It wasn’t long after the final game last year, when a disappointing 2-12-3 season had been wrapped. When Manhattan College head men’s soccer coach Jorden Scott assembled his staff, plotted his plan for resurrecting the program, and then took off for distant soccer hotbeds in search of top-shelf talent who just might want to come play at Manhattan.
It was an arduous endeavor, but one that Scott felt was necessary to revive the Jaspers’ program.
“My staff and I just hit the road recruiting,” Scott said. “I hit 52,000 miles on United (Airlines) alone. That doesn’t include my Delta trip to Ghana. We’ve just been beating the streets recruiting. With (assistant coaches) Evan (Prybutok) and Chris (Weeks) we haven’t stopped since last November when the conference ended.
“We just went crazy. Wherever there was a player, we went. If there was a phone call to be made, we made it. Every club we wanted to see, we saw. ”
And all that hard work, it seems, has paid off handsomely for the Jaspers as they knocked off Niagara 1-0 last week to clinch a spot in the upcoming Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament. With one regular-season game remaining this week at Canisius, Manhattan stands with a 9-7 overall mark and an impressive 6-3 ledger in the MAAC.
The six conference wins are not only the most in the Scott Era (since 2013), but also the most MAAC victories by a Jaspers team in 25 years.
Talk about your turnaround seasons.
“We built this new team and we also have a brand new field and a brand new facility with brand new department staff, so we’re really moving forward and it’s exciting,” Scott said. “I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far, but I think there is more to come.”
Last week’s victory over Niagara was sealed when junior Lucas DaSilva scored in the 28th minute off an assist by Callum Carsley, and goalkeeper Marcellin Gohier made it stand up by posting the Jaspers’ eighth shutout of the season, tying a school record set in 1988. In fact, the Jaspers defense has been so stingy this season, they have allowed just 14 goals, and are set to shatter the previous school record of 23 goals allowed in 2014.
Carsley is one of six players on the roster from England, while Gohier is one of four from France. There also is a player from Belgium, Ghana, and noted soccer hotbed Alaska. It appears Scott and his team have left no corner of the world untouched.
“We made good decisions on recruiting kids,” Scott said. “We were able to find good kids, not just good athletes, but good kids. They’re all great with their academics, and they’re all hard-working, and you can see the intensity they bring. They see the hard work is getting results, so they’re willing to do the hard work now to get those results.”
Scott and his staff looked to uncover talent in a variety of countries, including what seemed like half of Europe.
“Evan’s been to Spain twice as well as Denmark, Norway and Sweden,” Scott said. “I’ve been to England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany and Ghana twice. We’ve also been all over America. We’re looking at South America now, and hopefully we have two kids coming in this spring from Chile. We just took the whole program global.”
The one element Scott was concerned about coming into the season was how would the chemistry be among players from different countries. Turns out he needn’t have worried.
“The Americans are very disciplined and the guys from Europe are all football-heads, so when you put them together, they are a very balanced group,” Scott said. “What’s happened here has been tremendous.”
From a two-win program a year ago to one with some international flavor and a real shot at a MAAC tournament crown. Yes, it’s been a crazy ride for the Jaspers this season.
“This is a really special thing to be going to the playoffs,” said Da Silva, whose seven goals lead Manhattan. “I’m really excited to be part of it.”
But none more excited than Troy Carrington, a senior who has seen the lows — and now the highs — of the Jaspers’ program.
“It feels amazing, to be honest,” Carrington said. “We went to the tournament a couple of years back and that was a great experience. But to be back in it now and having a chance at winning it, it’s awesome. It’s amazing. The guys have all been working hard, so we deserve it.”
And when the MAAC tournament kicks off next week, can the Jaspers make a run at the title?
“Oh yeah, this team can beat anybody. We haven’t played anyone we can’t beat. All the boys want to play (top-seeded) Rider,” Scott said of the team Manhattan lost to in double-overtime Oct. 11. “I think we can compete with anybody. I’m so looking forward to it.”