Final Third On The MAAC Pitch: State of Manhattan with Alex Shackley

This is a bi-weekly column that takes a look at all of the MAAC men’s soccer teams throughout the course of the season and off-season.

Disclaimer: This interview was conducted prior to the start of the ‘15 MAAC men’s soccer season.

If there ever was to be a definition for how ‘14 was for Manhattan College last season. Look no further than the second to last “Back of the Net” column “Season Meanings.” Its opening read as follows:

The Manhattan Jaspers found themselves looking up at every other school in the MAAC after failing to win 12 straight games from early September to late October. … To this point in the season, the offense was inconsistent. They went through a 587-minute goalless streak in a span of six games and followed that up with only three goals in the five games leading up to Niagara. … Throughout the entire season, Scott’s message was about how all it took for either team playing on the soccer field was one mistake, one moment of brilliance, one horrific decision.

Three games into ‘15, Manhattan is off to an 0-3 start. “The Quadrangle” recently conducted a conference call interview with one of the team’s midfielders, Alex Shackley, to discuss the state of the squad going forward.

Alex Shackley (above right) looking unhappy with how the last game of the '14 season against Iona was going . Photo taken by Jon Reyes.
Alex Shackley (above right) looking unhappy with how the last game of the ’14 season against Iona was going . Photo taken by Jon Reyes.

The Quadrangle: Coach [Jorden Scott] said at the end of last season, “We were that one moment short this year, the whole season. 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.” What do you think about what he said?

Alex Shackley: I thought we played well for a lot of the season, actually, which is hard to believe because we ended up last in the conference. We created plenty of chances all season long, and just never really took them. We missed that finishing touch upfront pretty much all season, which is unfortunate but it happens. Since it was so many games in such a short amount of time, it’s hard to get things going. Once we hit a bad patch, we just couldn’t get out of it. We didn’t play bad as a team though.

TQ: What’s going to be the difference this season?

AS: We’re still trying to gel as a team, at the moment. We’ve got a lot of new players, so we’re working on that. But we’ve definitely added a lot of speed and athleticism upfront, just to give us that extra edge going forward. At times, we try to play a little bit too pass heavy and don’t go as direct when we need to. With who we brought on, maybe we can catch some teams off guard. That’ll be good for us.

TQ: As you mentioned, a lot of new players are on this roster. How have they fit in, in terms of their play on the pitch?

AS: We have a bit of a new look attacking-wise, at the moment. It’s just some new guys trying to gel. In our mid-field, we’ve got a couple more guys thrown into the mix. It’s been good in practice because it’s added a lot of good competition for places and working hard every single day to keep their spot on the team. We look a lot stronger and deeper as a squad now.

TQ: How key is it to have a few more home games on the schedule, including a balance between being home and away?

AS: It’s really important. Coach aimed to give us a schedule this season where we got to play more at home just because he wanted to really develop a mentality that we need to win every single game at home, especially in the out of conference schedule. We want to make Gaelic Park a fortress. We really just want to get as many points as we can in the MAAC when we play at home, and hopefully when we’re on the road we can get a point here or there. It’s just more comfortable for the guys. Don’t have to travel, worry about missing class and things like that. It’s just a lot easier and Gaelic Park is a unique field too — a lot of teams struggle when they come here, so it’s nice if we can get that upper hand.

TQ: Do you recall how the team found success at home in ‘13 but none in ‘14? What did or didn’t change?

AS: To be honest, I don’t really think it had too much to do with anything. I just think last year we just struggled upfront and a poor run of form, and that just made things difficult and effected our home and away form, all together. The year before, we gelled really well as a team. We’re trying to get that back this year. That connection that we had.

TQ: What will help bring the team together?

AS: So far during preseason, we’ve had team bonding sessions. We’ve been hanging out a lot more as a team, acting more as a family, spending time with one another every single day. It’s definitely helped and it’s going to help this season because you need to know on the field where that partner is going to be on the field. Last year there was a little bit of a disconnect between the newer, younger players and the older guys, as there is at every program. But this year we’ve really tried to step it up.

TQ: How does it feel being one of the elder statesmen, and it being your last year as both a student and athlete?

AS: These guys are my best friends at school. It’s going to be an emotional year when it comes down to it at the end. We just need to start off strong and keep that going through the season.

TQ: Everyone in the MAAC qualifies for the tournament this season. Thoughts?

AS: Our mindset is to finish as high up in the table as possible because we want a good seed for the playoffs. It’s really important that we do have a solid season. At the same time, coach has really been stressing that he’s going to be rotating the squad a little bit more. He hasn’t said too much other than that he wants to focus on the now, he doesn’t want to look too far forward.