TKC Men's Soccer Preview
One year removed from a promising season, The King’s College Men’s Soccer team is ready to turn some heads.
A season ago, King’s notched a respectable four wins on the year and remained competitive with the elite schools in the conference, despite having an ailing roster down the stretch.
With the majority of the team returning, King’s bodes well to fight for a playoff spot this season, despite having a team consisting primarily of Freshman and Sophomores. While making the playoffs is the primary goal of the team, the boys are aiming to do something that no men’s soccer team has accomplished in the last decade.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs and then we will reassess,” said captain Craig Wishart, 19’. “But, I believe, which may come as a surprise to some people, that we have a chance to win a conference championship, and our goal is to win ten games.”
When initially hearing that claim during my interview with Wishart, I smirked in a lack of faith. King’s hasn’t produced a winning men’s soccer season in quite some time and has a history of collapsing at the end of the season. Therefore, when the team captain this year proclaims that King’s goal is to add six more wins to their tally from a year ago, it doesn’t seem attainable.
But, as the old saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover.
In previous years, the biggest problem that King’s has faced hasn’t been one from outside influences, but one from within. Towards the tail end of every season, players begin to quit the team for various, and sometimes legitimate, reasons. Whether it is grades, work, or mental health, players often take a step back from their initial commitment.
Typically, this departing movement takes place towards the end of the season during the push to get into the playoffs. When players leave, a typical 18-man roster shrinks to 13 or so players, thus creating an almost unbearable work load for the starting eleven and their two subs.
“By the last three games, which we could have won, our legs were just too tired,” said Head Coach Tom Harmon while reflecting on last season. “We brought in basically a new team, and we were playing the whole season with a 16-man roster; we just didn’t have the legs.”
That lack of depth has plagued King’s soccer ample amounts of times in the past, as the culture of “it’s just King’s athletics” sets in. But, Wishart says that the culture of “flaking out” is already ceasing to exist, as the soccer team this season is being held together by a stick of accountable glue.
“Chemistry wise, our team is already coming together better than last year. Guys enjoy being with one another. Honestly, from every team I have been on, on-the-field chemistry is just as important as off-the-field chemistry. We have already created a culture that is a lot better.
“Last year, a culture was the one thing that was holding us back. Guys would miss games, and it wasn’t a big deal. But, this year, myself and Mike (Forcella 20’) have been holding guys accountable and pushing for everyone to be there.”
If this continued push of accountability is to remain, it is going to have to come from within the team, through players like Wishart and Forcella. But, confidence can work wonders in helping to create that culture, which can make life significantly easier for the team.
With a lot of positives carrying over from a season ago, Coach Harmon has nothing but confidence that his team can compete for a playoff spot this year.
“We only really lost one player from the starting team, and brought in about six to seven new guys,” said Harmon. “Last year, we relied a lot on Freshman. But now, they know the system, we have familiarity, and we have some more bodies that should help us go even further this year.”
As far as a benchmark goal, Harmon was on par with Wishart’s projection, a sign of confidence following from the coaching staff to the team.
“Before our scrimmage this weekend (a 4-1 win over York College,) we picked out ten games we should win this year,” said Harmon. “After last weekend’s win, there are nine more games to go on and win. If we go on and perform our best and stay organized, we can win those nine games.
“We are in a ten team conference, and there are three teams that feel confident about their chances of getting into the playoffs. We will fight it out for the fourth spot with Pratt and Berkeley I suspect.”
If King’s can live up to the expectations, it is going to come down to a pair of simple, yet difficult, tasks. Eroding the history of a lack of accountability and staying glued together as one unit and one team.
After speaking with both captain and coach, I must admit, there is a certain amount of optimism that I, a sports pessimist, have for the team, something that The King’s College should look forward too.
Prediction: King’s wins seven games, draws two, and loses five, just missing out on the fourth playoff spot.
To view the Men’s Soccer team schedule, go to http://tkcathletics.com/sports/msoc/2017-18/schedule