2005 Virginia Men's Soccer Preview With UVa Head Coach George Gelnovatch
Aug. 4, 2005
Virginia is coming off the heels of another successful season in the storied history of the UVa men’s soccer program. Last year (2004), the Cavaliers won their 14th ACC Championship after claiming the ACC Tournament title for the second consecutive season. Virginia also advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 24th consecutive year – highlighted by an appearance in the NCAA Quarterfinals – while turning in a record of 18-5-1 overall, 4-3-0 in the ACC. UVa ended the 2004 season just one win shy from making its ninth trip to the College Cup.
While Virginia’s lofty achievements last season are certainly benchmark type accomplishments for any soccer program, the Cavaliers know there’s still some unfinished business ahead of them as they look to lead UVa to its sixth NCAA Championship in school history. Virginia head men’s soccer coach George Gelnovatch (143-50-15 overall, 33-16-6 in the ACC) has directed the Cavaliers to the ACC title game in eight of his nine seasons as UVa’s head coach. Gelnovatch’s teams have won three ACC Championships (1997, 2003 and 2004) and the Cavaliers have made an NCAA Tournament appearance in each of his nine years as head coach. In 1997, Gelnovatch led Virginia to the NCAA Championship game where UVa made a National Runner-up finish.
In 2005, Gelnovatch will look to not only continue the type of success he and his teams have enjoyed over the last decade, but take it another step further in hopes of reeling in Virginia’s sixth NCAA title. With a solid core of returning starters along with another stellar recruiting class ready to take the field, that sixth NCAA title is certainly in UVa’s sights this season.
Returning starter Adam Cristman (9 goals, 3 assists, 21 points in 2004), fresh of a productive 2004 campaign that saw him land a spot on the 2004 ACC All-Tournament Team, headlines Virginia’s starting forward candidates. Cristman was UVa’s leading goal scorer last season and the Cavaliers’ second leading scorer in points and registered two game-winning goals. After scoring 17 goals in hiss first two years at Virginia, he will look to increase his production in his third year of action.
“We certainly hope Cristman can score a lot of goals again this year and we are looking for him to be one of our leaders this season,” said Gelnovatch. “He’s pretty versatile and can play as either a center-forward or a right-wing for us. We’d hopefully like to see him score 10-plus goals this year.”
Cristman will be joined by returning forwards Ian Holder (4 goals, 4 assists, 12 points), Matt Ayotte (2 goals, 4 points), David Rosenbaum (1 goal, 2 assists, 4 points) and Drew Harrison up front. Holder and Harrison each have two years of experience under their belts and have developed into effective forward options. Holder was slated to see some time as a defender in 2004 but will move back to his more naturally suited position as a forward in 2005, while Harrison will look to capitalize on his strong offseason training in hopes of landing more playing time this year.
“Holder could very well be one of our starting center-forward this season,” said Gelnovatch. “He played as an attacking right-wing player a little bit last season and the year before that he played more as a left-wing. I think his strengths are more centered around being a center-forward and he’s had a lot of success at that position in the spring and summer. We’re looking for him to hopefully score around 10 goals this year.”
“Harrison had a great spring for us as a left-wing,” said Gelnovatch. “He’s had a tough time breaking into the lineup the last two seasons and nothing is set in stone yet. But he’s working hard and right now, I would project him as a starter on the left side as a winger. Harrison’s strong, fast, left footed and hopefully this will be a breakout season for him.”
Second-years Ayotte and Rosenbaum each have a year of experience in the books and will look to expand their roles this season as well. Both players had somewhat limited roles last year, but when called upon, they both turned in some very impressive performances.
“Ayotte is strictly a center-forward who proved to be very valuable for us in the ACC Tournament,” said Gelnovatch. “He missed most of the spring and summer with injuries, but we expect him back at full strength and ready to go in the preseason. He has shown us some real promise. Ayotte is a big target and is very good with his back to the goal, but he can also run well and is a good finisher.”
“Rosenbaum was a key reserve for us down the stretch last season,” said Gelnovatch. “He can play as either a center-forward or as a right-wing and he did a little of both last season. Towards the end of the year, he turned out to be a real handful for our opponents as a center-forward in the last 20-25 minutes of a game because of his athleticism, strength and pace. We’ll look for him to increase his role in the lineup this season.”
