Men’s soccer club stays competitive during offseason

New coach and roster have the PSU men’s soccer club ready for spring competition  Stephen Lisle  Vanguard staff    The Portland State men’s soccer club has thrived for the better part of the past decade because of the dedication of returning players. The team’s fall record (4-3-2) isn’t the best it has produced in years past, but is nothing that cannot be used to build on. It is tough to gauge competition at the club level since the Big Sky Conference does not field men’s soccer competition and there is little funding left to join another conference. However, the passion that is sometimes lost in the process of gaining status in the college sports world is present in a team playing for the sake of getting together to play a game they love, regardless of funding. Although it is currently the soccer offseason, club president Brian Clemmons feels that it is the perfect time to create cohesion within the roster and give the team a chance to adjust to its new Spanish-speaking head coach, Luis Zanbrano. Zanbrano played for the Chilean national soccer team nearly 20 years ago and brings a high level of experience to the field. He has years of experience playing professional soccer in South America, and according to Clemmons, was too good of a prospect to pass up for the head coaching job with the club. Having a head coach with a resume like Zanbrano’s is an honor, but the new coach is a native Spanish speaker with very little English vocabulary. Club Vice President Zack Kannur jokingly said that the language barriers are one of the great things about the sport. “Our coach had a great career, and even with the language barrier I think it is part of what makes soccer unique,” Kannur said. “It is such a large sport that you will see players and coaches from different countries coming together to play, regardless of the spoken language.” While Kannur said the language difference is sometimes frustrating, many players on the team are able to pick up on his Spanish and communicate it with the rest of the team. The club has a melting pot of talent on their squad, including players representing 12 different nationalities, all with different styles of play. In American soccer culture players are often trained to use the high fitness levels as a way to win games, while more traditional Hispanic cultures may rely heavily on continuous passing. Regardless of the differing opinions of play, Kannur said each player is willing to adjust to the style Zanbrano chooses for the team. Players for the club have come from all over the world to include countries such as Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Denmark. Some of the members actually played for semi-professional teams and leagues in other countries, but chose an education in the U.S. over continuing to play overseas. “We have a lot of international players that have played at high levels in college, but came to school here for the education,” said Kannur. “It definitely is funny to see all of the different arguments and conversations that are happening on the field between so many different cultures.” Team President Brian Clemmons, a junior defender for the club, is a prime example of a player that changed schools, but continued to find a way to play the game he loved. Clemmons transferred from Northwest Nazarene University after playing a year in the NCAA Division-II league. Clemmons has made sure that the team stays productive, even in the cold winter offseason, when some choose to take a break. Many players take the offseason as an opportunity to load up on classes, so there may be only 12–14 men suited up during any given practice. Low-key scrimmages, friendly games with the women’s soccer program and intense workouts give the team a chance to iron out fundamentals and get into shape even with a depleted roster. All of the offseason training prepares the Viks for local tournaments that start in April as things warm up. Spring tournaments are a great way to keep up the competition level during the rest of the year, and also provide the team a chance to see what other programs are doing with their squads. The University of Oregon World Cup is one of the three main tournaments in which the Viks will compete, and they will be playing in the tough NCAA competition against the likes of University of Washington. These tournaments, though, give players the chance to shine. Team captain and scoring leader Ali Alnoaimi, a starting forward from Dubai, tallied eight goals in 10 games for the Viks during the fall. Other standouts on the squad include midfielders Jacob Holmestead and Ben Pepesch, who combined for six goals and brought creativity to the team’s play. The largest thing that was displayed in the team practice was to not over-think, and simply enjoy the game. A relaxed and fun environment was maintained, while also keeping a high level of competition. The different cultures that make up the team provide challenges, with language differences and completely different styles of play brought to the table. A collective effort and sense of family have provided the team a very fun atmosphere to play in. Different backgrounds and styles have blended into what is sure to continue to be a great year for the PSU men’s soccer club. For more information on the PSU men’s soccer club, visit the website at or see them in action from 8:30 to 10 p.m. on Thursday and 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday at Stott Field. ?