The Charlotte 49ers named Kevin Langan their men’s soccer coach on Jan. 3. He’s got quite an act to follow: Before leaving for Stanford, Jeremy Gunn -- Langan’s predecessor -- took the 49ers to the finals of the College Cup last season, losing 1-0 to North Carolina.
This is the first head-coaching collegiate job for Langan, who was an assistant under Gunn for three seasons. He answered five questions from The Observer’s David Scott earlier this week:
Q. What have the first three months on the job been like for you?
“I took over the second-best program in the country for my first head-coaching job, which is pretty remarkable. The soccer part of the job – the on-field stuff, recruiting and scheduling -- I’m familiar and happy with. The other stuff – like public speaking and the budget – you can train a monkey to do. I’ll figure that out as I go along.”
Q. How has the public perception of the program changed since the College Cup?
“Expectations from the outside will change. There’s a bit more respect out there. More people are looking to see what we’re doing now. We’re one of the bigger boys in college soccer now, not one of the underdogs any more. We’ve done a lot of work this spring clarifying with the team what has made us successful. We don’t want to be a one-off successful program.”
Q. Will your recruiting strategy be the same as Gunn’s – which includes targeting under-the-radar players in the Charlotte area?
“Yes. We take pride here in not going after the players who are well-publicized, the top-five class guys. We don’t get caught up in the rumor mill and the over-inflated opinions of others. We’ve recently had a first-team All-American (Charles Rodriguez), two freshman All-Americans (Giuseppe Gentile and Tyler Gibson) and the national freshman of the year (Gentile). We know what we’re looking for. Before Jeremy got here, the best players in Charlotte didn’t stay here. Now they are.”
Q. How tough will it be to replace the three starters you lose from last season (Rodriguez and Isaac Cowles and forward Evan James) -- especially their leadership?
“We’ve got guys like Gibson, Aidan Kirkbride and Owen Darby who will step up. They’ve got to say, ‘It’s on us, now.’ It’s the natural evolution of any four-year program. Just as soon as you get happy, it’s time to rebuild.”
Q. Offensively, you have two dynamic players returning – Gentile (Ardrey Kell High) and Donnie Smith (Charlotte Catholic). How has their off-season gone?
“Donnie realizes it’s time for him to take his level of consistency up. We all saw in the College Cup how he can impart his personality on a game. He needs to say, ‘Get me the ball,’ and have confidence to take on these defenders. In the (College Cup), it was wonderful how he did that.
“I don’t think ‘Giussi’ has a ceiling for his game. That’s what makes him so special. He is so self-critical and works hard at his game. He’s out there on his own practicing his left-foot striking – because we might have had a conversation a few months ago where we said he might want to work on his left-foot striking a little.”