Jared Embick opened his first training camp as the coach of the University of Akron men’s soccer program Wednesday, and other than him tooting the whistle, not much is different.
He was a longtime assistant under Caleb Porter, who left to lead the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer, and with Porter’s success, Embick is not inclined to change the Zips’ plan.
“There is a little difference in personality, but Jared has been here the whole time I have been here,” UA senior midfielder Aodhan Quinn said after practice at Schrank Field. “He is really smart and we always listen to him, so there is not too big of a change at all.”
Porter’s success in seven seasons at UA is unmatched, and features a national title in 2010, a national runner-up finish in 2009 and six overall appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
“It is nice to get out and get everything started,” Embick said. “We are just laying the foundation for how we want to play and what we want to do. The first day, everyone is a little anxious, too much running and a little too hectic. The play isn’t necessarily the quality [we want], but as coaches we are just trying to start to put some pieces together, look at some things, drop some ideas of what we are going to do and build it from there. Each day will get better and better as they relax.”
Embick’s confidence to lead exudes as he talks to his players. He is comfortable in his new role after being Porter’s top assistant and recruiting coordinator.
“This is stuff you like doing, so when are you doing that you don’t really realize anything new,” Embick said. “Now, it is your time to put your little tweaks in there and your philosophies. Fortunately for me, with Caleb I had a great mentor so I don’t have to change much. I can follow the blueprint, add and build too it. That is the plan and what we are going to do.”
UA returns five starters from last season — Quinn, senior midfielder-forward Reinaldo Brenes, senior midfielder Eric Stevenson, senior midfielder-defender Robbie Derschang and junior defender Bryan Gallego — and is ranked No. 8 in the NSCAA preseason poll.
Quinn, Brenes and Gallego are tri-captains.
“The guys are coming together and we have a good bond already because we have been here for a week,” Quinn said. “I am excited for this season.”
Senior Zac Portillos, junior Saad Abdul-Salaam and sophomores Andrew Souders, Phil Fives and Matt Foldesy also logged minutes for the Zips last season.
“This year, we have a lot of key seniors,” Embick said. “I know people think we lost a lot, but we could have four or five seniors in the starting lineup. We have a lot of good depth. The team as a whole from top to bottom is at a pretty good level, so I think you are going to see us be able to make a couple of different lineups and go with a couple of different options that can help us maybe adjust in games to win them.”
Brenes is the team’s leading returning goal scorer with 11 last season.
Redshirt freshman Fernando Pina is in competition to be the starting goalkeeper along with sophomore Jake Fenlason and freshmen Jonny DeMoya and Alex Shedloski.
Osas Malkin and Brad Ruhaak are redshirt freshmen hoping to make an impression as a midfielder and defender, respectively.
The Zips other newcomers are: forwards Sam Gainford, Ismail Seremba and Riley Grant; midfielders Clint Caso, Adam Najem, Victor Souto, Tyler Sanda, Robby Dambrot and Keisuke Ohata; and defenders Louis Cross and Brett Gravatt.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.