Florida International U

Here’s why this FIU Panthers men’s soccer player is ready for stardom

FIU player Joris Ahlinvi is on his way to stardom.
FIU player Joris Ahlinvi is on his way to stardom. FIU

Santiago Patino is gone from FIU men’s soccer, but highly talented Joris Ahlinvi is up next as the team leader.

FIU’s stellar 2017 season, which included a run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, was followed by the bitter taste of 2018 — a 7-10 record, three straight losses to the end the year and a failure to return to the national playoffs.

Patino, a senior from Orlando, finished the season with 12 goals and two assists. He ranked third in Conference USA in goals and shots and fourth in points.

Set to graduate from FIU next month, Patino appears to have a future in pro soccer. His draft rights in Major League Soccer are owned by Orlando City.

Ahlinvi, a junior from France, should be FIU’s next soccer star after finishing the 2018 season with seven goals and three assists. He ranked second in Conference USA in shots, sixth in points and seventh in goals.

“Joris had his most productive year,” FIU coach Kevin Nylen said. “He’s a very good attacking midfielder. If he wants to control a game, he can. The question is: How good does he want to be?”

Patino and Ahlinvi did all they could on Nov. 7, when Marshall defeated FIU 2-1 in the first round of the C-USA tournament in Charlotte.

Adam Hassan scored for FIU, and Patino had a chance to tie the score when he was pulled down in the box with 40 seconds left in regulation.

But Patino, who went 3 for 3 on penalty kicks during the regular season, missed this time, firing high off the crossbar.

“I feel for Santi to end his college career like that, but I know he will push on [in the pros],” Nylen said. “I’m devastated for all our players. It stings.”

The good news for FIU is that there were only three seniors on the team — Patino, goalie Hugo Fauroux and defender Simen Olafsen.

Everyone else on the roster is set to return. The team should be strong in the midfield with three players who made some sort of All-C-USA team: Ahlinvi (first team), rising senior Andrew Booth (second team) and Errol Spence (All-Freshman team).

Rising senior Daniel Gagliardi, who split time with Fauroux, returns as the incumbent goalie.

“We have a good group of guys,” Nylen said. “We will miss the seniors. We’ll see in the spring if we [replace Patino’s scoring] with one guy or by committee.

“But I’m less worried about that and more concerned with our lack of consistency. We conceded a lot of goals, especially off of set pieces.”

FIU allowed 40 goals — 2.28 per game — and that ranked next-to-last in the league.

THIS AND THAT

FIU men’s basketball team signed 6-6, 220-pound wing Dante Wilcox for next season. He averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds over the past two years at Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, shooting a high percentage.

Meanwhile, FIU (6-1) is off to its best start since the 1983-84 season. FIU has won nine straight home games, dating to last season, but its next two games are on the road — Wednesday at Florida Gulf Coast and Saturday at Arkansas.

FIU women’s basketball team signed 6-4 Miami High center Cheyanne Daniels, 5-6 Philadelphia point guard Alana Swift and 5-8 guard Fujika Nimmo, who is from the Lakeland area. Nimmo averaged 27.4 points last season at Haines City.

On the court, the women’s team is off to a 1-6 start.

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