As a new season gets underway for the Clemson men’s soccer team, the Tigers made their first home appearance of the season Saturday night, defeating Presbyterian College, 3-0, in an exhibition match at Historic Riggs Field in Clemson.
After a disappointing season last year for the Tigers (7-9-1), head coach Mike Noonan is still bolstering a rather young roster. Regardless, he has some high hopes for his young Clemson team and it all starts with leadership.
“The three captains for the team this year are Tanner (Dieterich), Malik (Mbaye) and Nolan (Lennon),” Noonan said. “They’re unbelievable leaders, all three of them. Nolan didn’t get the opportunity to play today but Tanner ran well, and Malik did a really good job of stepping in and playing well tonight but it’s not just them. There’s Cale Thorne who has stepped up and the upperclassmen in general are just doing a really good job with a very young team.”
With a young team, pace can tend to be a major plus for younger guys up front. With junior Robbie Robinson and junior Kimarni Smith leading a very fast team in the attacking third, the team has more than just speed heading into this season.
“I think we’ll be able to do both, play a pace game but also possess the ball as well,” said the Tigers’ head coach. “We’ve been balancing ourselves by being able to attack in a number of different ways so that will be a big part of what we try to do this season as we develop. We’ve come a long way in five days between the performance down in Coastal (Carolina) with the positive results we had, but this performance was twice as good.”
As Noonan has high aspirations for this team, the new talent coming in is always intriguing when it comes to the start of each season. Being a top program historically in Division I soccer, Clemson has continued a strong tradition of good recruiting. As Noonan and his staff excel at recruiting, they are typically able to get the guys they target.
“I don’t think any of the new guys surprised us this preseason because we recruited them,” Noonan said jokingly. “I do think that the poise that Phil Mayaka shows and Alvaro Gomez, who is a (true) sophomore is impressive.
“Isaiah Reid got the start at left back tonight and that allows us to move Charlie (Asensio) up a little bit. He’s gonna be a very good player for us, but there’s still a lot of guys that we didn’t get to see tonight that are really good soccer players.”
Heading into this season Noonan believes this Clemson team does have an X-Factor who can make or break this season for the Tigers. His X-Factor earns the title by being the lone player on his side of the field playing his position, the keeper.
“The X-Factor position is always going to be the goalkeeper,” he said. “We have to get good play out of our goalkeeper whoever it is, Daniel (Kuzemka) or George (Marks) or Nolan (Lennon) but that’s the real X-Factor of the game.”
Noonan knows the potential of his team and believes this young group can transcend past last year’s disappointing results. When asked the difference between this team and last year’s team, he confidently replied, “focus and concentration.”
The Clemson Men’s soccer team will open the 2019 regular season on Friday when it faces rival South Carolina at Historic Riggs Field in Clemson.
We are pleased to announce a new partnership with Fanatics. This is great news for Tiger fans as they have the officially licensed Clemson gear.
The Clemson Insider will get a portion of all sales so get ready for another championship season by ordering your Clemson gear today and help support TCI.