We hear a lot about the basketball teams at UConn. Even the footballers got a brand new stadium to play in. So we're giving the men's soccer team some love as they get set to kick off their regular season Wednesday night against St. Peter's.
Head Coach Ray Reid is all business when it comes to the UConn men’s soccer program.
“Ray Reid’s tough,” says senior midfielder Michael Pezza. “But a tough coach is one of the best because he’ll tell you how to do stuff. He’ll tell you when you’re wrong, he’ll tell you when you’re right. I wouldn’t play for any other coach.”
During his last 12 seasons at Connecticut, Reid has accumulated an overall record of 177-64-24, the highest winning percentage among all active NCAA Division I soccer coaches.
“Coach Reid is a fun guy,” said senior captain Kwame Watson-Siriboe. “Honestly he demands a lot. He demands everyone give 100 percent at all times. He demands perfection. That’s what a coach should do. At times we might bump heads, we might disagree, but he’s there to try and keep us focused.”
The Huskies haven’t won a national championship since 2000, a period in which both the men and women’s basketball teams racked up a total of eight national titles.
While basketball is tradition in Storrs, many might argue that the men’s soccer program is also worthy of such recognition.
“A lot of people know that we are out there,” says senior co-captain Josh Ford. Our coaching staff does a lot of promoting, so it’s pretty nice to see that people are involved with our soccer games.”
Watson-Siriboe is very conscious of soccer’s popularity on campus. “For someone who’s not into soccer, you have to come watch it for yourself,” he says. “We’re trying to reproduce an atmosphere that they have in Europe where people eat, breathe and sleep soccer.”
The men’s soccer team has the “Goal Patrol” to thank for their swarming fan base. Back in 2005, a dedicated group of seniors began to attend every home game played at Morrone stadium. Eventually, the coaching staff took notice and started to hold regular meetings with the group before home games. Today, the Goal Patrol has 300 members and is still growing. They are currently the biggest college spirit group in the country.
“The Goal Patrol is one of our biggest fans,” says Pezza. They come to every game, support us 100 percent and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The men’s season kicks off September 2, where UConn will play St. Peter's in their first home game of the regular season.
Coach Reid says this team is one of the most talented he’s seen in a long time.
“I like the attitude of the team and I like the mentality right now,” he says. “All of the freshman have been pleasant surprises.”
This year, there are four Connecticut natives on the UConn roster: Colin Bradley of West Hartford, Trevor Constantine of Glastonbury, Max Wasserman of Farmington and Terrell Whitting of Naugatuck.
With the loss of O’Brian White and company, veterans like senior midfielder Tony Stahl, know they have to be more aggressive on the offensive end.
“To be honest, we have to get more goals,” says Stahl. “We had a lot of problems with that last year. We just have to work even harder this year, we have to get those goals.”
Stahl’s performance on the pitch has placed him on the 2009 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch list-the most prestigious honor in intercollegiate soccer.
“It’s definitely a great honor to be apart of that list,” he says. “You see all of the names in there and they are just absolutely amazing players.”
In the preseason polls, the Huskies are ranked 12th in the nation. But a number is just a number until the end of the season. Connecticut is stacked with versatility and talent. Ask anyone, but there is no one that has more confidence in this program than Coach Ray Reid.
“The national championship team is the team that walks off last and has won the biggest game,” says coach. “We define our team by getting to the final four and winning championships. It’s not easy. It’s a tough sport. You need a lot of luck in this game but it would be another slice of heaven to win another championship.”