Men’s Soccer Features Multiple Internationally-Seasoned Stars
International experience is hard to come by at the collegiate level, with players typically staying domestic when it comes to training. That won’t be the case for Penn State in 2015, as Head Coach Bob Warming’s roster is full of players whose experience spans across the globe.
Warming spoke at length about the abundance of international experience shared by his players, specifically redshirt senior goalkeeper Matt Bersano, junior forward Connor Maloney, and redshirt junior defender Nate Lee.
“Nate [Lee] has been with the Guam National Team — which hit a new high in the FIFA World Rankings in July, sitting at No. 154 — in World Cup qualifiers flying across the globe to the Pacific Rim for some international competition, which is pretty darn special,” Warming said. “Not only that, but he’s been playing on that team with his two other brothers. That’s three brothers on the same National Team.”
Aside from the fact that Lee was able to share the once-in-a-lifetime experience with his brothers, traveling to the Pacific Rim and being able to compete at a higher level of competition is essential not only to the growth of Lee’s own game, but adds a new element of experience to the entire team. While competing with Guam — also referred to as the Matao — Lee faced the likes of India and Turkmenistan; not necessarily international powerhouses, but competitive teams nonetheless.
Forward Connor Maloney, who led the team with 10 goals during the 2014 season, shared a similar experience competing with the United States U23 National team — the same team that will feature key players for the United States National Team when it competes in Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
“Connor was in Carson, in August with the top players from that age group,” Warming said. “During his time with the team, he performed incredibly well and brought with him crucial experience that he can share with the entire team.
The final internationally trained player is a newcomer to the program in redshirt senior Matt Bersano, who transferred to Happy Valley from Oregon State for his final season of eligibility.
“Matt [Bersano], from the time he graduated in December, spent all of January, February, March, and April being productive with his time.” Warming said. “He wasn’t just messing around, he trained with professional teams like Sporting Kansas City of the MLS for six weeks, and spent an additional month near Valencia, Spain training with four separate professional clubs.”
Bersano elaborated on his experiences training in Spain, discussing how the actual opportunity presented itself.
“It kind of just came out when I was playing with my last university, some important people had seen me play on the Pac-12 Network,” Bersano said. “When you get those big TV games, things just open up, even internationally. I had a friend of a friend help me set things up, and we were able to do everything and still abide by the NCAA eligibility rules, which was the most important part because I had to come back and be a part of this university and this team.”
Bersano’s experiences competing around the Valencia area will be vital to Penn State moving forward, given the rather large void Bersano is expected to fill. The Nittany Lions are moving on from goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton, who graduated last year and holds numerous school records. While Wolverton looks to make it at the professional level with the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS, Bersano will be looked upon to step up and replace Wolverton, ensuring the Nittany Lions don’t skip a beat — especially on the back line.
Bob Warming’s roster is undoubtedly talented, but if the team wants to capitalize off the successes enjoyed last season and springboard to greater heights, it’ll need all three aforementioned players to serve vital roles. Past experience is always beneficial, but when it comes at the international level, it’s especially favorable.
These three players have been fortunate enough to see the world, but now, they’re ready to take what they’ve learned and improve their own team as a result.