Highly touted first-year forward Nino DiMaggio will look to break into the starting line up and headlines a class of newcomers that also features forwards James Taranto and Yannick Reyering. Together, this newcomer trio will fight for a starting position and instantly adds quality depth to the front line.
“DiMaggio is from Bergen Catholic High School – the same high school that produced Alecko Eskandarian (recent M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Award Winner and the number one overall draft pick in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft),” said Gelnovatch. “DiMaggio is more of a center-forward type player with a great work ethic and displays plenty of athleticism. We see a lot of promise in him and we’ll see what the preseason and regular season hold for him as the season wears on.”
“Taranto can play as either a center-forward or as a wing,” said Gelnovatch. “He was at our summer camp this year and I have high hopes for him. There’s a learning curve ahead of him, but he’s got a lot of good qualities and he’s a proven goal scorer.”
“We hope to have Reyering in the lineup this fall,” said Gelnovatch. “He’s a big, athletic target at 6′-5″ which we hope to use as a center-forward. He’s good in the air and he’s also good with his back to the goal. One of the things he does really well is he scores goals and he can shoot with both feet. Reyering has a powerful shot with both his right and left foot.”
The midfielder position may be the deepest area for talent on the Virginia squad this season. UVa returns several key components and a wealth of talented and experienced players at the position. The Cavaliers have stockpiled some of the nation’s top talent of midfielders over the last couple recruiting hauls and will look to unleash a plentiful variety of options in the midfield in 2005.
Much of UVa’s ball control and offensive charge is generated through its attacking midfield, and that will certainly be the case again this season. UVa features several midfielders that can direct the tempo of a game, as well as push forward on an attack with the effectiveness you would normally find from the forward position.
Returning starters Jeremy Barlow (7 goals, 1 assist, 15 points), Nico Colaluca (2 goals, 3 assists, 7 points) and Will Hall (2 goals, 5 assists, 9 points) highlight UVa’s midfield core in 2005. Barlow and Colaluca exploded onto the national scene as first-year phenoms last season and should be even better with a year of experience under their belts. The duo each landed a spot on the 2004 ACC All-Freshman Team. Colaluca gathered 2004 Freshman All-American honors by Soccer America and a place on the 2004 All-ACC Second Team, while Barlow ran away with 2004 ACC Tournament MVP honors after scoring the game-winning goal in the ACC Championship match. Hall, a veteran All-ACC candidate himself, also brings his steady play back into the midfield mix.
“Barlow has played a lot of left-wing for us, but right now, our plan is to play him more as an attacking central-midfielder,” said Gelnovatch. “He did that for us for in most of the spring and did very well with it. Not only did Barlow probably have the biggest impact out of all of our first-years last season, he was also probably the biggest surprise on the team as well. We knew he was a very good player, but I thought it might take him a little more time to develop and have the kind of impact he had for us last season. We’re expecting some very good things out of him again this season. We’ll need him to be one of those guys that really makes us go.”
“Colaluca will be an attacking central-midfielder too and we could very well see Barlow and Colaluca playing right next to each other,” said Gelnovatch. “Colaluca has a lot of great qualities. He’s fast, skillful and strong. Colaluca’s incredibly gifted with the ball the way he can get out of trouble, move in and out of tight spaces and taking on people. We’d like to see him score more goals for us this season, maybe seven or eight goals, and we’ll look for him to generate a lot of our attack.”
“Hall had a very solid spring and has played the traditional role of a defensive, holding type of a midfielder,” said Gelnovatch. “We’ve asked him to take on more of a leadership role with the team and he’s done a great job with that so far. Hall is going to be competing with some guys for the defensive, holding-midfielder spot and we’ve got some great depth at that position. But he will certainly be in the mix for a starting role.”
Joe Vide (1 goal, 2 points) leads a cast of other returners in the midfield mix that also includes Matt Poole, Dane Murphy and Sean Hinkle (1 goal, 2 points). Vide was a part-time starter last season and appears primed to launch into a more prominent playing role in 2005.
