No program at the University of Dayton leans on international talent more than the Dayton Flyers men’s soccer team.
Practice started Tuesday for the 2018-19 team, which features 11 foreign-born players from 10 countries. That’s not unusual for coach Dennis Currier’s program. In the last four seasons, counting this one, players from 17 different countries have worn the Dayton uniform.
“Years ago, there wasn’t much competition over there,” Currier said. “If you look across the board at the teams in the Final Four and Elite Eight, international recruiting is very big now in Division I.”
When he can, Currier travels to see potential recruits in action. In his first 13 seasons as head coach, recruiting trips have taken him to Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Ghana, Spain, Germany, Sweden and Chile to name a few.
“You don’t get to see all of them,” he said. “You learn about soccer pyramids. If a guy is playing in the top youth league in Spain, they’re playing at a very good level. You already have some indication once you get their information of what level they’re playing at. That helps you take a pool of 5,000 kids and take your pool down to 200 guys.”
Dayton plays an exhibition game Saturday at Bowling Green and plays another at home against Ohio State on Aug. 18 before opening the season at Ohio State’s tournament Aug. 24 against Hofstra. Here are five things to know about the team:
1. Scoring potential: Dayton’s three leading scorers last season came from other countries. One of them returns: Slovenia’s Rok Taneski, who led the Flyers with 10 goals.
Alvaro Navarro, who had eight goals and tied Taneski for the team lead with seven assists, returned to his native Spain after signing with a pro team there. Thor Helgason, who scored eight goals as a freshman last season, was homesick and returned to Iceland.
“Those are two big holes to patch up,” Currier said, “but we’ve got some young guys that did well in the spring. Hopefully, they can fill some shoes.”
The Flyers ranked second in the Atlantic 10 Conference and tied for 13th in the country with 2.05 goals per game.
2. Bigger roles: Currier named sophomore midfielder Trey Marchino and sophomore forward Wariebi Jituboh as two of the most improved players in the spring. Both are from Texas. Junior forward Ivan Arnaldo, of Spain, is another player to watch.
Jituboh started two games last season. Marchino started one. Arnaldo appeared in seven games. All three players fewer than 300 minutes. The full-time starters played more than 1,200 minutes.
“We’re going to be looking for them to be doing some bigger things as they come back for the fall,” Currier said. “They’re good, young players going through a developmental stage.”
3. Freshman class: Dayton has 13 freshmen on the roster. Two players with a chance to contribute right away, Currier said, are forward Andrew Cross, of Evansville, Ind., and midfielder Jake Donaldson, of Peachtree City, Ga.
Cross was a two-time National Soccer Coaches Association of American Indiana Player of the Year. He scored 95 goals in his high school career. Donaldson was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Georgia last fall.
4. Goalkeeper returns: Federico Barrios, a Colombian who started 13 games last season as a sophomore, will be the go-to guy at goalie again this season.
“He played some summer ball with the Dayton Dutch Lions and had a good summer with them,” Currier said.
5. Better start: The Flyers finished 9-8-2 overall and 6-2 in the Atlantic 10 last season. They got off to a 2-4-2 start. The previous season, they started 2-5-1 and finished 8-9-3.
“Ultimately, if we can get out of the gates a little quicker and get a better start, that will be the key,” Currier said.