Coming into the season, the St. John’s men’s soccer team had some clear holes to fill.
Starters like 2008 Big East Midfielder Nelson Becerra, 2009 preseason All American defender Joel Gustafsson, All-Big East defender Ben Clack, goalkeeper Derby Carillo and defender David Reed graduated. All were key contributors during the team’s Big East tournament championship run.
Replacing them has proven to be no easy task.Head Coach Dr. David Masur played nearly two thirds of his 31-man roster in Sunday’s 5-0 shellacking at the hands of defending national champion Virginia. Only three players managed to get through the entire 90 minutes without receiving the hook from the sidelines.
Masur attributed part of the team’s struggles to youth. Nine freshmen saw action against Virginia, with five rookies in the starting lineup.
“[The team’s struggles are] a byproduct of youth, and a byproduct of having a lot of players that like the offensive side of the ball,” he said.
Among those who didn’t last the entire game was freshman keeper Rafael Diaz. After keeping a clean sheet and making six saves in Friday’s 2-0 win over Virginia Tech, Diaz was pulled after allowing four goals in 61 minutes in favor of fellow freshman Alex Naples, who surrendered a goal of his own.Despite taking him out, Masur still has confidence in Diaz.
“Absolutely, 100 percent [confident],” he said. “He’s our No. 1 right now and I don’t think that situation is changing.”
Senior Sverre Wegge Gundhus, who earned first team All-Big East honors last year playing striker for the first time in his career, has moved to the back four in an effort to strengthen the depleted Red Storm defense.
“Sverre’s comfortable wherever he plays,” said Masur. Asked if he envisioned Wegge Gundhus playing elsewhere as the season wore on, he was non-committal.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “We’re trying to find the right fit for our team right now. It’s not about Sverre. It’s about the team.”
His replacements at forward, senior Adam Himeno, sophomore Omar Edwards and junior Walter Hines, put up just two shots on goal between them.
Freshman defender Jordan Rouse, who didn’t see any action against Virginia Tech, was one of the three players to last all 90 minutes, along with senior midfielder Kyle Hoffer and junior defender Connor Lade. Rouse was filling in for injured center back Bjorn de Hoop.
Another freshman, midfielder Adrian L’Esperance, has started both games but played just 65 minutes.
The constant shuffle of the Johnnies lineup, while more pronounced this year, has always been present during the beginning of any season.
“That’s what the beginning of the season has always been about,” said Masur. “We’re trying to find out who’s responsible enough and dedicated enough to the team’s objectives.”
Masur will have four more games to see his young team in action and establish a consistent rotation before the Big East season starts at Notre Dame on Sep. 25. They play their home opener Fri. against Fairleigh Dickinson.