The Truman men’s soccer team put together an impressive 2016 campaign and have a 6-2-1 record with four games remaining in the regular season.
Last season wasn’t nearly as successful. The team was put together hastily, with head coach Archie Wright taking the helm at the proverbial last minute. They finished with only three wins, but Coach Wright knew even then that with more training and conditioning the Falcons could compete on a higher level, and improve their record in 2016.
“The team got together a little too late last season,” said midfielder Abdullahi Akorede. “This season we’ve been training for the past five months – and training for five months ain’t no joke.”
The training that Coach Wright regimented for the soccer team was tough, and consisted of a lot of running, and serious weight training. Players often practiced without soccer balls, to emphasize that conditioning was equally as important as skill.
“We suffered a lot of defeats last year because we weren’t physically fit. This season is like a whole new team,” Akorede said. “You already feel like a champion when you’re training and everyone on the team is physically fit and ready to go. The teams we’re playing now run out of energy before us,.”
The Falcon’s mantra is to be “dedicated and motivated,” and defender Javier Junco said those words inspired him to train harder and achieve his goal of starting, after coming off of the bench last season.
“It’s not just training, you’ve got to be dedicated,” Junco said. “Last year I wasn’t a starter, but now I’m a starter and I feel more physically right – more in condition. It’s dedication and motivation like we say in practice. I wanted to be a starter so I worked harder – I accepted the challenge.”
The Falcons scored goals in bunches in several games this year. They defeated Robert Morris JV 8-1, and beat Daly 6-1. But it’s stalwart defense that has been the key to their success, and they held opponents to one goal on four occasions while recording one shutout.
“Defense is an essential part of the game Junco,” said. “If you don’t have good defense how are you going to attack. We attack as a team and defend as a team.”
Coach Wright was a defender in his playing days and relishes shutting opponents down defensively.
“I will take a 1-0 victory over a 6-3 win any day – I’m all about the defense,” he said. “I know everybody glorifies offense, but this team is going to go as far as the defense. If you look at all the championship teams it’s not their offense that gets them there, it’s their defense. They’re allowing one goal or less.”
But even as the Falcons continue to win and march toward the postseason, not many students at Truman get a chance to root for the home team. They play their “home” games across town at Kennedy King Soccer Field on the South Side – a little out of reach for some students. They have played one game at Wilson Soccer Field, just a few blocks from the Truman Campus. It was nice having some fans there to cheer them on but Akorede said he doesn’t care where he plays, he just wants to play the game.
“I feel like the art of being a good soccer player is to play whenever and wherever they put you out there. In Nigeria I used to play on pure sand. Wherever you put us we will get it done – we are soccer players,” Akorede said.
Truman’s soccer team has players from several countries where soccer reigns as the most popular sport. In Akorede’s home country of Nigeria, soccer is enmeshed with the very culture.
“Soccer is the game of every guy on the street. Soccer is the language we speak – and no matter how big or small a guy is soccer is still the language. It’s a gift. It’s like if somebody gave you money to start a business – it’s still your job to make it bloom,” Akorede said.
“Soccer is life in Mexico,” said Junco. “People know who you are because of soccer.”