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FIU Enters The 2023 Season With A Talented Group Of Returning Players Supplemented By A Promising Recruiting Class.

The Panthers Won Both The Regular Season And Tournament Titles In Their First Year As A Member Of The AAC.

Coach – Kyle Russell – Fourth Season
Conference – American Athletic Conference
2022 Record – 13-5-1, 8-2-1 in conference
2022 National Ranking – Number 19 United Soccer Coaches. Number 16 College Soccer News
Five Year Win Total
2022 – 13
2021 – 12
2020 – 4
2019 – 10
2018 – 7
Key Departures

Stephen Afrifa – Forward – A 2022 United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News All-American. The eighth overall pick by Sporting Kansas City in the MLS SuperDraft. Appeared in a total of 63 games with a total of 42 starts. Had 23 career goals with 11 career assists over four seasons. Led the FIU attack with 10 goals and 4 assists in 2022. Led the attack in 2021 with eight goals and three assists. 2022 All-AAC First Team and All-East Region First Team selections. 2021 All-Southeast Region First Team and All-CUSA First Team selections.

David Garcia – Defender – Center back. A four year starter with 61 career appearances and 56 career starts. Had nine career goals and two career assists. 2022 College Sports Communicators Academic All-American First Team selection.

Carlos Scheckermann – Defender – Center back who appeared in 24 games with 18 starts during two seasons. Was a starter in 2022 with 15 appearances and 14 starts. Had three career goals and 2 career assists. 2022 American Athletic Conference Second Team selection. 2022 United Soccer Coaches All-East Region Second Team.

Matteo Gasperoni – Midfielder – Defensive midfielder. Appeared in 33 games with 30 starts with 3 goals and 2 assists over two seasons. A two-year starter. 2021 All-AAC First Team selection and All-Southeast Region Third Team.
2023 Outlook

Kyle Russell will enter his fourth season as the head coach at FIU with a roster of returning players teeming with talent, even with the departure of All American center forward Stephen Afrifa and veteran center backs David Garcia and Carlos Scheckermann. Russell went the transfer route to further strengthen the roster and help address the gaps by bringing on board several experienced players with the ability to make an immediate contribution.

FIU is coming off a successful 2022 season during which they won both the American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles and were awarded the number ten seed in the NCAA Tournament. The 2022 season whet the appetite for more for a Panther team that will enter the 2023 season with the momentum and confidence created by the success the program has had under Russell the past two seasons.

Forward Stephen Afrifa and the offensive firepower he provided may be gone but senior captain Bernardo Dos Santos Monteiro (6g, 3a) is not. Dos Santos Monteiro, a Second Team All-AAC selection, was a difference maker on the offensive side of the ball for the Panthers in the second half of the 2022 season. Fifth-year seniors Paulo Alves (2g, 4a) and Simon Afrifa (1g, 3a) and senior Fumiya Shiraishi (4g, 2a) are among other returning players who look to be in the mix up top.

The midfield should be a team strength with fifth-year senior and 2022 All-AAC First Team selection Yushi Nagao (3g, 6a), senior and two-year starter Matthias Lavenant, junior captain Julian Hodek (1g, 5a), 2022 All-AAC Rookie Team member sophomore Joao Domingues (2g, 2a) all slated to return. Senior Andrew Bennett (2g, 1a) and junior Julian Gastaldy (1g, 0a) are among other returning midfielders who will likely figure into the rotation. The addition of center midfielders Tim Schels who was a three-year starter at North Carolina and junior Diego Castillo who was a two-year starter at Utah Valley gives Russell a lot of lineup options.

FIU tightened up on the defensive side of the ball as the 2022 season progressed. However, they allowed a total of 31 goals including five games through mid October during which they allowed three or more goals. They lost four of those games and tied one. Continued improvement is needed from the get-go on the defensive side of the ball.

The departure of center backs David Garcia and Carlos Scheckermann means that the backline is among the areas that needs to be shored up. Junior captain Edgar Aguilar and fifth year senior Philip Hildebrandt (1g, 2a) who have been starters for two seasons are among returning backs who provide a nucleus upon with to reload. Transfer defenders Owen Travis from UAB, Kasper Skraep from Oregon State and Adrian Barosen from Missouri State who joined the program during the spring had the opportunity to participate in six contests. Defense was no doubt a key focus during the spring season.

Fifth-year senior Tyler Hogan who was the starter in goal during the 2021 season but missed all put one game of the 2022 season due to injury returns between the pipes after recovering from back surgery. The Panthers have also added experienced transfer netminders Beltran Fernandez Perez from D2 Davis and Elkins and graduate student Thomas Willis from Charlotte.

The potential to build on last season’s 14 win output exists. Now, the question is: How good can FIU be? The Panthers will enter the 2023 season with enough talent, returning and incoming, to feel very good about their chances of again winning the AAC championship and contending for standing on the national scene. However, repeating the success that FIU enjoyed in their first season as a member of the AAC and making a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament in 2023 will require improvement on both sides of the ball since they will again be tested by a very competitive slate of AAC and non-conference opponents. The biggest challenge facing the Panthers in 2023 may be their ability to merge the new additions in with returning players.

Owen Travis – Defender – Center back who transfers in from UAB where he was a three year starter. He appeared in 44 games over three season.

Kasper Skraep – Defender – A graduate student center back who transfers in from Oregon State where he played in eight games with three starts in 2021. Prior to that he was a two-year starter for Coastal Carolina.

Adrian Barosen – Defender – A left back who transfers in from Missouri State where he appeared in 46 games with 26 starts over three seasons scoring a total of three goals and contributing six assists.

Tim Schels – Midfielder – Center midfielder who is a senior transfer from North Carolina where he was a three year starter for the Tar Heels. He appeared in 58 games at UNC with 56 starts with three career goals and eight career assists.

Beltran Fernandez Perez – Goalkeeper – A transfer from Division II Davis and Elkins where he was the starting netminder.

Depoh Oria Maxime Gauthier – A freshman winger who played for Versailles in France.

Diego Castillo – Midfielder – A sophomore transfer from Utah Valley where he was the WAC Freshman of the Year in 2021 and a Second Team All-WAC selection in 2022. Played in 29 games with 27 starts over two seasons with a total of five goals and eight assists.

Thomas Willis – Goalkeeper – A graduate student transfer from Charlotte where he started in 13 games in 2022 with five shutouts.

Eduardo Mustre Torres – Forward – Cordoba, Mexico – Played for Mexican U20 National Team. Played for CF Pachuca.
Posted in 2023 Team Reviews

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