2017 Men’s Soccer Season Preview
EASTON, Pa. – Lafayette men’s soccer is on an upward trend and poised to make a return to the Patriot League Tournament this fall under the direction of 17th-year head coach Dennis Bohn. With last year’s strong freshman class a year older and the return of two senior goalkeepers, the sky is the limit for this group in 2017.
“There’s no doubt that we have enough character, leadership and returning guys with experience to be competitive,” Bohn said. “Having a winning record and making the playoffs is definitely a goal for us. We’re probably not a championship-level team right now, but by November, I think we have that kind of potential.”
Lafayette returns eight starters from a unit that fell just short of a postseason bid in 2016, going 7-8-3 overall and 3-4-2 in Patriot League play. One of those returning starters, the team’s lone senior captain and a Preseason All-Patriot League selection in Christian Moyse, wants this to be the year the Leopards return to the top of the league table.
“We want to restore what Lafayette soccer is,” Moyse said. “Through these four years, we’ve been building and chipping away at it, and I think this is the year to do it. We want to bring back what Lafayette used to be and bring a championship back to College Hill.”
The Leopards open their 2017 campaign at Mike Bourger ’44 Field at Oaks Stadium on Friday, hosting Fairleigh Dickinson at 7 p.m. Below is a full position-by-position breakdown of this fall’s edition of Lafayette men’s soccer.
Sophomore Evan Vare returns following a stellar freshman campaign that saw him lead the team in scoring with seven goals, good enough for seventh in the league rankings. Vare and classmate James Gibson will likely man the two center positions in a four-man attacking look.
“Evan is special and can change a game at any moment. He’s certainly, in my opinion, one of the best players in the Patriot League,” Bohn said. “James is no-doubt maturing into a true center forward at this level with his ability to play high up the field, be physical, hold the ball and score goals.”
On the outside, sophomore Chris Gomez, a transfer from Syracuse, will likely slot into one of the two wide areas. An all-around player for the Maroon and White, his left-footed skillset will play well in Bohn’s system. On the other side, junior Josh Kruczek, sophomores Dylan Royalty, Zack Capolongo and Joey Gordon, and freshman Alistair Person will all get a chance for significant time early in the season.
Additionally, newcomer Martin Ssessanga joins the fold for the Maroon and White as a player with a special skillset to potentially provide another potent offensive weapon. A three-year starter at Curtis High School and The Peddie School, Sessanga won two MAPL League championships and scored 47 career goals.
“We do feel like we have some firepower if our full group is healthy and on their game,” Bohn added. “We have a lot of diversity in our attack and a number of different ways to possibly create scoring chances.”
Behind the attacking four, it’s a two-man midfield group for the Leopards this season, likely manned by sophomores Adam Bramson and Ryan Goncalves. Each played in all 18 games a year ago as freshmen, scoring a goal apiece in their rookie seasons.
Bramson may also see some time defensively, but was strong on the ball a year ago and continues to build himself into an every-game starter in the middle of the field. Playing on the outside and, at times, up front for Lafayette last season, Goncalves will be an important player in the transition game this season, moving inside and looking to set up the attack group in front of him this fall.
The defensive unit brings the most experience as Moyse and junior Joe DeStefano return for their third season together as the two center backs. That pairing, along with the goalie play behind them, posted the best goals-against average in the Patriot League a year ago, allowing just 1.02 goals per game.
“It’s nice to have chemistry in the back with two guys that have played together for a while,” Bohn said. “Joe is a solid, strong defender. He’s someone that we trust and cares as much as anyone about the success of our team.”
“Chris is a special person, special athlete, special student and a special leader,” Bohn added. “He’s the type of person that you want to be your captain. He’s improving every day and is no doubt one of the top players in the Patriot League.”
There’s also experience at the outside back spots with the return of junior Josh Koval and sophomore Diego Gomera-Tavarez. Freshmen Andrew Venezia and Kyle Robbins also have impressed in camp and will push for minutes.
The Leopards are in a good spot between the pipes, with two senior goalkeepers that have seen significant minutes throughout their careers. Brad Seeber and Brian Ehrlich are in competition right now for the starting job and will likely each get an opportunity to win it throughout the early part of the season.
Seeber played in all but two games a year ago, posting a 1.16 goals-against average, making 54 saves with a .740 save percentage. Ehrlich saw the most minutes during his sophomore season, where he allowed five goals in just less than 500 minutes of action, making 33 saves with one clean sheet.
“We’re solid and experienced at the goalkeeper position,” Bohn said. “They both bring good size and good leadership skills. They’re solid options for us and we’re excited to have two guys that can get the job done.”
Gomez is slated to take on most of the set-piece duties this season for the Maroon and White, although there are other options should Bohn decide to put a specific play in motion. Vare is an option in direct-kick scenarios and Venezia has also shown an ability to be successful from a set spot.
Gomez and Goncalves will be the indirect options, while Moyse and Gomera-Tavarez bring a long throw option into the mix that could allow for attackers to make plays on throw-in’s into the 18-yard box.
The Maroon and White will open at Mike Bourger ’44 Field at Oaks Stadium on Friday, Aug. 25, hosting Fairleigh Dickinson at 7 p.m. The Leopards welcome two other non-conference opponents to Oaks in Fordham on Sept. 8 and Albany on Sept. 20, before Patriot League action begins on Saturday, Sept. 23 against Bucknell at 1 p.m.
The Lafayette-Lehigh rivalry game will take place in Bethlehem this season on Oct. 14. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. The Leopards wrap up the regular season on the road at Loyola on Nov. 4, with the Patriot League Tournament set for Nov. 7-12.