Aug. 27, 2009
Fullerton, Calif. - Terming his squad "one year older and three years wiser," Cal State Fullerton men's soccer Coach Bob Ammann is extremely excited about his 2009 Titans, who have an exhibition against an alumni team Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Titan Stadium.
"The team's commitment is spot on," said Ammann, who hopes to benefit from the force-feeding his young roster received in 2008. "We had so many new guys last year and were packing and unpacking and getting acclimated to college life that the soccer became secondary.
"Now, the game is the primary focus.
"A lot of young guys got thrown right into the fire last year and as a result they gained a lot of experience".
"We are still in the process, but for stretches of our pre-season scrimmage at San Diego the team looked exceptional.
"We've been working with David Burston, a psychologist who lives in Los Angeles and is employed by Tottenham Hotspurs of the English Premier League. He has been invaluable and committed to helping our program and the guys love working with him."
Of the 28 men on this year's Titan roster, only five are newcomers to the system. Seven returning starters are among 12 lettermen who are joined by nine redshirt freshmen who sat out last season.
"Last year we had some holes but I think we have patched them up," said Ammann, embarking on his fourth year at the helm. "We have depth and balance front to back but more importantly we have a belief and confidence that was missing the past few years."
The most surprising development of the off-season was the move of first-team All-Big West Conference selection Matt Sanders from the back line to the front line.
"Playing Sanders up front is a move I wanted to make last year but didn't feel confident doing," explained Ammann. "I was forced into a lineup change which proved to be beneficial as other players really stepped up. I am sure that many attackers are breathing a sigh of relief but he will cause most defenders to lose some sleep. He was an attacking player that we converted to a defender. He obviously played well at center back, but for this team, I think we're better off with him up front."
Sanders, a senior from Orange, had one goal and one assist last season. He and senior midfielder Shay Spitz, the team's leading scorer in each of the past two seasons, are the program's only 3-year lettermen.
Joining Sanders in the front line most likely will be junior Celso Alvarez and senior Jamall Farquharson. The midfielders most likely to see action along with Spitz are sophomores Michael Denny, Kevin Venegas and Mario Alvarez and underclassmen redshirts Oscar Aguero and Eric Escobedo. Ammann must find four back line starters among a quintet of seniors Mark Nelson and Justin Burney, redshirt freshman Jonathan Birt, University of Evansville transfer Bobby Reiss and junior Texas-Brownsville transfer Antonio Vernaschi from England.
Goalkeeping duties are in the hands of sophomore Trevor Whiddon, who had a 2-6-1 record during the Titans' 5-14-1 season of a year ago. He is backed up by redshirt freshmen Pablo Gonzalez and Chris Quaresma with junior Tyler Andrews battling a knee injury.
"It will be a challenge to find minutes for all of our attacking players - including the likes of Nick Posthuma, Jesse Horta, David Lutz, Jameson Campbell and newcomer Jesse Escalante," said Ammann. "Our goal is to be ready to fire on all cylinders come Sept. 30 when conference play begins.
"The Big West schools have set the bar high and protecting the status we have achieved in the non-conference games will be key. Santa Barbara and Cal Poly are ranked at the top which should be expected. But no one is intimidated by anyone else in this league. Every match in the Big West is a battle."
Fullerton opens the season in a tournament over Labor Day Weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Host Ohio State, an NCAA tournament team in 2008 and a semifinalist in 2007, and Penn State are the Titans' first two opponents. The Titans also play in a tournament at Cal State Northridge and host their own tourney in late September, facing Denver and Coastal Carolina after a home match with Saint Mary's and a road game at UCLA. The Big West opener is at home on Sept. 30 vs. Cal Poly SLO.