USD soccer: a haven for transfer students

Matthew Roberson | Sports Editor | @mroberson22

we dem boyz

Coming off the success of last year’s team, which won the West Coast Conference regular season title and had several players receive conference honors, the 2015 University of San Diego men’s soccer team is looking to create their own legacy.

While replacing 2014 WCC Player of the Year Connor Brandt and Defender of the Year Julian Ringhof is no easy task, the Toreros feel as though the squad has the capability to transfer the success of last year into this season.

The team features a staggering amount of upperclassmen as well as a large contingent of transfer students. Head coach Seamus McFadden’s roster includes nine players who previously played collegiate soccer elsewhere.

These players are already paying huge dividends in the early part of the schedule. Senior midfielder Darragh Vieyra and senior defender Jose Merlo both started their careers with other schools before arriving in San Diego.

Those two have started every game of the 2015 campaign at crucial positions on the field. Merlo spoke about the connection he has built with his teammates despite only being at USD for the last two seasons.

“Last year we had a couple transfers too, and coming into this season we have even more transfers,” Merlo said. “I think they play a key role. Somehow the players we get, we just connect with and that really helps our team chemistry, as shocking as that sounds.”

Leading scorer Keegan Smith is another member of the transfer group, starting his career with the Cal Poly Mustangs before becoming a key component in the Toreros’ offense. Smith, a redshirt senior forward who grew up in Temecula, offered his thoughts on why USD is such a popular transfer destination for NCAA soccer players.

“Guys that are unhappy at the places they’re at, they want to come in for their junior and senior year and have some success at the end of their college careers,” Smith said. “Seamus [McFadden] is good at finding those players who are hungry and want to get better.”

It appears that this collection of players as a whole will need to play better if they have any hopes of contending in the always competitive West Coast Conference.

After a scorching start to the season that saw the Toreros knock off the No. 16 Cal Golden Bears, and the UC Riverside Highlanders by identical 3-0 scores, the team has gone 0-2-2 in the four games since.

The winless stretch began in Albuquerque, New Mexico where the Toreros battled the New Mexico Lobos to a 2-2 tie. Two days later they suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of the Denver Pioneers.

Hoping to move past the struggles on the road, the boys flew back to San Diego for two weekend home games. The first was a heated matchup against the No. 13 UC Irvine Anteaters.

In a game played on Friday, Sept. 11 in front of a sizeable audience, the two teams combined for 12 cards and 11 shots on goal. After two overtime periods the game ended in a 1-1 draw, leaving the Toreros with a feeling of missed opportunity after wasting several chances in the game’s final minutes.

On Sunday, Sept. 13 the Toreros welcomed their first and only opponent from the Midwest. The team was the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Cougars, the defending Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Champions.

That tournament triumph gave the Cougars a berth in last year’s NCAA Tournament where they escaped the first round before losing to Cal in the second.

Knowing they were facing off against an accomplished team, the Toreros tried to jump out to an early lead but ultimately failed. The Cougars left Torero Stadium with a 2-0 victory, dealing USD their first home loss in almost a full calendar year. Smith was brutally honest with his team’s performance in a post-game interview.

“Our shape was off all weekend,” Smith said. “We put ourselves in a hole by going down by two goals in the first half. Guys weren’t committed to working hard from the first whistle, myself included. I think overall we just need to commit right from the get go.”

Coach McFadden’s lads have a few more non-conference games to find their form before the rigors of the WCC season begin. Their next game is on Friday, Sept. 19 in Orange County against the Cal State Fullerton Titans. It will be a rematch of last year’s opening game of the NCAA Tournament, which the Toreros won in thrilling fashion.

On Sept. 27 the team will be in Santa Barbara for a tussle with the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. It will be the final non-conference game of the season, and they will be back home on Oct. 10 to open WCC play against the Loyola Marymount Lions.