Virginia Men’s Soccer Hopes To Rediscover Its Groove

Virginia
Leo Afonso and the UVA men’s soccer team will shoot for more wins this season. ~ Photo courtesy of Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

Last year, the Virginia men’s soccer team concluded the season with a 6-9-3 overall record – a deterioration from the team’s 7-8-1 record the year before. Despite pushing 7 games into overtime, the Hoos failed to win a single one, posting an 0-4-3 overtime record. The team failed to make the 36 team NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.

While it may be easy to see these two seasons as anomalies, they represent a downward trend that can be traced back to the 2019 season. In a streak beginning in 1981, the Cavaliers appeared in 39 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, a stretch in which the team won 7 NCAA Championships with two runner-up positions. However, since losing the College Cup in a shootout, the Virginia has struggled to find solid ground. Much of this can be attributed to the pedigree of talent that departed following the devastating loss.

After the 2019 final loss, stars like Daryl Dike, Joe Bell, Henry Kessler, and Daniel Steedman opted to turn pro despite having additional years of NCAA eligibility remaining. Now, center back Andreas Ueland, who enters the season on the ACC preseason watch list, is the only remaining piece from the 2019 College Cup Final appearance.

Without the consistency and leadership these athletes brought, Virginia’s new faces have struggled to put together complete, cohesive games. The Hoos hope to rediscover that touch this year.

Turning the Tide

Now in his 27th year at the helm of the Virginia men’s soccer program, coach George Gelnovatch is looking to turn the tide of the last two seasons and return the Cavaliers to their position of pedigree. Fortunately, Gelnovatch returns an abundance of experience from last season’s squad.

Returners

Of last year’s 15 players who logged a goal or assist for Virginia, 13 are returning for this season, including star Cavalier forward Leo Afonso.

Last year, Afonso led Virginia with 8 goals, which earned him a spot on the All-ACC Second Team. This year, he will undoubtedly be the leader of the orange and blue offense. Though he earned second team individual honors last year, to elevate his game this season, Afonso must work on bringing his teammates into the offense by creating chances for them, which, in turn, will create opportunities for himself. Afonso had 2 assists last season.

Along with Afonso, the Cavalier roster will include key players from last year such as Ueland, goalkeeper Holden Brown, Kome Ubogu, Paul Wiese, Michael Tsicoulias, Aparuh Slavov, Nils Henry Orywol, Will Citron, Kaya Ignacio, Ank Nibogora, Jeremy Verley, Erick Kilosho, Jules Anderson, Cabrel Happi Kamseu, Kevin Ogudugu, Phillip Horton, and Isaiah Byrd.

With this returning experience, Virginia has a much more cohesive foundation for this year than they did at the start of last season. However, with the past two years’ performances, the fresh faces bring undisputed hope for the Cavaliers in 2022.

Fresh Faces

Though Virginia returns a fair amount of experience from last year’s team, the Cavaliers’ fresh faces are what have Coach Gelnovatch excited about this season.

This year, the Hoos bring in a plethora of new additions to the roster including: Miguel Kobbe Adoboe, Axel Ahlander, Triton Beauvois, Colin Gallagher, Albin Gashi, Moritz Kappelsberger, Daniel Mangarov, Reese Miller, Aidan O’Connor, David Okorie, Umberto Pela, Yassine Rhoumar, Amari Salley, Parker Sloan, Andy Sullins, and Owen Walz. Of the group, with regard to this season, it seems as if midfielders Ahlander and Mangarov as well as defenders

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