SFU men’s soccer favourites to win GNAC once again

Key players have left, but expect more dominance from the Clan this season

Can the Clan make a deep run in the NCAA tournament this season? (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

By: Victor Gouchée

The Simon Fraser University Men’s Soccer program has spent the last month training in preparation for their 2019 season. Pre-season this time around, however, was drastically different than in recent years. For the first time since 2013, the men’s team packed their bags and began training away from Burnaby Mountain. The team spent almost two weeks in Norway playing against strong, European competition.

This also marked the first time since 2014 that SFU has been without key standout players Adam Jones and Magnus Kristensen, both of which have since used up their eligibility after playing their senior seasons last year. Losing such key pieces in not only attack and defence but also in leadership will be tough for SFU to replace; despite this, the lone Canadian school has not lost face in the eyes of their opponents. Yet again, SFU has been voted as the favourites for the title of Great Northwest Athletic Conference Champions.

When asked how he felt about being voted favourites, head coach Clint Schneider said, “We have the best team, I always believe that even though I do not know who other schools have recruited. To be voted as the favourites shows a lot of respect from the other programs.”

Having had so many players move on, Schneider and the rest of his coaching staff were busy this off season bringing in several new additions to the squad, a few of which are international signings.

“The international guys are big time players,” says Schneider. “They weren’t just given a spot, they have earned it. They have been consistent, and everyone, regardless of position, has made picking my lineup difficult. May the best man win.”

A very close battle in net will be something to keep an eye on this season. Senior goalkeepers Brandon Watson and Miguel Hof have come and gone and used their eligibility — now, the net is left up to 21-year-olds Aidan Bain and Luciano Trasolini to protect. I predict playing time for both guys this season and the outright first-choice goalkeeper to be something that won’t be decided anytime soon.

In fact, Schneider said “Competing everyday, embracing the challenge and pushing each other daily to get that [number one] spot. I am excited for this challenge ahead,” when asked how he feels having two young goalies to decide between.

Another thing to watch out for is Matteo Polisi up top for the Clan. The sophomore forward was the Golden Boot winner for SFU last season and also took home GNAC Freshman of the Year honours. Watch out for the young man to further add to his already impressive SFU goal-scoring record.

The Clan kicks off their season this Saturday in California as they face Cal State San Bernardino. A win here is likely for Simon Fraser and would be the perfect start to the season. The California trip continues as SFU will go on to play three more matches before returning home. Their second match is against their formidable rivals Cal Poly Pamona, who has knocked SFU out of post-season contention for consecutive seasons, something Canada’s NCAA team hopes to leave behind them.

Since their trip to Norway at the beginning of preseason, the men’s team has been forced to spend a lot of time getting to know each other. This trend continues with their lengthy 12-day trip to California beginning this week.

These long trips may be paying off for the Clan, as the head coach says, “This is the closest group of players I have had. This group is special, they really get along. My only challenge is to make sure they stay focused and don’t get caught up having too much fun. Although I don’t see this being an issue; the boys all share a common hunger for the same goal. They are aware of the need to battle and handle adversity together as a squad.”

In fact, after the trip to California, the boys will only be home for a few days before they get back on the road to Bismark, North Dakota for two non-conference games. SFU won’t have their first home game of the season until September 20, when the Montana State Billings Yellow Jackets make the trip north of the border.