The spring cannot come soon enough for the Manhattan Jaspers men’s soccer team. For those who did not follow the Jasper’s 2014 fall season, it was not one they would like to remember.
From Sept. 19 to Oct. 11, they were goalless in 587 straight minutes, a span of six games played. That was not their only problem. Their struggle to find the back of the net – no pun intended – also had them on a 13 game losing streak after starting the season 1-1.
To start revamping the roster to win now, Scott has added two new midfielders: Niels Kirch and Ryan Shields. Kirch, who’s originally from FC Cologne in Germany, is the one coming off two seasons with the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Hokies are a team in the ACC where he was just another player, whereas at Manhattan he can possibly be a superstar in the MAAC.
“We were that one moment short this year, the whole season,” Manhattan head coach Jorden Scott said at the end of the last year. “That’s tough to take because it tells you that you’re there. It tells you that you’re good enough. It tells you that you need someone to really step up in that moment, and we just didn’t get it.”
Already the Jaspers are going to be without Andrew Santos, Eugene Heerschap, Jake Scavetta, Reese Akers, Sean Towey and Tommy Amos next season, who are all graduating seniors, including three other departures.
His fascination with the city of Manhattan was a deciding factor when thinking of playing for the Jaspers. He did plan on attending Manhattan regardless once he and his agent in Germany did research on the internet and saw how good the school is in academics and athletics. And he was overwhelmed when he visited the campus during Thanksgiving break.
He said he is aware of the struggles the Jaspers had on offense, and added that his aggressiveness, fast speed, big size and strong play in front of goal can possibly help give the Jaspers some much needed offensive power.
“I talked to a lot of guys on the team and they were telling me that they were most on the side that they should have won a lot of games,” Kirch said, “and the only problem was that they didn’t score goals. And I see a lot of potential in this team especially if we can more dangerous offensively and get maybe another forward or something. I think we can be successful.”
“As disappointed as [the Hokies] were to lose him, we’re even more excited to gain him,” Scott said. “We watched about six games on him in the ACC, and he was dominating at times. Now I don’t want to be too overambitious with this, but if we can get him happy, a little bit more healthy and we get him on the field and playing within those areas where he could be really like a threat. Then, we’ve got a real player on our hands. The type of guy that you get and you think, ‘This kid is going to really take our program to the next level.’”
Scott was not entirely right, and that is not a bad thing. When Hokies head coach Mike Brizendine was asked about what his team would miss most about Kirch, he was surprisingly not all too upset because he evaluated him as “above-average.”
“The number one thing is depth is what we’ll be missing,” Brizendine said. “We had some injured guys last year, and that gave him an opportunity to step in there. Those guys will be back, but if they’re not or they get hurt. It’s always nice to have that kind of player available.”
“Was he our best athlete? No, he wasn’t our best athlete. Was he our best technical? No. I think he was pretty solid in all of those areas. He had a pretty high-standard. He wasn’t the best in all of them but he was above-average in every area.”
The other player the Jaspers brought in is coming off of five years at Carrington grounds with Manchester United.
His interest in Manhattan piqued while in constant contact with current Jasper Joe Hulme, who he knows from back home in England, during the fall. Hulme only had positive things to say about the program.
The incredible part of Shields’ decision to play for the Jaspers is the fact that he had the opportunity to go on and be a professional player but he chose his education instead.
“The most important thing for me was that there was an opportunity to continue to develop as a player whilst a bit older,” Shields said, “and get better on a personal level but also get a good education as a plan B.”
He was described by Scott as a live-wire mid-fielder who is great between the lines, high-energy, sharp on turns, quick on decision-making and quality in ensuring the ball makes its way near the net, which Shields said is something he hopes he can spread among the Jaspers.
“You got to have some sort of diversity between everybody chiming in,” Shields said. “It is difficult to solve and just put all the blame on the strikers because it’s ultimately up to everybody to solve and to come together as a team to create chances and finish them off.”
“The two of them we were really, really, really fortunate to get them,” Scott said. “Absolutely over the moon for the two of them.”