After a season where all of the Huskies’ losses came by a one-goal margin—including their first-round Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament loss to Hofstra University, head coach Chris Gbandi hopes that the memory of such close losses will motivate the team in the upcoming season.
“I think some of the key lessons is trying to find a way to finish,” said Gbandi, who is entering his fourth year as head coach of the Northeastern men’s soccer team. “The fact that we were experiencing all those close losses, that’ll only help us this season. Now is just an opportunity for us to finish some of these games and hopefully we’ll turn some of those one-goal games to our advantage.”
The Huskies graduated six seniors off of their 2018 team, three of whom had earned All-CAA honors at the end of the year. This means Gbandi will be looking down the roster for younger players to step into big roles, but he said the mixture of youth and dynamism can fill the void left by the lack of veteran presence.
“We’re young and dynamic,” Gbandi said. “A lot of times, we think guys being young is a disadvantage, but with this group, being young is a huge advantage, because these guys have already played a lot and have that experience of playing those close games.”
Gbandi has the help of standout sophomore forward Ryan Massoud, who led the team in scoring last year with five goals and an assist, and sophomore goalkeeper Chandler Cree, who was the third-best goalkeeper in the CAA last year, based on his average goals allowed.
Last year was the Huskies’ first tournament berth since 2014. Gbandi hopes Massoud, Cree, and other young players can propel them not only into the tournament but put them in the position to upset the powerhouse teams, namely James Madison, ranked No. 17 in the country.
“It’s important for us as a group to figure out a way to not only barely squeak into the playoffs but find a way to be in the top half of the playoffs,” Gbandi said. “Our conference is tough and we have a lot of work to get there, but our guys are excited to compete against some of the top teams in the country, like James Madison. We have them at home this year, so we’re looking forward to that.”
The Huskies kick off their season at Parson’s Field against the University of Massachusetts, Amherst at 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30.