Cal Poly defeated Northern Illinois 4-1 on Friday night. | Mustang News File Photo

Mustang News Staff Report

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Average by definition means common, typical and ordinary — all of which do not seem to be in the Cal Poly men’s soccer team’s vocabulary. With eight returning starters and a whole lot of fresh faces, the team’s first scrimmage looked strong.

The practice did not seem shadowed by the absence of former head coach Paul Holocher, who resigned two days before practices started to become the Director of Development for Maui United Soccer Club.

“The news obviously comes as a shock, but it doesn’t change what we’re trying to do,” said interim head coach Phil Ruskin, who spent the last two years as an assistant under Holocher.

Over the past eight seasons, the team has gone 72-60-25 with Holocher at the helm. Cal Poly brings back 11 letter winners from the 2013 squad that finished 9th nationally in goals scored, averaging a little over two goals scored per match.

“At the end of the day, we really want to put a good product on the field, and certainly we feel as if we have some talent returning and some talent that we’ll be adding to our group this year,” Ruskin said.

The team does not lack experience despite having only one senior on the roster, midfielder Steve Palacios. He will be joined in the midfield by junior Matt LeGrassa, a staple in the center of the pitch since he debuted in 2012.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Mustangs bring back three starters: juniors Ruben Duran, Kody Wakasa and Kip Colvey. Duran is currently recovering from major knee surgery, but Ruskin expects him to be ready for the season-opener.

The Mustangs have reinvented their style in the last few years, modeling their offense after the Tiki Taka style of Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona. After the departure of Holocher, the implementor of this new attack, some are concerned the Mustangs’ attacking prowess will suffer.

“I think it’s been a staple in our program these last couple of years,” Ruskin said. “We want to continue to rotate the ball and continue to play attractive soccer, and certainly, we want to finish our chances at goal. We believe that by playing out of the back and in the midfield that we’ll ultimately be able to play an attacking style that produces quality chances.”

The Mustangs open the season with a friendly at California on Aug. 23, and they have their first game at home in Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Sept. 9 against Northern Illinois.

Julian Del Gaudio and Nick Larson contributed to this report. 

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1 Comment

  1. I’m sure there is more to this resignation story. A D1 coach does not resign two days before the start of training, to take what I assume is a lower paid job, for no reason. ???

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