Hempstead, N.Y. - A soccer ball sits still on the field as Chris Griebsch moves behind it. There are no defenders for at least 10 yards. No pressure exists to strike the ball before an opponent tries to make a slide tackle. There is potential to put the ball in a slew of places, giving his team a chance to score goals in different ways.
Griebsch is responsible for many free kicks for the Hofstra men's soccer team. The freedom that comes from initiating action off those set pieces has made the junior a respected man in Pride locker room. Last year, Griebsch led the Colonial Athletic Association in assists with 10. He already has an assist this season is a key part of Hofstra's 2-0 start entering the weekend.
"He crosses the ball as good as anyone in the conference," Hofstra head coach Richard Nuttall said. "He's extremely dangerous out wide. He works really hard and you can tell that he cares deeply about the team."
Griebsch can also finish as well as create. Those skills were on display when he scored a penalty-kick goal in Hofstra's season-opening 2-0 victory at Lehigh. The striking ability was on display during his sophomore season when Griebsch scored four goals en route to being named to the All-CAA third team. But seeing his name first on the score sheet line isn't the 6-foot-1 midfielder's top priority.
"Since I was a young player, I've always been able to get assists," he said. "I take a lot of free kicks and play on the outside and can cross the ball. We have a lot of guys on the team who can finish, so it makes it fun. I prefer to get the assist rather than score the goals."
Griebsch can move up the field, though sophomore Maid Memic has embraced his role as a goal-scoring forward with a Hofstra-leading two goals through the first two games. Griebsch said his favorite position is attacking midfielder, though the Dessau-Rosslau, Germany native is happy to log more playing time of the left side to complement a corps of talented midfielders.
Griebsch's propensity of setting up teammates for success extends beyond the pitch. With the fall semester starting next week, Griebsch has already been a de facto tour guide for the team's first-year players around campus. Fellow German-born freshman Felix Schaefer and first-year midfielder Herbert Biste are trying to acclimate to an American college campus and Griebsch said he's brought them to different offices and translated for them.
"Chris is a very talented player," Hofstra assistant coach Graham Radcliffe said. "He was a very productive player last season and I am looking forward to the same type of production this year."
Though Griebsch shares a native country with some of the current new players, a U.S.-born goalkeeper served the role of mentor two years ago when Griebsch first arrived in Hempstead. Greg Cumpstone, a Connecticut native, helped his young teammate adjust. Now, it's Griebsch's turn to repay the favor.
"For the German freshmen, I try to help just because I know there are language issues and with two years of experience, I can help them adjust," Griebsch said.
Griebsch said Hofstra looks stronger than last year and will look to shoot up the standings once CAA play begins. Through two games, Hofstra has out-scored opponents, 4-0, and has shut out three straight opponents dating to the 2011 season finale.
"We look really strong; we keep the ball on the ground and we're playing better than we did last year," Griebsch said. "When you know the defense is taking care of everything behind you, it gives you confidence and you know if you can score, you'll have a good chance to win. The balance of the team is really good."
Griebsch, who is an international business major, said going away to boarding school since the age of 13 helped him adjust to going long stretches without visits from his family. But he still keeps in touch regularly with his parents.
"Being thousands of miles away is a big difference, but I can Skype with them and it's easier when you can see them," he said. "I'm excited because they are coming to visit next month and it will be the first time they are visiting New York."
"It's tough being in season, they'll have to go to Manhattan by themselves. But we have two games while they are here, so they can see me play for the first time since coming to Hofstra."
Hofstra will next be in action on Sunday at 7 p.m. with a road game against Monmouth.