POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. - The Marist men's soccer team opens its 2014 season on Friday night, when the Red Foxes host Villanova of the Big East Conference at 7 p.m. at Tenney Stadium. Head coach Matt Viggiano will look to improve on last season’s outcome after an off-season that saw the departure of seven seniors and the arrival of nine new freshman.
Schedule Breakdown: With Friday’s home season opener against Villanova the Red Foxes kick off an exciting eight-home game, 10-road game schedule with plenty of highlights. Immediately following their first game the Red Foxes hit the road for four straight non-conference games in early September. Matches against Binghamton (Monday, Sep. 1), NJIT (Saturday, Sep. 6), Columbia (Tuesday, Sep. 9), and Sacred Heart (Saturday, Sep. 13) will all be early road tests for the Red Foxes. The team then returns home for two more non-conference games against Army (Tuesday, Sep. 16) and against St. Joseph’s (Sunday, Sep. 21) before hitting the road for their last non-conference game against New Hampshire (Friday, Sep. 26).
MAAC play for the Red Foxes starts up on the first day in October with a home matchup against Manhattan. The Red Foxes other home conference games include Iona (Wednesday, Oct. 8), Quinnipiac (Wednesday, Oct. 15), Niagara (Wednesday, Oct. 29), and Rider (Saturday, Nov. 1). The conference road slate includes trips to Fairfield (Saturday, Oct. 4), Saint Peter’s (Saturday, Oct. 18), Canisius (Wednesday, Oct. 22), Monmouth (Saturday, Oct. 25), and a season finale matchup against rival Siena (Wednesday, Nov. 25).
Keeper Competition: Nicolas Calderon (Cali, Colombia) and freshman Mark Rajovic (Katonah, N.Y.) are both looking to be the man with sure hands on the backline. Going into camp Viggiano has been impressed with the two keepers. The opposition can probably look to see starts from both throughout the season but it’s a position the Red Foxes can strengthen by having them compete at their highest level in camp.
“I’m looking for someone to step up and take the job,” said Viggiano. “Mark has the edge since he’s played at a higher level but Niko has already played a year of college soccer, he’s come in and trained since December”
New Faces: Kevin Kappock (Howell, N.J.) - The 5’9” freshman from New Jersey will be counted on to make an immediate impact in the backfield. As a starter on the New York Red Bulls U16 Academy team, Kappock and the rest of his backfield received national recognition, ranking as the number one defense in the country. Kappock will be an integral piece on the Red Foxes back line brandishing an impressive resume and skill set.
Erik Dahl (Helsinborgs, Sweden) - A 6’2” forward/midfielder from Sweden brings with him an element of attack and big game experience. While Dahl was in Sweden his club participated and was victorious in numerous trophy runs. His championship pedigree from overseas will be a tremendous asset to the Red Foxes from the outset despite the rookie label.
Players to Watch: Returning players and current captains Matty Berman (West Orange, N.J.) a 5’7” midfielder and MJ Stellwag (Newburgh, N.Y.) a 5’10” back are both players looking to take the next step. From a leadership and contribution standpoint, Viggiano expects a ton from these two. The young but stellar performers from last season won’t shy away from the expectations and should have a big year for the Red Foxes.
Another player in the mix to contribute in a big way is Dylan Lee (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.). The 5’10” back/midfielder is coming off an injury from last year but Viggiano is looking at a bounce back season from him.
Building Blocks: After a tough 2013 campaign that saw the Red Foxes go 3-15 and 2-8 in conference play, Viggiano believes he has the right people in place this year from a player and staff perspective to be a much improved team. Viggiano cited that everyone being on the same page and buying into a system is something that has already excited him about the upcoming season.
“After a year like last year you’re always going to reflect on what you can do better, and obviously there was a lot we can do better,” said Viggiano. “I think I have a great staff in place this year to do that.”