller still and we lose more and more people to conference competitors.”

A particular interest for Barker would be to recruit an impact foreign player, but just how to successfully do that remains to be seen.

As always, Barker made it known that the future success of the program will depend on the support of the fans. He keeps a picture of a particularly large crowd in his office for inspiration.

“I think the soccer fans, particularly the men’s soccer fans, are a really big deal for our campus, so hopefully the fans want to keep coming next year,” Barker said. “We’ll definitely be playing Friday nights, under lights, so I’m sure if it was a game of tiddlywinks we’d still have fans, but the timing of when we play and the history of it is hugely positive for us, it’s one of the defining features of our program. It’s very important for us all.