“Vide is more of a defensive-midfielder and needs to play a key role for us this year,” said Gelnovatch. “He had an excellent spring, and in fact, he may have been our MVP. Vide also had a good summer of training and now he’s got to demonstrate he can maintain this level of play in the fall. He had a good offseason two years ago and his fall was solid, but it was not the way we knew he was capable of playing. I believe this is going to be the season for him. I think this year will be his most consistent season and I hope that happens because when he is dominant, it makes the team that much better.”
Poole, Murphy and Hinkle look to become a more integral part of the Cavaliers’ midfield this season. Though Poole didn’t see any action last season, he’s turned in a strong offseason while Murphy and Hinkle look to continue in their steady development.
“Poole red-shirted last year, but this spring he was one of the guys that made the biggest jump from the fall to the spring in terms of where he stands with the team,” said Gelnovatch. “He may not be a starter, but he’s going to help us in some way. Poole’s demonstrated to us he can play at a number of different positions – as a center-back, central-midfielder or as an outside-back. He’s really going to help us this fall somehow, somewhere.”
“Murphy didn’t see a lot of time last fall, but he’s improved and has developed a lot from last year. Last season he found himself competing for a position where we had a lot of other players and depth at the time,” said Gelnovatch. “Murphy had a very good start to his spring and has had an excellent summer. He’s a guy who will be competing for a starting position, but he could also help us in other ways and should see a lot more playing time this year.”
“Hinkle is another holding-midfielder type of a player,” said Gelnovatch. “He was in and out of our lineup a good bit last year. He’s able to hold the ball, he’s got good feet and is a great thinker. Hinkle has taken on some more leadership roles as a third-year player and has battled through some injuries. He played some center-back in the spring and did a pretty good job there and can also can play as a right-back. Hinkle is going to help us one way or another, as either a starter or top reserve, and he’ll be able to help us out in a couple different positions.”
Newcomer Milovan Milosevic will also look to make an impact in the lineup and will likely find his place in the rotation as either a midfielder or as a defender.
“Milosevic has been here this summer and I am confident of the skills he brings to the table,” said Gelnovatch. “He’s a very technical player, he’s got very good feet and has played a lot of soccer after growing up in a very soccer-oriented culture. Milosevic is a little bit of an X-factor for us. He’s played for the Serbian National Team and has also played in a very reputable club system. He’s certainly a guy we expect to see on the field helping us out. Milosevic is another guy who can play in a couple different positions for us. He can play in the central-midfield, wide-midfield or even as a center-back. We just need to figure out where he is best suited for us.”
For the past three seasons, Virginia featured a wall of defenders that knew each another like the back of their own hands. The Cavaliers’ quartet of Matt Oliver, Hunter Freeman, John Hartman and Jeff Tuman were the heart and soul of the UVa defense and formed one of the top defensive units in the country. With Freeman’s selection in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft and the graduation of Oliver, Hartman and Tuman last year, there will be a completely new look in Virginia’s backfield in 2005.
Despite a lack of overall playing experience, this year’s class of defenders won’t fall short on talent as a deep group of young and hungry players will look to solidify a spot in the starting lineup.
UVa can dig deep into its pockets to find plenty of candidates for the starting defender roles. Returners Chris Tierney (3 goals, 3 assists, 9 points), Zola Short, Matt Williams and Gifford Okatah-Boi all have the ability and versatility to man the spots. However, don’t count out a few entirely new faces to fill the starting roles either, as more than one newcomer could secure a starting spot as a defender.
“Tierney was a top reserve for us last year and was another really nice surprise,” said Gelnovatch. “He was probably second to only Barlow in terms of guys who exceeded our expectations in their first year here. Tierney spent the spring playing as a left-back and did well. There was a little bit of a learning curve there and he is also making a position change, but in the end, we’re pretty confident he will be our starting left-back.”
“Short is in position to be our starting right-back,” said Gelnovatch. “Short is one of the most athletic guys on the team and is also probably the fastest player on the squad. There are still some areas of the game he needs to develop and improve, but right now he’s got the inside track to the position.”
Though heading into the preseason they might not have the inside track on a starting position, Williams and Okatah-Boi won’t let that stop them from making a dent in the lineup once the regular season begins.
“Williams didn’t play a lot last year but is a candidate at right-back,” said Gelnovatch. “He had a solid spring and turned in a very good summer. Williams is certainly a guy who will be battling for the starting position.”
