2012 Men's Soccer Preview

August 23, 2012
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Aug. 23, 2012

NORFOLK, Va. - The Old Dominion University men's soccer team has reached the second round of the NCAA College Cup the last two years. With a solid group of upperclassmen and nine returning starters, ODU is looking to get back to the College Cup and achieve even more in their final year in the CAA.

"The chemistry on the team is terrific, we have some freshmen that can step up and play and we've got some sophomores who have turned the corner," head coach Alan Dawson said. "Our core group of upperclassmen should be able to give us some good leadership. We're at a good place right now."

The Monarchs advanced to the second round of the NCAA College Cup last season, defeating Liberty 5-4 in penalty kicks before falling at Indiana to end the season. ODU is looking to get back for the third-straight year after having made eight of the last 10 College Cup's.

"We need to keep stressing the little things that make the program, focusing on the fundamentals," Dawson said. "You make them remember what went wrong in the sense of when did we start struggling with fatigue and things like that. We have a group that has been there, done that. We'll reinforce things that have hurt us in the past to make sure it doesn't happen this year."

ODU put up goals with the best of them in 2011, finishing second in the country in goals per game.

The Monarchs return All-American Yannick Smith who led the CAA and finished sixth in the nation in goals per game last season. Also back is junior Gideon Asante whose speed opens things up for his teammates, as he handed out nine assists to go with seven goals in 2011.

"We've got about 4-5 guys we're going to rely on this year. I though Gideon was good Saturday night (in the exhibition), but he can be better and Yannick had 16 goals last year," Dawson said. "We have two other guys who have stepped up in Sidney Rivera and Ivan Militar. Sidney has changed his attitude and how he goes about playing. He's a big boy and he brings that physicality the other two don't have. Ivan has been very sharp, looks like he's going to be an impact player for us."

Tim Hopkinson could move between forward and midfield and will look to improve on his stellar sophomore season when he finished second on the squad in goals, assists and points.

"He's the fittest guy on the team, he brings leadership like nobody else," Dawson said of Hopkinson. "He shows up in practice like it's the last day on earth and gives everything he has. We have five components that I think are very effective and we got to get it right as to who plays together."

The midfield is led by seniors Jordan LeBlanc and Chris Harmon. The duo works well together as they compliment each other's talents.

"Jordan is very consistent and Chris is more creative," Dawson said. "They are a good combination, these guys have been playing together a long time."

Dawson also has been impressed by some newcomers in freshmen Ryan Condotta and Andre Reyes.

"Ryan is a physical guy that covers a lot of ground. He's a good passer and looks like he belongs," Dawson said. "Andre Reyes should come off the bench for us and give us quality minutes and we expect that as well from Nate Foglesong. I'm very pleased with this group, it's a solid group that gives us a lot of balance."

On the defensive end, ODU lost senior leader Tommy Webb but also returns three starters from a year ago.

The Monarchs return seniors Alex De John and Jason Gaylord, as well as junior Ryan Oakes.

"Tommy was a good player for us but that unit has played all spring for us, they look pretty solid right now," Dawson added. "If we stay healthy in the back we'll be a very solid group."

Victor Francoz started every game in goal a year ago, posting a 1.38 goals against average making 86 saves with six shutouts. Francoz joined Smith on the preseason Hermann Trophy Watch List.

"We think he's one of the better goalkeepers in the country," Dawson said. "His feet are tremendous and he has great quickness off his line. He's better now because his English is better and the information he's giving the back line is improved."

Behind Francoz to provide depth are junior Sean Stowe and freshman Connor Miller.

The Monarchs get things started on Saturday against Navy which will start a tough schedule for this experienced group.

"We knew we were going to have a senior group so we loaded up on the schedule as much as we could. It's a very difficult opener against an emotional team," Dawson said. "We've got a lot of teams that were in the tournament last year. With us not having the ability to play in the conference tournament, we need to do our best and make a statement that we belong in the tournament."