2014 Rider University Men's Soccer Outlook
With the return of 20 letterwinners, including all but two starters, from the team that won the most games in 13 years, the 2014 Rider University men’s soccer team is looking to improve on its 2013 record and qualify for the six-team Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship tournament.
“That’s our goal,” said head coach Charlie Inverso, now in his fourth year at Rider. “We’d like to beat last year’s record and get into the playoffs. Those are our goals for the season and I think we can accomplish both of them. With just four seniors we are still relatively young.”
The squad returns a First Team All-MAAC selection, a Second Team All-MAAC pick and a pair of MAAC All-Rookie team members from the team that was 8-9-1 overall, including six wins at home.
A Preseason All-MAAC selection this year, Flath was a First Team All-MAAC pick last year as well as the MAAC Rookie of the Year. Flath ranked second in the MAAC in assists and third in points and led Rider in goals.
Halliday ranked fourth in the MAAC in game-winning goals last year to earn Second Team All-MAAC honors.
Holmes started 17 games last year as a freshman and was third on the team in goals and points.
Other key returnees include senior captain Ryan Walsh, sophomore midfielder Adrien Huss, junior forward Justin Veltri, senior forward Jude Bischoff and sophomore back Rob Nardiello. Walsh and Nardiello each started every game last season, while Huss missed almost half of the season with an injury after earning MAAC Rookie of the Week honors the first week of his collegiate career.
Quilter started the first three games of last season before an injury sidelined him for all but one more game. In his absence, Pastuna won six games, three by shutout and made 65 saves. “The starting job is wide open,” Inverso said. “We feel real good about both of them. Quilter and Pastuna work really hard and bring it every day. Dave might have a slight advantage because of all of the playing time he had last year.”
Baird was the Scarlet Knight back-up when Rutgers went to the Sweet 16 (2012) and was a medical red-shirt last year. “We recruited him out of high school,” Inverso said of Baird. “He is also very good if he’s healthy.”
At the other end of the field Rider returns all of its goal scorers from last year and has added Florian Valot of France, Jose Morinigo of Spain and Adil Iich of Sweden. “The addition of these players gives us the flexibility to use different guys in different roles on the field,” Inverso said. “Florian can play any one of the attacking positions. Walsh, Veltri and Bischoff also return up front in the center. One of the problems we had last year was scoring from the run of play. We’ve been working on that area and we feel better about that.”
The defense lost Academic All-American Eric Elgin to graduation. “The loss of Elgin is a big one,” Inverso said. “Not just his play on the field but his presence. But there are other guys who have learned the leadership roles.”
“We are physically stronger this year,” Inverso said. “Everybody came in in good shape. We have more depth this year. We have a great nucleus of guys who get along. It is a great environment. We’re optimistic. The culture on the team is very positive. We have a good group of guys. The chemistry on this team is great and I think it will help us wins some games. Everybody is buying into what we are trying to do.”
Rider won six home games last year, but this year the first three contests are on the road. “The positive is that there is something special about winning a game on the road,” Inverso said. “It tells a lot about your character, your mettle. When you go on the road and come home with a win, that is how team bonding is formed.”
In their first year in the MAAC Monmouth and Quinnipiac tied for first place in the final standings. “Monmouth and Quinnipiac should again be two of the top teams in the MAAC,” Inverso said. “Iona and Fairfield should be in the mix as well. And you have to respect what Manhattan and Siena have done, as far as improving. But there is parity in the MAAC. I think anybody can beat anybody on any given day.”