GALESBURG—Carl Sandburg College has reshaped and restarted its men’s soccer program. After the team took last season off, the Chargers have a new coach and a roster that includes players from four states and two continents.
“We have a lot of talent,” first-year coach Allen Eskridge said. “We have a lot of kids who’ve been playing soccer their whole lives and probably have the opportunity to go on and play at four-year schools next year.”
Eskridge was hired in February and has nearly 20 years of playing and coaching experience. He was an academic All-American in 2007 at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga., where in 2008 he helped the Scots earn a No. 23 NAIA ranking and win the Appalachian Athletic Conference Region XII championship.
Eskridge served as the goalkeeping coach for the advanced camps at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and spent time as an assistant for the men’s soccer team at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala., where his father, David, is an assistant coach.
Sophomore Connor Benson, the lone holdover from the Chargers’ most recent team, is one of three captains for this year’s squad. Benson ran for Sandburg’s men’s cross country team last fall.
“He’s finally able to play soccer after paying his dues last year, and he’s been the team leader from the beginning,” Eskridge said. “When I first started, he was the only name I had. I turned to him for a lot of things, and he’s done a great job.”
The team’s other two captains are sophomore Oscar Narvaez, a transfer from Wallace State, and sophomore Kevin Aka, who had three goals and two assists in 18 games last season while playing for Illinois Central College.
“My expectation is for us to compete for our division within our region,” Eskridge said. “I think we’ve got a good chance of winning the regular season side of our region and hopefully making a good run in the playoffs.”
The Chargers begin their season at 6 p.m. Friday at Monmouth College JV, and their first home match is 3 p.m. Aug. 29 against Scott Community College. All of Sandburg’s home matches will be played at the Knox County YMCA.
“My principal goal is to make sure I have kids here for the right reasons,” Eskridge said. “To get a quality education, go to class and get good grades, be the most respectful of everyone here. I want to make sure that whenever people see them walking down the halls that they realize our men’s soccer team is going to have the most upstanding citizens in the community.”
Members of the 2012 Carl Sandburg College men’s soccer team are: Kevin Aka, Chino Ayala, Gerardo Ayala, Connor Benson, Matt Connors, David Flores, Manfred Gonzalez, Brenden Guthrie, Collin Jeffcoat, Yann Kadeba, Joel Kouakou, John Fletcher Molchin, Oscar Narvaez, Dean Nyman, Sebastian Ramirez, Mario Romero, Gustavo Sarmiento, Zac Ziemba.
2012 Carl Sandburg College men’s soccer schedule: