Men’s soccer team promises a great season for UMKC

Dan Moreno

 The time has come for the men’s soccer team to prove its skills.  This year’s squad hopes to bring the title of the Summit League championship back to UMKC.

What’s new for this year’s team?  Nine new players joined the Roos: one goalkeeper, one defender, five midfielders and two forwards.  This means Coach Rick Benben’s team has a lot new to offer on the field.

Junior Diego Figueroa is from Chile, and came from Florida to play for the Roos this year, offering his strength and technique in defense.

“It’s an honor to become part of UMKC,” Figueroa said. “To come and do what I love the most rewards all the efforts and sacrifices of my family, which has always supported me,” he said.

When asked about what fans could expect from him, he said, “I will give it my best to help the team get as far as possible, to win the championship with authority.”

He also talked about his teammates and coaches as his biggest strength for this year’s Summit League, mentioning junior Guerrero Pino as one of the leaders on the team.

“Pino is a great player, I would say he is a leader who has lots to offer; the forwards are very strong and athletic, and we have great goalkeepers,” Figueroa said. “Coach Benben is an amazing person who always believes in us.”

Pino, a civil engineering major, is a returning player. From Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico, central defender is number 22.

“Coach Benben did a great job bringing these players together,” Pino said. “In my opinion, they are all very talented.”

He also talked about the camaraderie in the locker room.

“We all get along very good, everyone here is friends with the rest, but at the same time we know what playing for UMKC means, and we all take it very seriously and give the best of ourselves in order to achieve our goals, which in this case is the championship,” he said.

The biggest strength for the team this season is Benben, who will be coaching his 15th straight season and is the coach with the most wins in school history. He was also induced into the UMKC Athletic Hall of Fame last year for his work.

“The first thing is that we will certainly be competitive, we want to put the team in the highest spot – the sooner the better – but we need time and patience for that,” Benben said.

He also addressed the team’s new players.

“They are great players, that is why they are here,” Benben said. “They will all contribute to our team.”

Benben believes the team’s main strength lies in its returning players.  He mentioned sophomore Michael Oakley, senior David Sarabia, sophomore Jordan Rideout and junior Zach Balthazar. He promised fans to “play an attractive style of soccer, score as many goals as we can, and certainly make watching a game at Durwood as good an experience as watching a game anywhere. We expect to see students filling the stadium.”

Before the playoffs, 18 games will be played, and the best preparation for the team was a long pre-season and training hard on the field and in the gym.

Equally important is to play friendly matches against tough opponents, such as Southern Methodist University and rival Rockhurst University.

Based on performance in the preparation matches, the most notable strengths are the defense – demonstrating strength by recovering every ball and showing confidence in the field -and the players Benben has on the bench, offering many alternatives for substitutions, depending on how each game develops.

Eight of the 18 games will be played at the Durwood Soccer Stadium at UMKC. The Roos need fan support. Attend the games and cheer for the team.

Students don’t need a ticket to attend soccer games. A student ID serves as a ticket, and the game schedule is online at www.umkckangaroos.com, with additional features such as the roster, coaches, pictures, notes and coverage on every game.

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