By Kyle Gorman
The 2016-2017 Queens College men’s soccer season marked the end of an era. Long-time coach Carl Christian stepped down at the end of a 6-7-4 campaign last year.
Christian, who left to take the interim athletic director position with York College, had led the team for a decade. His departure, along with six graduating seniors, meant the 2017-2018 team would have a considerably different look than in previous years.
In early July, Queens College announced Christian’s replacement. Former NSCAA Coach of the Year Frank Vertullo was brought in from Suffolk Community College. Having won two championships for Suffolk, the Knights were hoping that Vertullo would bring the same winning culture with him to Queens.
Halfway through the season, there have been signs of an electric offense, but a lack of consistency has kept that winning culture from taking a permanent hold on the team.
Seven games into the season, the Knights sit exactly at .500, with a record of 3-3-1. Offensively, the Knights have shown signs of spectacular play. The Knights are averaging nearly three goals a game, and have only been kept below three in two games. They have also yet to be held scoreless in any game this season, after being shut out five times in their last season, three of which came in that season’s first half.
The Knights’ electric offense is led by sophomore Emgi Gousse. Gousse leads the team with eight goals and 17 points, and is tied as the second-leading scorer in the East Coast Conference.
“Emgi has been fantastic for us thus far,” Vertullo said. “His ability to attack and beat players has really been impressive, and he has been clutch for us with his finishing.”
Gousse has not been the only player to make his presence felt on the offensive end. Sophomore Christian Villalta has tallied five assists this season, which account for one-fourth of the Knights’ total assists on the campaign.
Even with their offensive firepower, the Knights have been unable to climb above the .500 mark. An inability to close out games on the defensive end has plagued the Knights, who held a lead in two of their three losses, including their most recent game against Bridgeport, which ended in a 4-4 tie.
“We have made many mistakes that have led to conceding too many goals,” Vertullo said.
The back half of the Knights’ schedule will be the team’s real test, with seven of their nine remaining games featuring in-conference matchups. Queens College currently sits at 0-1-1 in East Coast Conference play — the loss coming against Molloy earlier this month.
Vertullo is confident his team can get things right for the second half.
“Coming in with a new coaching staff with new expectations, 16 new players, and getting the [head coach] job right before preseason didn’t give us the time to really connect, but I feel we are ready to take that next step as we move through conference play,” he said.
The Knights will need to figure out their consistency issues quickly, with three consecutive in-conference games coming up within the span of a week, starting with a Sept. 30 matchup at Mercy College.