Q & A with ODU Men's Soccer coach Alan Dawson
Aug. 3, 2005
In his 8 years at Old Dominion University, Coach Alan Dawson (86-53-11 ODU record) has led the Monarchs men's soccer team back to national prominence. With 5 double-digit victory totals in the past six seasons, three consecutive NCAA second round tournament appearances, and a consistent presence in national top 25 polls, the Monarchs are prepared to once again make noise on the national stage.
1. What do you feel will be the main strengths of the Monarchs this season? "We have a nucleus of 14 players returning, and those 14 guys are very strong. Even though we were a little light in numbers in the spring, it was a cohesive group, very focused group. But as it relates to specific positions, the defense will be our mainstay this year. I think we will be strong in the back, and if we build our season from that premise first, we should have a good year."
2. How would you assess your team's depth overall? "Better than ever. The only area that we really need to look at, and we will look at some of our new guys, is the forward position and to add a little depth up front. We will see if some of our new players will step up to the plate."
3. What kind of expectations do you have for the 2005 Monarchs? "We approach things the same way every year, one game at a time, one practice at a time. We were disappointed we didn't win the conference last year, and that will be a goal of ours this season- to be in the mix for the CAA title. We would like to host the CAA finals, so that is very much something in the second half of the season that we focus on. But we don't get ahead of ourselves, and it will be one game at a time. The first game that counts is against N.C State, and that will be our focus. We have a difficult schedule, so it is important to get off to a good start to figure out who we are, what we are good at, and how we need to adjust."
4. Who has been the most talented player or players you have coached at Old Dominion? "Well, I think talent is a dirty word. But in terms of pure raw talent, Attila Vendegh was a very special player. I don't think you come across too many players of that caliber in front of goal. That is a very special talent. Jared Kent is a very talented player. With the makeup of a team and the makeup of a player, there are a lot of intangibles and things you can not measure. There are a lot of guys who have come through the program who were not the most talented, but certainly have been very mentally strong and dedicated, and to begin to name them all would be impossible. Trevor McEachron is a rare combination of talent and mental strength who really steps up to another level, so he is worthy of note."
5. What has been your proudest accomplishment during your ODU coaching career? "I couldn't point to just one thing. Just the fact that the program has evolved every year, and that is what we set off to accomplish. When we got here, the program was not in good shape. So we set off from that point and we were patient, and persistent, and every year we have gotten better and that is the goal. To see our alumni association and the local communities' excitement about our program, and to see a different level of dedication on the field, all of these things take time and work behind the scenes so it is very rewarding. Just to see the program compete on a national level consistently is a proud achievement."
6. Obviously you are a big fan of the game of soccer, so who is your favorite professional soccer team? "If I had to pick a team, and there are a couple of teams who I would point to, one would be the Glasgow Rangers in Scotland, and the other would be my hometown team Linfield. But my true passion lies with the Oakland Raiders. That's who I live and die for in the NFL, so of course I go to at least one game a year. I always make it out to Oakland for a game, and another on the East Coast if they play over here."
7. How does it make you feel to know that Carlos Mendes, one of your very first ODU recruits, has made it to Major League Soccer (MLS)? "You can't understand what I feel about Carlos, and talking about talented players, we always felt Carlos was an extremely talented player. He was young when he came here; only 17 years old as a freshman. So it took him awhile to evolve as a player. I am absolutely thrilled for Carlos and his family, because he is a very dedicated young man. It is a dream of his to play in the MLS, and it is a dream of his, as a Long Island boy, to play for his local professional team- the NY/NJ Metrostars. We are obviously very proud that he is one of our first recruits and it is great for our program. But I am just so happy for him as a person, because it is just what he wanted. He persevered and he stuck with it even when the door was slammed shut on him a couple of times. He never gave up, and he is a great person."
8. What was the greatest game that you have ever been a part of as Old Dominion head coach? "There are a few games that come to mind. Last year's win over North Carolina when we losing 2-0 with 20 minutes to go was an unbelievable comeback. The nature of the game, with a large crowd, was a big night for us. We could have gave up, but we persevered. To come back and win that game in the last 30 seconds was quite a moment for us. The best college game of soccer that I can remember was when we beat Wake Forest 2-0 in 2003. We had just come off Hurricane Isabel and hardly anybody in the community had electricity, so a large crowd showed up on a nice Sunday afternoon. It was just a terrific game, and both teams did all they could. It was very competitive, and we were fortunate enough to come out on top. It was just a joy to coach in that game, because that's what it's all about, both teams attacking and not giving up. One of the most memorable games would be the UVA game in my first year. Obviously we were very fortunate to win the game, because we didn't outplay them by any means. In front of a big crowd, and with very little talent compared to UVA, we persevered and worked very hard to win that game, and that was a milestone beating the number one ranked team in the country."
The Monarchs open up their 2005 campaign with an exhibition match against Virginia Tech August 20th at 7:00 pm at the ODU Soccer Stadium. The first regular season match takes place at home against North Carolina State at 7:00 pm September 1st.