It’s all about the Clan at midfield
Polisi and Jones siblings add ‘natural’ chemistry to Simon Fraser University’s title hopes
SFU Clan coach Clint Schneider shouldn’t have to worry too much about chemistry in the midfield with his men’s soccer team. He has plenty built in.
Matteo Polisi was one of the prized freshman recruits for the Burnaby Mountain side this off-season following a couple of campaigns with the Portland Timbers residency program. The Coquitlam native joins an SFU midfield contingent that includes his older brother Marcello, a redshirt freshman who missed last year due to injury, as well as another set of siblings from Coquitlam, Adam and Kyle Jones, a senior and a junior, respectively.
SFU, which opens the season Thursday with a visit to its Terry Fox Field (7 p.m.) from North Dakota’s University of Mary, was ranked No. 13 in NCAA Division 2 in the United Soccer Coaches pre-season poll.
Clan players and staff are all openly talking about national championship aspirations, though. They were ranked No. 3 in the country last November when they were upset 4-3 in penalty kicks by Cal Poly Pomona in the second round of a West Regional tournament following a scoreless draw through 110 minutes. SFU wound up the campaign 14-1-3.
“It’s a deeper squad,” said Schneider, pointing to the fact that he has 20 players he feels comfortable with this season compared to 14 or so a year ago.
“Right now, it’s about making sure the older guys do their jobs of creating a culture. You have to create a buy-in to make sure the young guys embrace what we’re trying to do collectively. You have to do it every year, because there’s turnover at this (university) level.
“You have to have strong leaders in the group and guys at the very top who understand that through culture they’re building into the future of the team.
“Having the brothers, we hope, makes a big difference. We hope it’s way more natural. We hope it just happens organically.”
SFU should be strong out of the middle of pitch with junior Mama- di Camara, a 2016 Great Northwest Athletic Conference first-team all-conference player, among those joining the brothers in the SFU midfield rotation.
Schneider explained: “I believe that we have a midfield group that is as good as anyone in the country regardless of division or association. They can all defend, go forward and play a variety of different ways.”
Kyle Jones and Matteo Polisi both admitted to considering other schools before committing to SFU. Following big brother wasn’t a slam dunk.
“You look around, but it’s another something that helps brings you here,” Matteo said. “It’s another piece. Playing with your brother … everyone would like to do that.”
Kyle added: “You shop around a little bit, but staying closer to home is a comfort and it helps that the program is well run here and it suits our style of play.”
Schneider said that he’ll likely avoid having the brothers room together on road trips and Adam Jones maintains that if the siblings spend too much time together, “the guys and the coaching staff will make sure there’s a little bit of banter about it.”
“The entire group is pretty cohesive, though,” Adam said. “It’s not like you spend an exorbitant amount of time with just one guy. You mix in with everyone.”
Added Marcello Polisi: “We all get along. I think it makes it easier to want to come to training and that translates to games. Everyone is on the same page, everyone is pulling for one another.”
Adam Jones was named the 2016 GNAC offensive player of the year and a GNAC first-team all-conference selection after leading the con- ference in points (29) and assists (nine), while also topping SFU in goals (10).
SFU has been to the national final four twice, in 2012 and 2013, since joining the NCAA in 2010. The Clan posted an unbeaten season in 2011, but were ineligible for post-season play that year since they were still transitioning from the NAIA.
Having a pair of brothers in Kyle Jones and Adam Jones as well as Marcello Polisi and Matteo Polisi could make a ‘big difference’ for the SFU Clan as they kick off the NCAA Division 2 season.