GW Men’s Soccer Preview 2012
Assistant Director, News and Social Media
2011 was a dream season for GW men’s soccer. In Coach George Lidster’s final season on Mount Vernon, the Colonials, picked to finish 13th in the Atlantic 10 in a preseason coaches poll, mounted an improbable run, finishing with a record of 10-6-3, including a 7-2 conference record and an undefeated record at home, and capturing a share of the regular season Atlantic 10 Championship. It was their first regular season title since 1992 and their first trip to the Atlantic 10 Championship since 2004, a trip that ended in heartbreaking fashion with a penalty kick defeat to Xavier in the Atlantic 10 title game.
Coming off a season in which GW shocked many Atlantic 10 pundits, expectations are justifiably higher as the 2012 season approaches. However, while many expect big things from this Colonials squad, in almost any other year, a season like this would be viewed as one of transition on Mount Vernon. Legendary Head Coach George Lidster, who helped to make the Mount Vernon soccer facility a reality during his tenure, is retired after 24 seasons at the helm and 201 career victories and in his place steps new Head Coach Craig Jones. Jones, a GW alumnus and four-year letter winner during his playing days at GW from 1995-98, spent the past three seasons as Lidster’s top assistant after spending the previous eight seasons as a volunteer assistant coach at GW. His familiarity with GW was a big reason for his promotion to succeed Lidster last November and this same familiarity should provide for a virtually seamless transition both on and off the pitch for the Colonials.
Coach Jones will have some familiar faces to work with as the Colonials return six starters from last year’s regular season championship squad. Among them are senior forward Seth Rudolph, who ranked second on the team with 19 points, including 8 goals and 3 assists in 17 games played, and senior goalkeeper Alejandro Almodovar, who split time in net with Brendan Lafferty last season and posted a 4-3 record in 7 games along with a 1.43 goals against average. Almodovar takes over the starting goalkeeper position full time this season and the biggest question surrounding the former transfer from cross town rival American University will be how he handles this uptick in playing time. None of Almodovar’s backups this season (sophomore Luke Farrell, freshman Jack Lopez, and redshirt freshman Jean-Pierre van der Merwe) have posted any collegiate playing time so the onus will be on Almodovar to provide stability to the goalkeeper position.
As for Rudolph and the forward position as a whole, the question for them is whether or not they will be able to fill at least some of the void left by the departure of last year’s leading goal scorer Yoni Berhanu. The front line combination of Rudolph and Berhanu combined for 19 of the 30 goals GW scored last season, with Berhanu scoring 11 of them. Tyler Ranalli is the logical choice to replace Berhanu as a full time starter this season, although junior Francisco Solorzano and freshmen Jonny Forest and Eddie Painter may challenge for significant minutes. However, whether or not a potential Rudolph-Ranalli combination will be able to duplicate last year’s front line success is a big question mark for this team.
No matter who ends up starting opposite Seth Rudolph at forward this fall, they will need that line to be productive if they are to compete in an Atlantic 10 Conference that has gotten deeper during the offseason. The effects of the additions of VCU and Butler on the quality of play in the conference are likely to present themselves immediately. Preseason polls have VCU third in the conference, behind NCAA College Cup runner-up Charlotte, playing their final season in the Atlantic 10, and two-time defending champion Xavier. As for GW, their surprising success from last season has earned them respect from Atlantic 10 pundits, but not enough to catapult them into the top five of the conference. Analysts have GW finishing sixth, behind the three aforementioned schools as well as Saint Louis and Fordham and just ahead of Butler and La Salle, who round out the top eight.
Bottom line, while a lot of GW’s fate in 2012 will depend on answering questions up front and in net, a lot of their fate will also hinge on how well the Colonials will be able to handle their schedule itself. While GW posted a perfect 6-0 record at home, they went a pedestrian 3-6-2 away from Mount Vernon during the regular season in 2011. Five of GW’s first six games this season as well as GW’s final three games will be played away from the friendly confines of Mount Vernon. Neither a slow start nor a poor finish is something the Colonials can afford if they are to stay competitive in a much improved Atlantic 10.
The regular season kicks off on Friday, August 24th at 4 pm when the Colonials welcome Long Island to the GW Soccer Field at Mount Vernon. That game and every home game this season can be seen online on GW All-Access and heard right here on wrgwsports.com. The full schedule of men’s soccer broadcasts is as follows:
8/24 – vs Long Island
8/30 – vs George Mason^
9/1 – vs Howard^
9/22 – vs UMBC
9/26 – vs NJIT
9/29 – vs Longwood
10/12 – vs La Salle
10/14 – vs Fordham*
10/19 – vs Rhode Island
10/21 – vs Massachusetts
^D.C. College Cup at American University
*GW All-Access broadcast only