Dec. 14, 2009
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The record may not completely do justice to the strides made by the UCF men's soccer program in 2009. After a 7-11-1 campaign in 2008, the Knights posted a 6-7-3 mark in 2009, but wins and losses (and ties) do not tell the team's complete story.
Overcoming the loss of not only three senior captains but also goalkeeper Sean Johnson to the United States Under-20 National Team, head coach Bryan Cunningham regularly started eight freshmen, with six or more starting in each of the Knights' 16 contests. The youth may have shown in close games, with four of the team's losses being by just one goal, including a 2-1 loss in the season opener to No. 11 USF.
Despite the youth, drastic improvements were made on the offensive end. After scoring 16 goals in 19 games in 2008, UCF tallied 25 markers in 2009 in three less games. The Knights also increased their shot total by 63 and collected an astonishing 20 more assists. UCF outshot its opponents in 10 of its 16 game, and this increase improved its goals per game average from 0.84 in 2008 to 1.56 in 2009. The Knights ranked fourth in C-USA in goals per game and second in assists per game.
One of the main keys to the offensive improvement was freshman Nicholas Robson (Auckland, New Zealand), who led the team in points with 22 on eight goals and six assists. He ranked fourth in the nation among freshmen in points per game and among the top-six in points, shots, goals and assists.
Robson was named to the all-conference third-team and to the conference's all-freshman team. Robson was not the only Knight to earn all-conference accolades as junior Yaron Bacher (Atlanta, Ga.) and sophomore Kevan George (Decatur, Ga.) landed spots on the second team.
George was honored for the second time in as many years with postseason all-conference honors. The midfielder was named first-team all-conference as a freshman and to the Preseason All-C-USA team prior to the 2009 season. George switched to play more of a defensive midfield this season, but still finished the campaign with three assists.
Bacher, in his second season with UCF after transferring from Longwood, had an impressive season. The midfielder started all 16 of the Knights' games and recorded four goals and three assists for 11 points. All three totals were good for second on the team. The captain also finished with 45 shots to rank fourth in C-USA.
The loss of Johnson in goal coupled with Bryan Collier and Ryan Roushandel graduating at defender took its toll on a young Knight defense. Cunningham was forced to replace his entire backline of defense as well as his keeper with freshmen, but the young group improved throughout the season while adjusting to the college game.
Freshmen Ben Hunt (Auckland, New Zealand), Finlay Milne (Palmerston, New Zealand), Malcolm Reed (Summerville, S.C.) and Andrew Quintana (Miami, Fla.) combined to make 57 starts at defender while redshirt freshman Shawn Doyle (Fort Myers, Fla.) every minute in goal for the Knights. With the experience they received as freshmen, the group should be an imposing defensive unit in 2010.
UCF appeared on television twice in 2009, with a CBS College Sports broadcast on Oct. 18 leading to a 1-0 victory over Marshall, a team atop the C-USA standings at the time.
When looking closely at the 2009 men's soccer season, the strides that Cunningham and the program made are certainly apparent, and the program will be one to keep an eye on in 2010.