The University of Akron men’s soccer team is experiencing its own British invasion.
Freshmen Louis Cross, Sam Gainford and Ismail Seremba speak English with an accent different to most students walking around the UA campus. Zips first-year coach Jared Embick thinks they bring additional confidence to his team from England.
“They have been in good clubs and top academies in Europe, so they come with different level of belief,” Embick said. “That belief can spread to the rest of the guys. When they get on the field, they are not going to be in awe of who they are playing and how many fans are in the stands. It is just all business for them. They will just come out and perform. They will help the other guys and settle them down.”
The three players come to the United States with impressive soccer resumes.
Cross, a defender, is from Lancashire and played in the Blackpool FC Academy.
Gainford and Seremba are primed to make an impact at forward for the Zips. Gainford comes to Akron from Whitehaven with experience in the Liverpool Academy. Seremba hails from London and competed in the Chelsea Academy.
Embick is intrigued by the Englishmen and also excited about several other newcomers.
“Sam Gainford from Liverpool, I think he is going to have a good opportunity,” Embick said. “Adam Najem of the New York Red Bulls [Academy], he has won two national championships with his club team, back-to-back. He brings a lot of that belief and most importantly he brings a lot of talent as well.
“Those two guys and you have a lot of other guys; Clint Caso, a transfer [from New Hampshire], Louis Cross and Ismail Seremba, those are guys that will have some time. I am as excited about the guys we have coming back that were behind the guys who are in MLS; guys like Saad [Abdul-Salaam], Zac [Portillos], Matt [Foldesy]. A lot of those guys that people maybe have forgotten about because they were here and were behind really good players. They might forget that they have been in our system and could have a breakout year as well. I also have to mention Victor Souto [from Sport Club Corinthians Paulista in Sao Paolo, Brazil]. He was here in the spring, so I forget that he is a newcomer. He will have a big influence for us.”
UA is ranked No. 8 in the NSCAA preseason poll. Senior midfielder Aodhan Quinn, senior midfielder-forward Reinaldo Brenes and junior defender Bryan Gallego are tri-captains and returning starters from last season.
“We have a lot of returnees and we are looking sharp,” Gallego said.
Seniors Eric Stevenson and Robbie Derschang are also starters back from last season’s team, and are expected to battle for possession and create offense.
“I feel the team came in pretty fit so we can focus on the soccer part, which is really important,” said Brenes, a native of San Jose, Costa Rica.
UA also welcomed freshman Keisuke Ohata, a midfielder-forward, who is from Chiba Prefecture, Japan.
The Zips’ roster of 27 players features three area high school graduates. Freshman forward Riley Grant and redshirt freshman defender Brad Ruhaak are Copley graduates, and freshman midfielder-defender Robby Dambrot is a graduate of St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Embick said the Zips will likely go with a 4-3-3 lineup that former coach Caleb Porter used, but also possibly will utilize a 4-4-2 lineup.
“Whatever we do it is going to be to control the game and to dominate the game,” Embick said. “Any formation change would be with that in mind, that we could dominate and score more goals. That is how we are thinking when we approach the game.”
Porter operated with the “dominant soccer” mindset and in seven seasons at UA won a national title in 2010, finished as national runner-up finish in 2009 and made six overall appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. 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.