Leading From the Front

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Leading From the Front

TORCH PHOTO/NICK BELLO

TORCH PHOTO/NICK BELLO

TORCH PHOTO/NICK BELLO

Sean Okula, Staff Writer

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Coming and going as the world pleases, happiness is fleeting. A sunny day, a good book, true love, no dice. Ask 10 psychologists its true definition and you’re likely to get 10 different answers.

For some, however, the answer is hidden in plain sight. Plain as a grassy clearing with two nets at either end.

“When I’m on the pitch, to be honest, I’m at my happiest,”  Matt Forster said.

The Johnnies sure are happy to have him.

In his junior year, the midfielder has come into his own. Losing their top two scorers from a year ago, opportunities were abound on the men’s soccer team. While deferring some credit to his teammates, Forster acknowledges that he’s played a lead role in picking up the slack.

“It just kinda happened,” he said of his five early-season scores. Forster has added a sixth goal on the season and leads the Red Storm in that category.

“Opportunities are falling all over the place. I’m just lucky enough that I’m getting some good ones and I’m putting them away.”

Three scores in late August, plus the lone goal in a Big East-opening win and a game-winner against Mount St. Mary’s, and the England native already eclipsed his career-high in shots buried.

Forster has put his best foot forward. In fact, he’s learning to put both feet forward.

“I’ve worked on my weak foot, my right foot,” he said. “It’s something I’ve needed to work on my whole life. I haven’t got a goal with my right foot yet. But if I can get one, that would be something really to be proud of, even more than the other goals.”

The smiles have come in bunches for the curly-haired assassin. But with a record hovering around the .500 mark, both overall and in-conference, frustration can mount.

Such was the case in early October. The high-flying Creighton Blue Jays came to Belson Stadium, leading the Big East. Knotted at ones in the second half, Red Storm goalkeeper Lenny Wilson was victimized by  a Creighton shove. Forster answered with a shove right back, was assessed a red card and suspended for St. John’s next match.

“Looking back on it, I think we should’ve been more disciplined and let Creighton do the pushing,” he said. “It’s something that I regret personally. But I think everyone on the team can see that we’re sticking together.”

It was a moment of mental weakness, for sure yet such defensive maneuvers emanate a sense of team over self.

If New York is a melting pot, then the Red Storm locker room is a melting coffee mug. Players from all over the world, including Scotland, Switzerland, France, Canada, Norway, Italy, Zimbabwe, Portugal, England and the United States all mesh perfectly, Forster said.

They all share a common love and a common tongue. They all speak soccer, a universal language that they understood from a young age.

As with any language, soccer has its cultural dialects. For example, Forster grew up with a European game that permitted only three substitutions per match. In the American collegiate ranks, limitless substitutions are made on the fly.

The American style allows for a fast-paced blitz, and it took a little getting used to.

“In England, when you were in the final third you would get a lot of pressure, but until then it was more tactical,” Forster said. “Now, it’s all 100 miles per hour, all the time.”

“There’s no break. The intensity’s much higher,” he added.

The same can be said for his new home. The countryside of Bedford, England is a far cry from the bustle of New York City.

More “peaceful,” as Forster described his hometown, would lead a list of understatements. But he knew solace wouldn’t be difficult to find.

The popularity of Major League Soccer has taken off in the States. While he cites the collegiate draft and lack of a relegation system as the main differences, it certainly is world-class soccer.

“You’re looking up to the MLS players,” Forster said. “It’s getting bigger and bigger every year.”

Most importantly, the game he loves is always a short subway ride away.

“I’ve been to a few [NYCFC MLS games],” he said. “It’s very different. It’s competitive, but it’s different, especially at a baseball stadium. But it’s a good atmosphere, it’s a good day out. I’d recommend anyone to go.”

 

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