Eighth-ranked Anoka-Ramsey Golden Rams men’s soccer program has grown a lot in four seasons.
The team is coming off a 10-2-3 overall record and 5-0-1 in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference’s Southern Division was within one win of reaching the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III National Tournament before losing to a club from the Chicago, Ill.-area after being ranked as high as fourth in the nation.
The Golden Rams won three-straight Region XIII Championships from 2009-11 and had the region Player of the Year in the same seasons.
Anoka-Ramsey lost most of its offensive output but return with an even more international flavor (16 or 31 from outside the United States) mixed in with local talent.
“It’s a fun mix of guys,” Coach Brady Eichhorn-Hicks said. Joining him on the staff is assistant coach Gordon Ferguson and goalkeeper coach Ryan Manning. Manning took over head coaching duties of the Spring Lake Park High School boys’ team.
Eichhorn-Hicks believes this squad not only can equal the 2012 squad but surpass its success.
“As a team we’re much better,” he said, pointing to the possession-style of play that will help the Golden Rams dictate play and hopefully more wins.”
The coach said the biggest challenge for team is in replacing the goal scoring from last season not only from Region XIII Player of the Year Atanas Karagyaurov and Jelani Jillo. The pair now play at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas as the NAIA level. Karagyaurov has one goal and assist in four starts over 10 games. Jillo has two assists in seven starts.
The team returns both centerbacks in Anoka graduate Joey Gustafson and Aron Chapman (Birmingham, England) a long with outside fullbacks Marcelo Torrealba (Sao Paulo, Brazil) and Legacy Christian graduate Kevin Plaisance.
Gustafson and Chapman are captains along with midfielder Frank Zeon (Osseo graduate, native of Abijan, Ivory Coast) and sophomore goalkeeper Dave Smith (Launceston, Australia).
Eichhorn-Hicks said the recruiting piece of coaching at the collegiate level has improved given the success of the program since its inception. “It’s a more simple process now,” he said. “We have the same number of local players but the talent level is higher and we’ve had a lot more out-of-state players join us. It’s both an opportunity and a chance for those guys who want to go to a four-year school to continue to play at a high-level.”
Zeon said picking up the pace of the game from high school to college is something that takes some time to learn.
“I think we’ve got the nerves out and now we’re playing as a team,” the midfielder said, watching practice from the sideline with a groin injury.
While a handful of players come from area programs like Champlin Park, Coon Rapids, Anoka and Osseo, a growing number come from other countries.
“They do the same stuff we do. They like the same type of music and we hangout and chill,” Zeon said.
The Rams are 8-1-1 and improved one position in the national rankings to a season-high eighth in the latest NJCAA poll.
They’re averaging 3.7 goals per game while conceding 1.20 goals against each game and have one regular-season home match left on the schedule against Century College Oct. 4.
Over the last eight matches, Anoka-Ramsey has come away with seven wins and one tie
leading up to a Sept. 25 game at Riverland Community College in Austin.
The lone tie was a 3-3 draw against growing rival Dakota County Technical College Sept. 18.
Plaisance scored the lone goal in the 80th minute in a 1-0 non-conference win against the College of St. Scholastica’s reserves team Sept. 22. Golden Rams keeper Tom Chesterman made five saves in his first game of the season.
First year defender Adam Creaney, a Northhampton, England native has seven goals and one assist in 10 games. He scored twice and added an assist in a 7-0 win over Scott Community College Sept. 1. He also scored in the draw against DCTC.
Freshman Ramadan Hassan (Champlin Park graduate) has 5 goals and 2 assists for 12 points with one game winner.
Freshman midfileder Jamie Collins (Jedburgh, Scotland) has a team-high 7 assists and 30 shots on goal.
Sophomore goalkeeper Dave Smith has 35 saves with a 1.74 goals against average with a 8-1-1 record in eight starts.
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