From time to time, a program gets the unique opportunity to depart from the confines of its campus and head abroad during its spring season.
In the Big East, the Georgetown men’s program is abroad this week for a trip to Barcelona, getting a chance to play against two third-division Spanish teams and catch two Barcelona matches at the fabled Camp Nou.
“The value of the trip you can’t measure easily, because you get the unique cultural experience,” Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “Just from a team chemistry and bonding and immersing yourself in soccer, you can’t put a price tag or value on that. These trips happen once every four years, and when they happen you want to take full advantage of that.”
The Hoyas can use this time to improve as a unit, as they are likely to enter the fall as one of the favorites in the Big East, only losing three players from last year, With key players like Tyler Rudy, Ian Christianson, Steve Neumann and Tommy Muller returning, Georgetown is looking strong.
That gives Georgetown a clearer focus during this spring schedule.
“With having the majority of your team back, [the spring] is really fine-tuning a lot of things and getting everybody on the same page and getting it so the first preseason game that we play we are firing on all cylinders, and be ahead of the opposition,” Wiese said.
While Georgetown’s preparations hit the Iberian Peninsula, back in the United States, other programs’ preparations are in full swing. Notre Dame, which lost its fair share of talent to the pro ranks in Greg Klazura and Aaron Maund, is working feverishly to fill those holes in the back.
“This is the busiest time of the year, actually much busier than the season for us,” Irish head coach Bobby Clark told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “This is a time when we work hard, go six days a week, and this is where I think kids get better, and also you try and have a look at what you’ve got.”
Of course, the established powers in the Big East are going to be no pushovers. Louisville lost a strong crop of seniors, including Colin Rolfe, Austin Berry, Kenney Walker and Nick DeLeon, and is in the process of reshuffling its deck.
But the team will get a boost with the return of Dylan Mares, who was felled by a torn ACL last fall – he’ll be ready to go in the fall. However, the high rate of turnover could be a positive, as it has served as a motivation for those players waiting in the wings.
“It’s been interesting because it’s a much different group just from an experience stand point, having lost the guys we did,” Louisville head coach Ken Lolla told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “It was a lot of experience over the years, and yet it’s been one of these things where the graduation of certain guys have allowed the growth of other guys which has been really refreshing and beneficial for this group.”
And then there’s the rest of a tough group, with South Florida a program on the rise, Connecticut a steady ship, along with St. John’s, Marquette, and Providence all looking to build off positive 2011s.
There will be a slightly different look to the group come the fall because of the departure of West Virginia, but it’s going to be a tough battle once the season begins again, with the spring preparations going a long way in determining who can put it together in the fall.Big East Players to WatchMF Dylan Mares, Louisville:
“From an attacking standpoint, he’s very dynamic. Very good on the ball, off the dribble, can score goals,” Lolla said. Mares’ return to the Cardinals lineup will likely help shape how Louisville can cope with the talent drain.GK Tomas Gomez, Georgetown
: The freshman goalkeeper earned a call-up into the recent U.S. U20 camp after a strong first year where Gomez started all but two games for the Hoyas.MF Carlos Alvarez, Connecticut:
Entering his senior year, Alvarez’s outstanding technical ability will once again make him a key player in the Huskies offense, especially with the departure of Tony Cascio.