The Francis Marion University men's soccer team and first-year head coach Luis Rincon will open the 2019 season on Thursday (Sept. 5) with a road match at Erskine College. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.
The Patriots' fall schedule lists 17 matches including eight home contests. FMU will play at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sunday (Sept. 8), before returning home to play its home opener on Saturday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. against Queens University of Charlotte.
Rincon, who took over the Patriot coaching reins this spring, came to Francis Marion after four seasons at NCAA Division II Ohio Valley University where he compiled a 55-23-7 record and earned a pair of national tournament bids.
He inherits nine returnees, including four starters, from last season's 9-7-0 squad that tied for third during the Peach Belt Conference regular season and then reached the semifinals of the PBC Tournament. He brought in 16 newcomers: four freshmen and 12 transfers.
"One of our strengths in 2019 will be our team chemistry and the diversity of our roster," Rincon said. "We have players from all over the map and they will bring in experience from their different areas. We were looking to add older and more mature players and have been successful in that endeavor. Coming into camp, we knew it would be a process to mesh everyone together, but the players have responded and are on the right track. I am very pleased with the returners, who have a step up on the rest of the squad, and the newcomers have the right mentality that we want to have in our program.
"I have enjoyed the preseason and have been pleased with the results. We have good facilities to work with at FMU and are well supported by the athletic department.
"The returning players have the experience of last season and they know and understand the conference. They have been good leaders during this 2019 preseason. We have had nearly four weeks to work with the new players and are very pleased with their effort.
"For us to be successful this year, we must have structure and be well organized. We emphasize work ethic and how we train every moment of practice and how we approach games."
The Patriot returnees are led by sophomores Sam Pollard and Sidney Warden, who were recently named to the Peach Belt 2019 pre-season All-Conference Team. Pollard started all 16 matches in the midfield for the Patriots as a freshman and garnered second-team All-Conference recognition. He was third on the team in scoring (12 points) and led the squad with six assists. Warden started 10 contests and shared the team lead and was tied for fifth in the PBC with six goals last year and was tied for ninth in the PBC with 13 points.
Other returning starters include sophomore midfielder Oliver Peters and sophomore defender Magnus Hoejland. The Patriot defense improved its goal against average from 2.10 in 2017 to 1.62 last season, while also cutting the number of shots allowed by nearly 100.
The battle for the starting goalkeeper position has been very competitive and is still undecided, and likely will go down to the final day of practice according to Rincon. Senior Blaize McGinnis returns for his third year with the Patriots, while juniors Yosimar Huerta and Maximiliano Rocco join the FMU program after transferring from Western Texas College and ASA College-Miami respectively.
When asked what fans would see from his squad this year, Rincon responded, "We will play good futbol. We will possess the ball and look for quick transitions, will be very dynamic and technical, but mostly we want to respect the game of soccer both on and off the field."
The PBC Tournament will begin on Nov. 12, with the semifinals on Nov. 15 and the finals set for Nov. 17 in Evans, Ga. FMU was tabbed to finish fourth in the 2019 Peach Belt preseason coaches' poll.
The Patriots are 4-1-1 in their last six season openers.