Men’s Soccer Staying Prepared for Potential Spring Season

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Fordham Men’s Soccer (above) is staying ready for its season, even if it doesn’t know when that will be. (Mackenzie Cranna/The Fordham Ram)

Andrew Posadas, Managing Editor

Leadership and culture. Those were the two areas of emphasis for head coach Carlo Acquista during a near six-month period in which Fordham Men’s Soccer was separated earlier this year due to the current coronavirus pandemic. When it was announced by the Atlantic 10 Conference in July that fall sports would ultimately be postponed, there was obvious reason for Acquista’s squad to feel wary about when they would  be playing again.

Acquista described that period of time as “detrimental” to his players and coaching staff considering they could not be together for off-season fitness, training and team-building activities. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, Acquista maintained optimism, saying,  “When the [fall] season was canceled, 100% we were all upset, but as a coaching staff, we said how do we turn this into a positive?”

For starters, the team and its coaching staff maintained constant communication during their time apart through Zoom meetings in which Acquista invited friends of his from the professional soccer world to speak with his players. Some notable names include Fiorentina President Rocco Commisso, Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese and former New York Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas, who worked alongside Acquista when he was a scout with the Red Bulls in 2018.

Looking at this Rams roster, the loss of core players like defender Joergen Oland and midfielder Bart Dziedzic due to graduation will not be easy to replace. However, Acquista believes this team has an abundance of talent mixed with great senior leadership, adding that three of those seniors were on the 2017 Rams squad that finished their season as NCAA Tournament Quarterfinalists.

One of those seniors is midfielder Andron Kagramanyan, who felt “heartbroken” after hearing the news that the fall season was canceled. The biggest adjustment for him in those earlier months was keeping his motivation high despite not hearing anything official about a potential season. Like his head coach, Kagramanyan is confident that these next few months will give them extended time to continue adapting to one another and improving collectively. Kagramanyan went on to say, “Coach Carlo continues to instill a high-intense, counter-attacking style of play so training and workouts have been intense and competitive since our return.”

 

Teammate and fellow senior Sameer Fathazada was also disheartened by the fall season’s cancelation, but like Kagramanyan, he likes the idea of a potential spring season. Fathazada also understands that there are more important things to worry about first when it comes to the coronavirus and playing under safe conditions. 

In talking about the transition back to practice, Fathazada said, “Carlo and the coaching staff have been preparing our training sessions really well. It’s a bit different because we have to socially distance in training, but just to be back on the field knocking the ball around feels amazing.” Whether they are able to get a spring season in or not, Fathazada’s main concern is ensuring he and the seniors set a standard to be focused in terms of working hard until their season begins.

The program has recently received permission to train that involves going through three phases, beginning with smaller training groups until they are allowed to have full, normal practices with the entire team. As for when their season may begin, Acquista has been given some indication of a potential spring season calendar from the A-10 that would begin in early February and run through mid-April. However, that is all predicated on implementing the proper safety protocols in preparation for completing an entire season, including conference tournaments and eventually the NCAA Tournament.

Either way, Acquista believes the expectation for an upcoming spring season is “nothing less than a championship,” whether it be a regular season A-10 title or winning the conference tournament championship. Former head coach Jim McElderry helped create a winning culture for this program, and Acquista plans on keeping that momentum going in the right direction as the team continues navigating through this pandemic while awaiting more official words on when their season will officially begin.