Kevin East, the head coach of the Rutgers Newark soccer team, the Scarlet Raiders, took a look back at last season and signaled his intent for the upcoming season in an exclusive interview with joltleft.com.
“I think if you come to the games you are going to see an exciting brand of soccer. We have some good technical players. We like to attack and go after teams and I think you are going to see some entertaining games”, was what East had to say to Scarlet Raiders fans.
On the current state of his team:
“We graduated about 13 kids last year so we are going to be young going into fall 2011. We will be bringing in a pretty big recruiting class because we lost a lot of important pieces of our midfield, and both of our starting forwards, so those will be key pieces that we need to replace. We have some young guys coming in. In my fifth year here at Rutgers this is probably our deepest and strongest recruiting class and I am looking forward to seeing what the new recruits can do and getting them out on the field. I think they will do well for the next four years but at the same time we are going to be a little young this year.”
Coach East is looking to his back five to be the driving force behind his team’s success this season, and had this to say about particular players to watch:
“I think going in probably our goalkeeper, Jonathan Francis, who is going to be a junior for us. He started two years in goal already. He has done well. I think our back line is probably the only part of the team that is really returning that we have in tact so the backs are going to have to play a big role in our success. It is going to be Vernardo Valez, Mike Trenard, Robert Rosario and Jason Chung. They are all going to play a big part of our success if they do well.”
The Scarlet Raiders had 12 wins nine losses and one draw last season, scoring 45 times and had to pick the ball out of the back of their own net 33 times. Their coach characterized their season this way:
“Disappointing – we started well in preseason – we thought we were going to have more success during the season than we did. We were picked as 2nd in the pre-season poll in our conference and it just didn’t quite go that way for whatever reason. We brought back a lot of the same team that we had as players for the last three years ; … for one reason or another things just did not go that well, so it was a little bit disappointing. Scoring was an issue and we had trouble putting the ball in the net especially in some of the tougher games and defensively we could have done a little better but I thought our biggest issue was the attack side and that is something that we are looking to improve again this year.”
In 13 home games last season the Scarlet Raiders won nine times scoring 36 goals. Coach East’s team only lost four times at home while giving up 11goals. When asked about his team’s home form coach East replied:
“I think everybody is a little bit better at home. Teams are more comfortable on their home field. We had some nice wins at home too. We beat Stevens Tech who I believe was (ranked) 2nd or 3rd in the country at the time and we beat them 2-0. That was the first loss they took all year and actually the only loss they took in the regular season. We have always been tough at home and want to keep that up.”
The away fortunes of the Scarlet Raiders were a stark contrast to the success they had at home. They played away nine times last season, winning on only three of those occasions, losing five and a draw. How will coach East address the away situation this season?
“Hopefully mentally we will be a little bit stronger with a little bit better concentration on the road. Sometimes as a coach it is hard to isolate or put a finger on why your team is not performing the way you think they should. And to be honest, sometimes it is just the way the schedule works because especially In our conference every other year you alternate so maybe one year you are going to have some of the tougher teams on the road and some of the easier ones home but it is something that we know we are going to look to. We are going to actually need to do well because this year we really upgraded our schedule and our away games are actually brutal this year. We are going to California the first week of the season to play two games out there. We will be playing University of Redlands which is usually a top 25 team in the country. We are going to play Stevens Tech away this year and we are going to go down to Newport News, Virginia to play Christopher Newport who is usually – I think they finished last year top five in the country’s national ranking- so these are games we are going to play on the road this season. It is going to be a big key to our success to be able to win these games and get results on the road.”
On any particular result from last season that he is looking to turn around this season:
“I don’t know if it is one individual game as it is as much as just the conference results – we are looking to do a little better in the conference play. The year before, we did real well in the conference. We finished in I think 3rd or 4th place and then last year, for whatever reason, we just struggled, with basically the same team. We are just looking to improve on the conference games. “
Coach East was frank in his response when asked if he felt the team met their expectations last season. He did not mask his disappointment.
“No. We thought that we would do a lot better. We were looking to go to the conference play offs and make a deep run. We did not qualify for the play offs but we did play in post season in the ECAC’s and made it to the semi-finals there. But overall I think it was a disappointing season because we had higher expectations.”
The target for this season is to do better in the conference.
“We want to do better in the conference. That is one of the main things that we emphasize every year; doing well in the conference. We play in the NJ Athletic Conference which is probably the top Division III conference in the country – very competitive. We usually have up to five games in our conference that are nationally ranked out of the 10 so it is a very difficult conference – I would put it on par with a mid to low Division I type conference in terms of caliber. To do well in the conference is always a goal for us and to get into the tournament and then do well in the conference tournament.”
I will be reporting on the Scarlet Raiders throughout their upcoming season.
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