The BYU men’s soccer team kicked off their 10-day preseason international tour Friday when they boarded a plane for Costa Rica.
“This trip is huge,” junior midfielder Antonio Niccoli said. “This is my third international trip so I know how important they are to bonding off the field. We don’t have cell phones or computers…we just spend time together.”
The tour will include four games, a service opportunity and a fireside for local church members. The players use all of these experiences to grow closer and build strong relationships that reflect how they play soccer later in the season.
Assistant Coach Hugh Van Wagenen went to Costa Rica with the BYU men’s soccer team as a player seven years ago.
“Preseason tours get our legs under us,” Van Wagenen said. “In addition to playing, we build unity through service…it’s a great 10 days to bond and gel as a team.”
The Cougars painted an orphanage on that particular trip as part of their service opportunity.
“The time the guys get to hang out outside of soccer is huge because it helps them connect as people instead of just players,” Van Wagenen said.
Off-field chemistry will play a key role in the Cougars’ success as they play some of the big games on their schedule in Central America. The biggest of the trip will be against Saprissa, a professional soccer club based in San Jose. To date, the club has won 29 premier division titles in Costa Rica and has won five Central American soccer crowns.
“Saprissa will prepare us for our game against Real Salt Lake,” senior defender James Bindrop said. “The better teams you play, the better you become as a team. The high-quality teams in Costa Rica will force us to play well and get better.”
The Cougars have been practicing hard for their chance to play against professional clubs. Their focus, according to the coaching staff, has been on possession and controlling the ball. The team’s efforts helped it to a 4-1 win over Colorado Mesa University last week.
The men’s soccer team will return to Provo on May 14, just five days before its showdown with Real Salt Lake. Practice and high quality competition will be vital to being prepared for that game. Great team chemistry will also be required. This Costa Rica trip should deliver all of the factors necessary for the Cougars to be successful.