2013 Men's Soccer Season Preview
The SUNY Potsdam men's soccer team returns to the field for the 2013 season with renewed optimism with another year of experience added to its' heavy crop of underclassmen.
Six returning juniors and 12 returning sophomores rejoin the Bears after a 4-9-4 campaign, in which Potsdam vied for a playoff berth up until the second-to-last match of the season.
Potsdam's prospects for this season may hinge how well they fare in close contests. The Bears had four ties and were 4-7 in one-goal contests.
A reversal of fortunate in such scenarios is what fourth-year coach Adam Parker will be aiming to achieve.
"For us to be as competitive as we've been the last two years, with how many freshmen we've been starting, we feel like we have a solid base to work with," said Parker, a 2001 graduate of SUNY Fredonia.
"I'm hoping we can learn from our youth and our mistakes from the past. I'm really excited for this season just to see if we can we turn the corner now and become an experienced team."
Junior Eduardo Figueroa spearheads the Bears' attack as its' biggest offensive catalyst. The All-SUNYAC First Team member returns as Potsdam's leading scorer (12 goals, two assists) from a year ago.
"He can be electric at times," Parker said. "He can score from 35 yards out. He's dangerous every time he gets the ball."
Figueroa was downright scorching hot down the stretch. During an 11-day span, he racked up eight goals over the final five matches against Buffalo State, Fredonia State, Brockport, SUNY Geneseo, and Clarkson University.
Seeking to step into bigger striking roles will be sophomores Ben Firlit, Tom Benedetto, Stephen Auyer, Dylan Krueger, Mario Riccardi and freshman Brandon Laurin.
Firlit and Benedetto each showed promise. Firlit notched three goals and an assist including his best performance with a goal and the game-winning assist in a thrilling 4-3 SUNYAC conference win against Buffalo State.
Benedetto produced a goal and a team-leading five assists. Four of those assists came during the final five matches.
Additional depth will be provided by Auyer, who returns after missing all of last season with an injury, NJCAA All-Region transfer Riccardi and Laurin.
Junior Cliff Bondi is hopeful to return mid-season after undergoing back surgery.
One of the Bears' biggest keys entering the season will be finding consistent complementary scorers to Figueroa. Parker is optimistic that his youthful roster will see larger gains with its' added experience.
"I think he's [Figueroa] the one known weapon that we have, but we're very deep with wingers and forwards," Parker added.
"Tom Benedetto should see a lot of action. Stephen Auyer is back from his injury. He's been very good in preseason. Ben Firlit has a ton of energy and he's one of those players that can make something happen out of nothing. We've got at least eight or nine guys that I'm confident in playing as a forward at the moment. Finding a way to get all those guys on the field is our challenge at the moment."
Alessio Vitale, the lone returning senior on the squad, has been named co-captain for the second consecutive season. Vitale started in all 17 matches and tallied two goals and an assist. His best performance came with a goal and an assist in a 2-2 tie against SUNYAC conference opponent Fredonia State last Oct. 13.
"He definitely had his best season of the two especially when we got to conference play," Parker said. "He played very well. He's very good in possession. We're hoping we can get him forward more and take some more chances. He's our playmaker."
Junior Alex Minsker offers up some of the Bears' best versatility as he is projected to play both the midfield and forward positions. Minsker earned an assist and has been dubbed "a threat" who may thrive in either spot on the field.
Junior Kyle Cronin has impressed the coaching staff in the preseason.
"He may be our best player this preseason," Parker said. "He didn't play a ton his freshman season. He's kind of broken out of his shell. He's really good on the ball and very technical."
Eric Cassidy (Queensbury, N.Y. /Queensbury) wins a lot of balls in the air and plays role of the enforcer in the midfield.
Other returning midfielders providing punch for the Bears will be junior Conor Engle and sophomores Johnny Zator and Patrick Mylod.
Junior Brian Emery is a newcomer and a center back that is vocal and will lead by example. He was named as the Bears' co-captain.
"It was the overwhelming that the guys voted him on as a captain," Parker said. "He's new to the team. He came in last January so he's been here for the spring season. He's mature. The guys look up to him."
Junior Travis Jordan remains the most experienced back of the bunch as he started in all 17 matches.
Other returning defenders include junior Pat Cleaver, sophomores Andrew Doody and Alex Griffith.
Freshman Chris Schrum is lauded as having a high soccer I.Q.
"Schrum is smooth for a freshman," Parker said. "He makes good decisions and has a lot of experience having played a high level of club soccer."
The departure of the graduated Joseph Glackin has opened up the opportunity for other players to earn a starting position. Glackin was the usual fixture guarding the net having played over 1,330 minutes.
The early favorite to emerge has been freshman Nick Davies
Other keepers expected to contend for playing time are seniors Ben Steinberg, and Stefan Sloma , and junior Alex Pavone.
Potsdam opens the season as hosts of the Collegiate Village Cup against Lyndon State Aug. 30 at 4 p.m. at Maxcy Turf Field. The Bears continue the tournament with a match against Rutgers-Newark Aug. 31 at 11 a.m.
A visit to cross town rivals St. Lawrence University is slated for Sept. 20 at 4 p.m. while Clarkson University is scheduled to come to Potsdam on Sept. 22 at 1 p.m.
"Playing at St. Lawrence is always a tremendous test but will prepare us for our conference schedule," Parker said.
The SUNYAC conference schedule begins on Sept. 28 with a visit to Plattsburgh State. Home conference games are planned against SUNY Cortland (Oct. 4), Oswego State (Oct. 5), Fredonia State (Oct. 18), Buffalo State (Oct. 19).