FIU’s football team, for all its turnover, looks to have the stability of Letterman in late night compared to FIU’s men’s soccer team, which opens its season Friday night at Loyola Marymount.
“Last year, Kenny came here, he had to deal with whatever he had,” senior midfielder Gonzalo Frechilla said. “He didn’t have enough time to get the players he wanted. This year, he brought the players he thought were going to help us out. They’re definitely good players.”
One of the three transfers Arena managed to snag, junior Roberto Altiero, led South Florida in goals last season.
“My first year (at South Florida) we got to the Elite Eight. My second year, we made the national tournament, but lost in the second round,” Altiero said. “I decided to come here because after talking with Coach Kenny, I thought he would make a pretty good team.”
Frechilla said the communication among the new brew was non-existent in their preseason loss to Lynn, but much better in the 2-2 preseason tie with Barry.
Arena didn’t do a total renovation. Junior forwards Quentin Albrecht and Colby Burdette, last year’s top two goal scorers, and 2012’s leading setup man, sophomore Daniel Gonzalez, all remain.
Arena’s first season at FIU, the first without scholarship restrictions in several years, the team made Bruce Arena’s son look like The Golden Child early. It took Game No. 6, a 2-1 loss against No. 21 Furman, for the Panthers to experience anything but victory. After that, however, victory proved a fleeting thing as FIU went 0-7-1 in Conference USA on the way to 8-8-2.
The changes in Conference USA might give FIU some relief. Central Florida’s still on the
schedule as a non-conference opponent, but annually strong SMU isn’t. FAU, clobbered 5-0 by FIU in 2012, now count as a conference opponent. The Panthers still have to go to Kentucky, site of a 5-1 trampling by the Wildcats last year.
“We have a lot of freshmen. These two games, we have been keeping the ball a lot,” Altiero
said. “We have some good technical players. We have to keep working a little more on the defense. I think from the midfield to the forward spot, I think we’re pretty good.”
Frechilla said, “During preseason, we had a team barbecue where all the freshmen coming in did a skit to help get to know each other. It helped a lot. They opened up after that.”