Fairleigh Dickinson University - Three Star Recruiting Class - The following footnote should be placed on the schedule of any team facing the Knights, "Warning - It can be hazardous to your win-loss record to look past FDU." Optimism heading into the 2013 season at FDU beings with the fact that the Knights established once again last year that this is a program that is very capable of competing at the highest levels of Division I soccer.
After topping St. Francis (Pa) in penalty kicks to win the 2012 Northeast Conference Championship the Knights effectively utilized their possession oriented style of attacking soccer to upset St. John's and Saint Louis on the road before losing to North Carolina 1-0 in Chapel Hill in overtime in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tourney.
FDU will seek to keep the momentum going in 2013 but will have to do so without the services of standout midfielders Jack McVey (6g, 5a) and Anthony Moore (2g, 7a) and center back Jason Wells who have graduated. In addition they must replace the offensive productivity provided by forward Jan Aubert (5g, 2a).
FDU looks to be in very good shape on the defensive side of the ball heading into the 2013 campaign. It all begins with senior Jacob Lissek who has been the main man in goal for the Knights for the past three seasons. Lissek is an outstanding shot-stopper who will enter the 2013 season with twenty-one career shutouts which places him in a tie for the most in program history.
The Knight backline will be anchored by 2012 All-NEC and All-North Atlantic Region First Team selection senior center back Nicholas Walker (2g, 0a) who has been a starter since arriving on campus in 2010. Walker is a ball winner with the size and athletic ability needed to be an impact player.
Redshirt senior Jeffrey Barrenechea (0g, 1a) , a 2012 All-NEC Second Team selection, returns at the right back position and sophomore Sam Durkot (0g, 1a) returns at left back with the benefit of a year of starting experience under his belt. Durkot might also see playing time in 2013 as a midfielder depending on how head coach Seth Roland elects to utilize his players. Newcomer Tchamy Dantse Dantse from Frankfurt, Germany looks to be in the hunt for the center back slot vacated by Jason Wells. Transfer Deshawn Forbes who saw action in ten matches last year at Marshall should also compete immediately for playing time in the back.
Offensive productivity in general and the midfield in particular are potential trouble areas for the Knights due to the loss of McVey, Moore, and Aubert. A lot rides on the ability of Roland to effectively fill the gaps that exist due to their departure. What is not in question is the play of junior holding midfielder Anders Vest-Hansen (0g, 1a) who has been a starter for the past two seasons and is the guy who will set the pace for the entire team. Vest-Hansen has a great work ethic, is at the center of FDU's possession oriented attack, and is also a solid defender.
Junior Godfred Baafi (2g, 1a) who was a starter last year is among returning midfielders who should play a key role in 2013. Other returning linkmen who look to be in the hunt for a greater role in 2013 include juniors Manny Calixto and Miguel Escobar (1g, 0a) and sophomore Yusuf Hamza (1g, 0a). Martin Lukaschik is among the members of the recruiting class who may challenge for playing time in the center of the park.
Junior forward Nico Wright (5g, 2a) returns to power the attack up-top. Wright is very effective with his back to the goal and has the combination of size and speed that can cause problems for defenders. However, the ability of others to step up and share the offensive burden is a critical success factor for the Knights. Sophomore Simon Doherty (3g, 2a) who saw action in twenty-one contests last year is among the likely candidates to do that. Seniors David Cornwell (1g, 1a) and Kean Lewis are among other returning forwards who will seek to add offensive punch. Forward Enver Caymaz is among the new recruits with the potential to contribute to the attack once he has made the transition to the college game.
Roland may have to make some adjustments in his system of play to align with the talent of the personnel he has on board but this is clearly a program with an identify. You can bet the farm that FDU will play a possession oriented style of soccer and that they will continue to place pressure on their opponents in order to disrupt the flow of their game. When FDU plays with patience and when they are able to dictate the tempo of a match they are a very difficult opponent. Anyone who seeks proof of that need look no further than the 2012 games with St. John's and Saint Louis.
The Knights will enter the 2013 season as the team to beat in the NEC based primarily on the strength of their defense. The NEC will consist of eight rather than eleven teams in 2013 due to the fact that Monmouth and Quinnipiac have departed to join the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Mount St. Mary's dropped its men's soccer program.
Roland, who will enter his seventeenth season as the head coach at FDU, will not have to wait long to find out how competitive his team is in 2013 since they open the season on August 30 on the road against a very good up and coming Drexel team. Roland will no doubt remind his team of their perplexing season opener last year when they seemed lethargic and came out on the short end of a 5-0 thumping at home from Stony Brook. The 2013 schedule also includes challenging resume building non-conference contests with Northwestern and St. John's before the Burgundy and Blue begin NEC play on October 11 against Saint Francis University.
FDU will be very good in 2013 but just how good will likely hinge on their ability to develop a balanced attack that will enable them to create and finish scoring opportunities. When the Knights are able to dictate the pace of a match the chances are pretty good that they will come out on top but they are vulnerable when the table is turned.
Kevin Ramirez - Midfielder - Bergenfield, New Jersey - Bergenfield High School - Played for the U-18 TSF Academy. First Team All-National Division of the Big North Conference.
Deshawn Forbes - Defender - Kingston, Jamaica - Marshall University - A sophomore transfer from Marshall University where he played in ten games last year with seven starts.
Enver Caymaz - Forward - Pompton Lakes, New Jersey - Pompton Lakes High School - First Team All-Group One. First Team All-Passaic County. First Team All-NJIC. Played for Parsippany SC.
Tchamy Dantse Dantse - Defender - Frankfurt, Germany - Technische Universitat Damasch - A 6'4" center back.
Martin Lukaschik - Midfielder - Neubrandenburg, Germany - Universitat of Rostock - Soccer savvy midfielder with good touch on the ball.