The FIU Panthers’ 2018 men’s soccer season will start where their 2017 campaign concluded — at the Duke Blue Devils.
Sixth-seeded Duke beat FIU 2-1 on Nov. 19 in a second-round NCAA Tournament game.
Fast forward nine months, and the teams will open the 2018 season with another game back in Durham, North Carolina on Aug. 24.
Second-year FIU coach Kevin Nylen, who opened training camp last Wednesday, is confident his Panthers have another talented roster. After all, the Panthers were named last week as the favorites in Conference USA and are ranked 20th nationally by United Soccer Coaches.
“We return 15 guys who started at least one game last season,” said Nylen, who led FIU to a 12-2-4 record. “We graduated seven seniors — a good group. But we return a good group, too.”
At the top of that latter list is forward Santiago Patino, asenior from Orlando who finished third in the nation last year in goals per game. He was named Conference USA’s Player of the Year and a first-team All-American.
His 15 goals were the most by an FIU player since 1996. Patino then spent this past summer in Seattle,playing in the Pro Development League.
“It was a good experience for him,” Nylen said of Patino’s summer spent representing one of Major League Soccer’s model franchises, the Seattle Sounders.
FIU graduated midfielder Paul Marie, a French native who was drafted in the first round, 12th overall, by the MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes.
But Nylen believes that another Frenchman, junior Joris Ahlinvi, can help fill the void left by Marie. Ahlinvi was named first-team All-Conference USA, posting six assists and four goals in 15 games. He ranked third in the league in assists per game.
“He’s attack-minded,” Nylen said. “He plays wide a lot, and Santi [Patino] plays central.”
FIU’s attack will also feature sophomore midfielders Alessandro Campoy, a Haitian native who played locally at LaSalle; and Matias Barraza of Miami’s Doral Academy.
Campoy played 17 games and started just five times but still managed seven goals and led the team with eight assists. Barraza added three goals and one assist in 16 games, including eight starts.
Another midfielder to watch is Inigo Sagarduy, a junior from Belen who scored one goal and served seven assists in 17 games last year,including four starts.
Defensively, FIU will miss 6-4 German native Marvin Hezel, who made second-team All-Conference USA.
However, the Panthers return starting goalie Hugo Fauroux, who posted a 10-2-4 record with a 1.25 goals-against average, making third-team All-C-USA.
Defenders in front of Fauroux will include junior Andrew Booth (University School), sophomore Jordi Avila (Hialeah Gardens) and senior Simen Olafsen (Norway). That trio combined to start 31 games last year.
Nylen, who grew up in Boston’s sports-crazy North Shore area, attending Red Sox and Celtics games with his father and two brothers, subscribes to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s team-first style.
Competition, Nylen said, will determine starting jobs this fall.
“Training is massive for us,” he said. “We bring in multiple players per position, and we give guys opportunities to play.
“I don’t believe in [only] a 14-man rotation. Anybody recruited by us has a chance to play — that’s why they’re in our program.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ For two days last month, FIU’s coaching staff hosted their counterparts from one of the world’s greatest clubs, Real Madrid.
▪ Nylen is determined to upgrade FIU’s schedule, which is why ACC teams Duke and Virginia are on the 2018 docket.
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