McFadden caps career
Longtime men’s soccer coach aims for more success in final year on the sidelines
Noah Hilton | Sports Editor | The USD Vista
When Seamus McFadden first began working as the head coach of the University of San Diego men’s soccer team in 1979, those close to the program would’ve been hard-pressed to envision the successes that have come since. Those early years served as soccer’s origin story on campus — necessitated by the basketball team’s rise to the Division I level and devoid of opportunities for scholarships or, for that matter, victories.
Fast-forward to 2017, and much has changed. Since McFadden first started work as a Torero, the program has claimed nine West Coast Conference titles, 14 trips to the NCAA tournament, and appearances in both the Elite Eight (in 2012) and the national championship game (in 1992). The Toreros have knocked off four No. 1 teams and been home to eight All-Americans and 21 conference players of the year.
One thing remains constant, however — Seamus McFadden can be seen on the sidelines, still the only head coach in program history as he finishes out his 39th and final year at the team’s helm.
The statistic is an ode to longevity that is difficult to comprehend, even for the native Irishman who is its subject.
“Putting 39 years in at one school, that’s pretty amazing,” McFadden said. “I’m not sure that’s a record that is going to be passed anytime in the near future.”
The 2017 season has served as a continuation of the Toreros’ success under McFadden. Currently riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, the team is tied for first in the WCC entering this week, and their RPI ranks 24th in the country.
McFadden attributes that recent success to the defensive prowess of this year’s team and the way that skillset combines with players’ ability to score goals when called upon.
“I think the difference is that we’re not giving up goals, you know?” McFadden said. “Our goalkeeping’s been really good, and defensively we’ve been very good and very hard to break down. That, and then we’re scoring timely goals, which is important.”
One of those timely goals came two weekends ago off the foot of sophomore forward Miguel Berry.
With the team knotted at a goal apiece in overtime with Gonzaga, Berry found the back of the net to claim the Toreros’ seventh win of the season in thrilling fashion.
Berry said the goal came in part from the team’s ability to carry out McFadden’s focus on the pitch every week.
“It had been a long weekend, and we knew we needed a win,” Berry said. “Once we got the equalizer, we knew that the winner was coming. We had some chances in overtime, and one fell to me. I knew it was important for Seamus’ last season, because you’ve got to take things one game at a time, and I was able to slot it home.”
Besides bringing the fans in attendance to their feet and landing Berry WCC Player of the Week honors, the goal also served as a powerful precursor to the week ahead.
Last Saturday, the program hosted a reception to honor McFadden’s career at Alcalá Park, with hundreds of friends and alumni in attendance.
The festivities continued into Sunday, when the Toreros played host to Pac-12 power UCLA.
Behind goals from Aaron Frey, Djordje Babic, and Freddy Polzer, and in front of a packed house of 2,539 fans, the Toreros downed the Bruins 3-1 while paying tribute to McFadden’s successes during ceremonies both before the game and at halftime.
A foil to the frenzied atmosphere of the evening, McFadden appeared bashful and uncomfortable under the shine of the spotlight.
His comments afterward indicated as much, as the 65-year old struggled to rein in the enthusiasm of local supporters.
“I’m just a coach,” McFadden said. “I’ve tried to be a good role model and mold kids by giving them an opportunity. That’s how I’ve lived my life.”
Others such as Miguel Berry, however, were less restrained in their praise of the longtime Torero.
“He’s a really good-hearted guy,” Berry said. “He’s one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met, a really good guy. It’s been an honor to play for him, and he’s done an excellent job for 39 years with the program.”
Brian Quinn, McFadden’s longtime assistant and the man who will be tasked with replacing McFadden next year, shared similar sentiments about his colleague and friend.
“We’re close friends, and Seamus is leaving some pretty big shoes to fill,” Quinn said. “I always look forward to being around him, and I’ve picked up a lot, a lot of soccer experience from him. I am looking forward to the future, but right now I’m really focused on finishing this year on a big high for Seamus.”
Those two objectives — winning a conference title and allowing McFadden to ride into the sunset in style — appear all the more intertwined of late as the team eyes a playoff spot, and that duality is something McFadden doesn’t hesitate to embrace.
“I’d love to make it an even 10 in terms of WCC titles, because that would mean we’ve taken a third of the conference championships that have been on the table, which is pretty good,” McFadden said. “I’m trying to take it in stride though, because it happens so quickly. Soon, it’s going to be poof, and it’s over.”
That emphasis on winning is something McFadden said has been a driving force in him being willing to step down at the end of the season.
“I think the biggest, overwhelming thing for me is that I don’t want to be burdened by the wins and the losses anymore,” McFadden said. “I want to be a part of the program, but I don’t want to obsess, because I’m pretty focused in on what I’m doing. Coaching is difficult at the best of times, and I want to be able to take the results in stride a little bit more.”
McFadden’s retirement won’t mean the end of his run as a Torero, however. The head coach plans to stay on with the program for three more years, working in the background and helping where he can.
“I’ll be the lowly assistant,” McFadden said. “It’ll be Brian [Quinn], and then I’ll be there as a recruiting guy, maybe doing some administrative stuff as well, wherever they need me to fill in. I have no qualms about Brian, he’s been here 10 years and he’s an excellent coach. It’s just that I’m stepping aside for him to be the guy.”
Before his head coaching career can officially come to a close, however, McFadden has at least four more games at the helm of the Toreros.
After Sunday’s showing, the team appears primed for a playoff push and a chance to make McFadden’s 39th year as head coach one of the most memorable yet.