The Pitt Men’s Soccer team, under Head Coach Jay Vidovich, who is entering his fourth season as head coach, start the 2019 campaign as they prepare for their first exhibition match against Duquesne on Saturday at 7 pm at Ambrose Urbanic Field.
Prior to the start of preseason training Wednesday, Vidovich announced the addition of six new players to the roster and one returning after a year away from the program.
Junior Tim Ekpone returns. Ekpone last played for the team in 2017 and appeared in 16 matches, including 10 starts. Ekpone played 973 minutes in those 16 matches and scored 1 goal for the Panthers.
Along with Ekpone, Pitt welcomes in junior transfer Bryce Washington from Rutgers where he appeared in, and started, 32 matches over his two seasons, including starting all 18 matches his freshman season.
Washington was named a Big Ten All Freshman Team honoree as he led Rutgers in minutes played and starts during his freshman season and also added one goal.
“Bryce is going to bring some of the things that have been missing from our back line,” said Vidovich. “He comes in with two years of college experience and leadership, having been a leader in club ball in Atlanta United as well as at Rutgers.”
After what appears to have been a set back for Washington from his freshman to sophomore season, let’s see if the change of scenery of joining Pitt can help reinvigorate him and help add to what is clearly a Pitt Men’s Soccer program on the rise under Vidovich.
Vidovich also announced the addition of five freshman in Lucas Cyriacus, Josh Hesson, Valentin Noel, Arturo Ordonez and Sebastian Serpa to the roster.
Serpa will join the back line for Pitt and look to add to the depth and create some competition to help the back line continue to improve after last season.
Serpa brings a lot of experience to Pitt as he played for Western FC from 2014-16, FC Bari 1908 from 2016-18, the Portland Timbers in 2017 and with the Columbus Crew in 2018-19.
“Sebastian is someone that we are excited about, coming from Columbus Crew Academy,” said Vidovich. “He has a little experience with the U15 USYNT. He’s just a solid player who fits into what we’re trying to do here. He’ll be great for our culture, he’s an intelligent player who will give us depth in the back.”
Ordonez will also add to the depth of the back line for Pitt as he comes to the Panthers will a decent amount of experience and maturity.
“Arturo is coming in as a player with a lot of maturity,” said Vidovich. “He reads the game well, he forces errors, and he will allow us to play the way that we like to play because he is capable of playing on the pass. We feel that he is going to be a key piece for Pitt moving forward.”
Having someone who can force the opposing team into committing mistakes and being able to generate a quick counterattack is key to the success of any soccer team, but especially at the collegiate level. At the college level, if you can force opposing team into second guessing themselves on any given play than you are able to put them on their heels and are able to be on the attack even more.
The Panthers will have a pretty inexperienced midfield this season, but it will also be a midfield that will have plenty of depth and will hopefully push each other to continue to get better each and every practice.
Noel, a freshman from France, will look to create some of that competition as he joins the Panthers after competing for the past 10 years with Chamois Niortais Football Club where he appeared in 51 matches tallied 8 assists and 2 goals in the past two seasons.
“Valentin is another versatile player who can play anywhere in the midfield,” said Vidovich. “He’s very competent on the ball, good ideas, a good touch and a good future in front of him. He can also play as a wide player in the back or in the midfield once again. He’s another very promising person that will allow us to play attacking soccer the way that we like to.”
Also adding to the depth of the midfield for Pitt this season will be freshman Cyriacus who joins the Panthers after competing with TSV 1860 Muenchen Club in Germany.
“Lucas is a versatile player. He’s coming in well rounded tactically,” said Vidovich. “He can play anywhere -in the midfield as well as in the back- so he gives us versatility, maturity, a tremendous work rate and a competitive edge.”
The final new addition that Pitt added to the roster this week and will add to the already great forwards they have in Edward Kizza and Alexander Dexter is Freshman Josh Hesson.
Hesson played for the Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club in England and attended Thomas Telford High School where his team won three National Cup’s.
“Josh is someone that we look forward to working with a lot because he has a lot of potential,” said Vidovich. “He plays with great pace, he drives at defenses and he looks to get in behind someone. He can stretch our opponent’s defense.”
With Hesson, Vidovich and the rest of the Pitt coaching staff has the ability to just take their time with him, work with him and let him settle in and learn from Kizza and Dexter who have had success with this team.
This Pitt team this year has a solid mix of veteran leadership and new additions heading into the 2019 season. The experience that this team got last season with a big win over Virginia in the opening round of the ACC Tournament and taking Duke to penalty kicks in the following round can’t be overstated enough.
The season kicks off Saturday with an exhibition against Duquesne at 7 pm at Ambrose Urbanic Field followed by an exhibition at James Madison on August 23 before the season kicks off at Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic on August 30 against Indiana.
The season also kick’s off for the Pitt Women’s Soccer team with an exhibition against Delaware Tomorrow (August 15) at 7 pm at Ambrose Urbanic Field followed by another exhibition at Kent State on Sunday before the regular season kicks off against Loyola Maramount on August 23 at 7 pm at Ambrose Urbanic Field.