On Monday, at the University of Pittsburgh’s Fall Sports Media Day, new Mens soccer coach Jay Vidovich acknowledged that his team is embarking on a season with some tough challenges.
It was clear that while Vidovich and his players are eager to get the season going, he would love to buy a little more time to prepare for the rigors of what will be a challenging, rebuilding year for a program that’s fallen on some hard times.
“It’s been exciting. It’s been a whirlwind since I got here. But there’s a lot of work to do. Time is not on our side right now,” said Vidovich.
“The kids are giving everything they have. They’ve done everything we’ve asked and done much better at this point than I ever expected, but we have 12 newcomers, and two preseason games this week, and then our season starts in a week.”
Sure enough, after summer training, and one full week of practice, the Panthers will travel to Morgantown, W.Va., Tuesday, August 16 for a 2:30 p.m. Backyard Brawl match with the West Virginia Mountaineers at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
This will be the first test of the 2016 season for the Panthers in one of two exhibition games before opening the regular season.
Pitt returns 15 players from a year ago, while bringing in 12 newcomers under first-year coach Vidovich, who comes to Pitt with some pretty impressive credentials, having helped build another ACC school, Wake Forest, into a national champion and annual contender.
After a season coaching in the professional ranks with defending MLS Champion Portland Timbers as a member of the staff and head coach of their USL team, Vidovich is back in college — and in a familiar place in the ACC.
This time, he’s inheriting a program that has really struggled in the ACC — failing to win a conference game in its first three seasons.
VIdovich spoke about the importance of changing the culture of the program
“It’s about getting better each day. We want to instill something that’s fitting for the University of Pittsburgh. For the people of Pittsburgh. They like to work, get after it. We’re trying to lay the foundation now.”
Returning midfielder Raj Kahlon said that the players are buying what Vidovich is selling.
“It’s a different intensity,” said Kahlon, a junior from Oakville, Ontario.
“Coach emphasizes ‘doing things the right way – or don’t do it at all’ — and all the players have brought that mentality to every training in the summer.”
Vidovich acknowledges that it will be difficult, but he’s ready to guide Pitt through the process of rebuilding its program.
“We want to make sure we can compete in every games. That we’re organized and have every possibility to win every game, ” said Vidovich.
“They are working their rear ends off — and we want to get better every day. That’s the good news.”
It all begins Tuesday — with the renewal of the Backyard Brawl.
West Virginia leads all meetings 33-9-5 during the regular season. The Mountaineers and Panthers recently clashed during the spring season where WVU came out with a 2-1 advantage.
SCOUTING WEST VIRGINIA
Tuesday’s matchup will also be the first test of the season for the home team before two more exhibition matches to prepare for the regular season. The Mountaineers sport a young team that consists of 12 freshmen and just five seniors. Highlighting the returners is junior Joey Piatczyc who paced the team with 17 points (2 goals, 13 assists) and senior Jack Elliot, who contributed three goals last season. WVU concluded the 2015 season 7-12 overall and 2-3 in conference play.
PITT’s 2016 SEASON AT A GLANCE
Pitt’s 18-game regular season schedule is highlighted by four matchups against teams ranked in the top 20 of the NSCAA Preseason Poll in North Carolina, Notre Dame, Boston College and Virginia. In addition to Tuesday’s game, the Panthers will also take on Duquesne (Aug. 20) before diving into a challenging string of opponents.
The Panthers open the season at familiar Ambrose Urbanic Field to face Detroit Friday, Aug. 26 prior to meeting a mixture of non-conference opponents before entering the bulk of its ACC competition.
COLLEGE PREVIEW PODCAST
I’ll have more from Monday’s Pitt media day in the coming week, including a Women’s team feature — and more from Vidovich including his take on coaching at the pro level on a College Soccer Podcast Preview Show with Mon Goals that will debut sometime next week.