After last year’s disappointing 5-9-3 season, the UMKC men’s soccer team is looking to bounce back. Coach Rick Benben described last season as a “rebuilding year.”
Things seem to be looking up for the Roos this season. The team has been estimated to finish the season in 2nd place, according to the Summit League coaches poll. Success is expected from this year’s team partially due to the talent of sophomore forward Jordan Rideout and senior forward David Sarabia.
Rideout, who made first team on All-Summit League Team and won the Summit League Newcomer of Year Award, is expected to have an even stronger season than the last. A native of England, Rideout, who moved to America at age 10, is humble about his achievements.
“It’s obviously a pretty great accomplishment, but I feel like it’s more of a team effort to get to there,” Rideout said. “I couldn’t have did what I did without the players around me giving me crosses, assists and keeping me up for games. My captains, my coaches, this was team thing more than just something for myself. But it felt pretty good to get newcomer of the year.”
The primary job of any player in the forward position in soccer is to score. Rideout saw success in this position last season, scoring seven goals while leading the team in scoring.
“I always strive to be the leading scorer,” Rideout said. “That’s my goal to score the most. I thought it was good accomplishment but there is always room for improvement. I’m more worried about the ones that I missed.”
At age 19, Rideout has spent half of his life in America and the other half in Europe. However, he noted there are differences between playing soccer in the U.S. and in Europe.
“I’ve only played a couple times over in Europe,” he said. “But the pace is completely different in England. It’s a lot more of a physical game. The boys are bigger and stronger. But American soccer is becoming a lot like it now. It’s getting bigger and I feel like it could be there one day.”
Despite his personal success, Rideout has always heeded Benben’s advice of putting the team first.
“Personally, I want to set the record for goals in a season,” Rideout said. “But I’m more worried about the team than personal goals. Obviously we want to win the Summit League, and maybe even a game in the first or second round of the NCAA tournament.”
Another factor for the Roos’ projected success this season is veteran player Sarabia. At age 21, Sarabia is entering his final season for the Roos and is prepared to finish strong with a solid career as a four-year starter.
Sarabia has endured many experiences on the men’s soccer team during his career, including the rebuilding stages and being hailed as a champion during the 2010 season when the team went 10-5-3 and won the Summit League regular season title. Sarabia has remained a prominent scorer while playing for UMKC, and is currently tied for 11th all-time in career goals, despite a temporary change to goalkeeper last season.
“We graduated our senior goalkeeper two years ago,” Sarabia said. “Coach basically wanted me to see if I still had the ability to play in the goal again. After not training (in that position) you start getting rusty and not used to it and all that.”
After a few games, Sarabia switched back to forward, which he has played for most of his college career. Even though he only scored two goals last season, they were both game winners, and placed him as the active career leader in game-winning goals with seven.
“It feels great actually [to be the leader in active goals],” Sarabia said. “I have to keep working to improve upon that.” The key to Sarabia’s clutch factor was summed up by him as, “Being at the right spot, at the right moment.”
As a veteran, Sarabia emphasized the importance of the “team first” mentality, which Benben instills into each player. When asked about cracking the UMKC top 10 in career goals, he answered quickly but switched the subject back to the team.
“At least top 10 for sure,” Sarabia said. “But I’m more worried about the team and us doing better on the field than anything else. Winning our conference tournament, and hopefully advancing a couple stages in the NCAA Tournament [are the goals for the season].”
With a roster sporting a mix of young and experienced players, a coach entering his 15th season and two talented forwards leading the offense, this season has potential to be one of the Roos’ best.