“Okatah-Boi started a game last season and is back for his senior season,” said Gelnovatch. “His role overall probably isn’t going to change a lot, but I feel comfortable saying you are going to see more of him on the field this season. He’s more experiences and has gotten himself in better shape. Okatah-Boi is a skillful player with a great left foot.”
Gelnovatch rejoiced last fall about the signings of two highly-touted defender recruits – Robert Rogers and Bakary Soumare – and why not? The duo simply forms a combination of two of the top recruits in the country, and both players are likely to step right in and nailing down a starting spot in the backfield right off the bat.
“Rogers would have been one of only two high school players that would have made the U-20 National Team as a high school player in the Youth World Cup in June, but he missed the final cut for the team because of an injury,” said Gelnovatch. “He’s unbelievably athletic and fast, he’s got good feet and he’s an organizer. Rogers is a starting candidate for a center-back position. I feel he’s beyond his years in terms of developing the qualities that usually take a player a year or two to get under their belt. Rogers has a leadership quality about him that is going to make him outstanding right from the start.”
“Soumare is the other center-back candidate for a starting spot,” said Gelnovatch. “Like Rogers, he’s also very gifted. Soumare is a tall, athletic player who is great in the air. He also has very good feet and plays with a very good pace. Soumare’s going to win a lot of balls in the air for us. We haven’t had a duo like these two at the same position here at Virginia in quite awhile and I am excited to see them play together. Rogers and Soumare are also two of the fastest players on our team. They give us an outstanding dimension of athleticism and speed as center-backs.”
Rogers and Soumare will be joined by San Jose State transfer Lee Sandwina and fellow newcomer Brandon Lawrence as other potential defender candidates.
“Sandwina is a left-sided player with some college experience and will be competing for the left-back position,” said Gelnovatch. “He was injured in the spring so we didn’t get to see much of him in the offseason, but we’re anxious to see what he is capable of doing for us when healthy.”
“Lawrence is another tall, strong, athletic kid who was also at our camp this summer,” said Gelnovatch. “I was really impressed with him and he showed some real promise in the camp – he’s more skillful than I expected him to be. It’s still too early to know exactly how he is going to help us, but he is going to be a good player in this program.”
Over the years, Virginia has featured some of the top goalkeepers in college soccer. For the last two seasons, UVa’s Ryan Burke (64 saves, 0.99 GAA, .727 saves percentage, 6 shutouts in 2004) has quietly developed into one of the nation’s top keepers himself. Burke has a knack for playing his best soccer in UVa’s biggest games, which was evident in past contests such as his ACC Tournament MVP performance in 2003 where he battled through two penalty kick shootouts – including one in the ACC Championship match. In 2004, he came up huge in another major match when he made several game-deciding stops after another penalty kick shootout – this time in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Burke, who was named a 2003 Freshman All-American by Soccer America and College Soccer News, played every minute for the Cavaliers in goal last season while logging nearly 2,200 minutes of action. His presence between the pipes in 2005 will be a key component in rebuilding Virginia’s defense this season.
“Burke is our number one goalkeeper,” said Gelnovatch. “He’s battling a little bit of an injury right now, but by the preseason, he should be 100 percent and ready to go. Burke had a very solid spring and has proven himself to be our starting goalkeeper for the past two seasons.”
While Burke is expected to be the starter again in 2005, Virginia has great depth at the position with the addition of highly-touted recruit Michael Giallombardo and newcomer Joseph Colaluca (brother of UVa midfielder Nico Colaluca), along with veteran Kyle Rudzinski returning to the fold.
“Giallombardo is one of the top goalkeeping prospects in the country coming out of high school,” said Gelnovatch. “With Burke and Giallombardo, we have two outstanding goalkeepers. Giallombardo is going to be competing with Burke for the starting position. It’s going to be a battle for him and it might not lead to a starting position for him right from the start. But what it will do is create a healthy competition between the two keepers.”
“J. Colaluca will go through the whole first-year learning curve,” said Gelnovatch. “He was at our summer camp and is a very athletic player with great reactions. He certainly has some potential and it will be interesting to see how it will all play out for him.”
“Rudzinski did not play last season but saw limited action in the offseason and did well,” said Gelnovatch. “He’s a very hard worker and a great guy to have in the program. He’ll be a guy that tries to work himself into possibly the second goalkeeper position.”