Aug 28, 2013
Head coach Chaka Daley spoke to MGoBlue.com early this week about the upcoming season, which begins this Friday (Aug. 30) at home against Loyola-Chicago.
On the season expectations ... "I think just in general for Michigan soccer our expectations are to be top three in the conference, to do that you have to be above .500 for sure in-conference and our expectations out of conference is to be above .500 as well. With the quality of schedule we have, we think that gives us an opportunity-based on RPI and the challenging schedule we have to earn a second season."
On the biggest challenge heading into the new season ... "We have a lot of new faces. Obviously we have 10 freshmen and one transfer; we're trying to compliment that group with the returning group of players, some of those players who are now getting their opportunity to play and some of those players will now be in leadership roles. How quickly they adapt and become better leaders throughout the course of the season, how quickly the young guys contribute, is going to be the biggest challenge."
On the players fans should watch ... "There are three or four guys on our team that I think are- maybe four or five guys- that I think are a little bit special and could lead the way. Fabio Pereira has come back extremely fit, hungry, knowing that this is his last semester, it his last shot at it and he's very prepared for that opportunity. Obviously Adam Grinwis is growing into his own as a young guy. He's gotten better and better every year, he's a returning starter in goal who we have big expectations for and he has big expectations for himself. He is redshirt junior, so he's had an opportunity now to lead, so balancing leading on and off the field will be an opportunity he's going to flourish in. We expect big things for him in the back line. We also have Marcos Ugarte, who's a transfer and has come in and I think he could potentially be an influential piece to the puzzle in there with Tyler Arnone, who last year was probably our best guy consistently, day in and day out and if he has that kind of season again where he's consistently good day in and day out I think those four guys will be extremely influential going forward."
On the outlook of the Big Ten Conference and the preseason polls that have UM finishing No. 4 ... "Fourth is probably about right based on where we finished last year and where we are this year with a lot of new faces. I think the conference obviously has the reigning defending champion in Indiana that puts a lot of credibility in the league without question. And then it's going to be very challenging with all the teams in the league. It's very difficult to say in the Big Ten because it's six games, you know, six games is not that many matches. If you get it right in four or five of those games you win the league. It's definitely a challenge and it makes those games so much more special when you play them."
On the must-see events at home this year ... "I think our home opener's always an important one. It's important to establish where we are and establish our home field. I think South Florida on Notre Dame weekend will be a great event because of the double header with the women and we play Notre Dame in football the next night so I think it will be a great event for the alumni and the whole student body. I think Marquette, a nationally ranked team on the rise, is similar to where we're trying to go, coming in at home will be a great Friday night game as well. Then obviously we have Indiana here, who's the reigning national champ. We have Northwestern, who is reigning Big Ten champ, and we have Akron here as well as Creighton. There's not that many games that aren't must-sees to be fair, it's a challenging schedule that's slightly beyond where we are, but it's where we need to be moving forward."
On the stylistic changes with the addition of his new players ... "Last year was a big 'getting to know players' year and we went with where we were and we imposed our will with regards to culture and some tactics. It was a big learning curve for a lot of the guys on how we wanted to do things from top to bottom and I think they bought in halfway through the season and we started to get some results. I think the buying in has already happened before and it's a matter of meshing that culture with the younger guys and seeing if they can be impactful with the older guys. I think we have some good, talented guys coming in but they're still young. They're still very young, they're 18 and they haven't been in class yet, they don't know how to balance school and class and as they start to do that and start to flourish in both of those areas I think our team will begin to flourish."