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Soccer coach speaks with players on field

New coach takes over the ‘hidden gem’ of Northeastern men’s soccer

Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

He believes in the formula. It has worked before and it will work again. But how quickly?

That’s the question Rich Weinrebe was asking as he approached his debut season as head coach of men’s soccer at Northeastern.

“I’ve preached a lot about how it’s not going to be perfect,” says Weinrebe, whose Huskies opened the season with a 1-1 tie against the University of Massachusetts on Thursday at Parsons Field. “Even though it’s not going to be perfect, can we make progress every day?”

The idea is to develop a new system while winning games along the way. By season’s end they should be playing their best soccer while contending for the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship.

“On a talent-level basis, I think it’s a realistic goal that we can strive for and achieve,” Weinrebe says of earning the CAA title—and the NCAA invitation that comes with it. “I’ve been in the NCAA Tournament the last five years. Those are really fun. I really want that experience for the seniors here.”

Weinrebe, 36, previously was associate head coach and lead recruiter at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), where he helped develop nine All-Americans and won three conference championships. UNH went 17-2-2 last season before Weinrebe left to replace Chris Gbandi, who left Northeastern to become head coach at the University of Connecticut, his alma mater.

The Huskies were a surprising 11-6-2 last season and reached the CAA semifinals for the first time since 2014. 

“Last year, we were successful by being able to outwork, outrun and just outplay our opponents,” says Jack Monte, a senior defender at Northeastern. “Now we’re learning to play a little bit differently by understanding our opponents and building a game plan based upon tactics and formations and just getting a better understanding from a soccer perspective of how we need to win games.”

The new ideology is to take what the opponent gives you. It’s the hardest style to learn because it demands versatility. 

“Take your chances when they’re there,” says Weinrebe, who helped apply the same system at UNH. “I want our identity to be that we can deal with everything. So if teams are giving us space in behind, we can attack that. If teams are giving us space in front, we’re able to play through that. We’re physically strong and able to deal with those finer details that I think go a really long way.”

Weinrebe grew up playing soccer and baseball in Rhode Island. Even as he was leading UNH to a No. 1 ranking in New England as a two-time captain on the back line, he was realizing that his talent as a player could take him no further.

“How do I stay in the sport?” he asked himself.

He shifted his major from business to sports studies and then, following graduation, Weinrebe spent two seasons on the coaching staff of Southern New Hampshire University. He returned to UNH as an assistant in 2014 with the ultimate goal of running his own program.

“I’ve always looked at this place as a hidden gem,” Weinrebe says of men’s soccer at Northeastern. “It’s such a good school in the heart of one of the better cities in the country. In recruiting we like to bring together a lot of different cultures and areas of the country as well as internationally.”

Weinrebe brought in eight freshmen and five transfers for this season. Their diversity fits right in.

“We have 13 or 14 different flags in our locker room representing the countries that players feel close to,” he says. “So you take all those cultures and experiences and you bring them together, and the guys learn from each other. There’s a good balance between American soccer culture and European soccer culture, depending on where everybody’s from, and it can combine into a strong overall ability level.”

The Huskies will be pushing the tempo as they develop their new style. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Colby Hegarty can feel the culture developing.

“Getting everyone to buy into his philosophies is always hard as a new coach, because that trust in the coaches and in each other isn’t obviously there right away,” Hegarty says. “You have to build that. So I think he’s been doing a good job convincing us to put our trust in him, the coaching staff and each other. If we’re able to do that as a collective, we’ll be successful.”

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