FAU’s men’s soccer team finished last season with an abysmal 4-10-2 record, and while the Owls had a goal differential of -13, head coach Kos Donev points to a different reason for the failed campaign.
Donev believes that last season’s team was not mentally strong enough to cope when things didn’t pan out. As a result, the Owls constantly found themselves in tough positions during games, and they piled on the losses.
That may change in 2010, as Donev thinks that this group of Owls will be able to better handle the rigors of a season.
“It’s not what we’re going to do different this year,” said Donev, who is entering his 24th season as the Owls’ head coach. “It is how the players come in preseason as far as mentality-wise.
“I think they are going to be coming in at a very good, positive way since our spring season – we had a very good spring season.”
According to Donev, the strong spring season showing saw the players’ attitudes change for the better and the team’s confidence rise.
The team’s new mental approach will need to be coupled with a pure goal scorer if the Owls are to have success. FAU only scored 15 goals in 2009, and nearly half of those came from then-sophomore forward Darnell King, who also had a team-high three assists.
One of three team captains for the looming season, King won’t be able to shoulder the burden on his own, and one player expected to provide some help in the attacking third is junior Karol Chorak.
Chorak may not prove to be that player, however. Playing mostly as a central midfielder last year — his first for the Owls — Chorak struggled to provide an offensive spark in 2009, netting and assisting just once. He hopes to do better this season.
“My goals are to have a lot more assists, get a lot more shots on goals and, hopefully, get a lot more goals,” said Chorak.
Chorak also believes that the team will be able to accomplish some of its goals due to the cohesiveness it picked up during the spring.
“We didn’t have a lot of chemistry as a team,” said Chorak of the Owls’ last season. “It wasn’t until this spring that we started to work for each other.”
While the common refrain among the team is working for one another, one position where competition will be heavy is goalkeeper. Donev has to decide between junior Jeremy Crumpton, redshirt sophomore James McCormick and at least one other player for the top choice at the position.
Crumpton saw playing time in eight games last season, and while that is greater than McCormick’s one 45-minute cameo, that doesn’t necessarily make Crumpton the starter.
“[The competition] is really intense,” said Crumpton. “The total of four, including me, keepers we have now are really strong, and we’re competing every single practice. It’s nobody’s set spot so all of us have to work our butts off in practice to impress the coaches, impress our teammates and get a little bit of playing time.”
No matter who becomes the incumbent though, Donev wants to see marginal improvement in between the pipes.
“For sure, goalkeeping has to step up,” said Donev. “Whether it is Jeremy, whether it is James, whether it is a new guy coming in, they have to step up and be a difference maker.”
As for a defense that surrendered 28 goals, Donev is expecting sophomore TJ Merrigan and redshirt senior Trevor Pluskota to help anchor a back line that is in need of much improvement.
FAU will also have approximately eight new players joining the squad for the upcoming season, and although none has looked like a difference maker to Donev, he likes the added depth they bring.
Even with those new additions, Donev still thinks his team’s strength heading into 2010 is its new mentality. The players appear to have bought into the idea as well.
“We can be up there with teams like Akron and Hartwick because the difference in the level [of play] between us and the other teams wasn’t that far,” said Chorak. “In the spring, our level really rose.”
Room for improvement
From goals scored to yellow cards, the Owls struggled in nearly every facet of play on the pitch in 2009. Here are some of last year’s numbers that FAU hopes to improve on this season: