FORT MYERS, Fla. – Coming off a record fourth-straight Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season title, the FGCU men’s soccer team will kick off its preparations for the 2014 campaign when the spring schedule gets underway Sunday, Feb. 2, against MLS member Chicago Fire and continues through the middle of March with four additional friendly matches set against another MLS team, a Canadian University, a semi-pro club and the Under-17 U.S. National Team.
In addition to the Fire and U-17 national squad, FGCU will match up against the University of Victoria (Feb. 11, 7 p.m.), the defending MLS Cup Champion Sporting Kansas City (Feb. 22, 11 a.m.) and North American Soccer League member Tampa Bay Rowdies (Mar. 15).
The Eagles will take on the Fire at Ave Maria’s North Park beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday, and the friendly will be video streamed on Chicago-Fire.com and by following the link at the top right of this release. The Green and Blue will then host the University of Victoria at the FGCU Soccer Complex before traveling to Orlando to square off versus Sporting KC.
The Under-17 U.S. National Team comes to the FGCU Soccer Complex to play a friendly under the lights on Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. The Eagles then wrap up their spring slate by traveling to St. Petersburg to take on the Rowdies at a time to-be-determined.
“The spring season/preseason is extremely important to us because it serves as the unofficial start to the 2014 season,” head coach Bob Butehorn said. “Every year we try and get experience against several different styles of play, and we’re fortunate to have accomplished that again this spring with great friendlies against professional, national and international opponents.”
The friendly against the Chicago Fire marks the fourth straight year the two clubs have met. The Fire beat FGCU last January, 2-0, in three 30-minute periods, but three years ago – the first time the two clubs met in 2011 – the match ended in a 2-2 draw. Chicago finished last year 14-13-7, but missed out on the playoffs due to a second tiebreaker to Montreal. After the season ended, the club’s forward Mike Magee was the named the MLS Most Valuable Player.
FGCU assistant coach Alec Dufty was a goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire during the 2011 season, signing a contract with the club on Mar. 1, 2011, after training with the team all preseason, including its visit to Ave Maria.
The University of Victoria – located in western Canada – has a rich history which includes five CIS national championships, including one in 2011. The team is a member of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the highest level of play at the university level in Canada. The Vikes finished the 2013 season with an 11-5-1 record and were 6th in the Canada West Ranking.
Sporting KC won the MLS Cup in December after an epic 10-round penalty kick shootout against Real Salt Lake. KC returns 10 starters from that team, and five players were named to the U.S. Men’s National Team roster – the most of any MLS club.
The U.S. U-17 National Team has faced FGCU a few times in the past, including last year. Many players are only 1 or 2 years apart from members of the Eagles, giving a good indication of the value of a strong college schedule and the ability to play professional teams.
Rounding out the 2014 spring schedule is a match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The NASL franchise went 15-15-8 last year and finished third in the league standings. The two teams also faced one another in 2012.
The Eagles became the first program in A-Sun history to win four straight regular-season championships this past fall courtesy of a 6-1-1 league record. The Green and Blue has a 28-3-2 record in A-Sun games since the start of the 2010 season. All three of its conference losses have come on the road, and out of a possible 99 points that could have been earned in that time, the Eagles have claimed an impressive 86 of them (86.9 percent).
After starting the season 0-5-1, the young Eagles – who do not have a senior on the roster – went 8-1-1 over their final 10 regular-season games. During that span FGCU out-scored its opponents 14-6, including 12-4 in A-Sun action.
Isaiah Madrid (Albuquerque, N.M./El Dorado HS) was named the A-Sun Freshman of the Year, highlighting a list of seven Eagles who garnered A-Sun honors in 2013. Madrid finished the regular season tied for 5th in the A-Sun with 11 points on four goals and three assists. In total, three Eagles landed on the A-Sun First Team, two were on the Second Team and two more, including Madrid, finished on the All-Freshman Team.
Admission to each friendly is free of charge. For the latest information on FGCU men’s soccer, follow us on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer.