Wake Forest men’s soccer Head Coach Bobby Muuss led the Demon Deacons to the National Championship game last season and is excited to compete at a high level next season as well.
First, congratulations on the excellent season and ACC Coach of the year accolades. How do you feel the team is poised to replicate the success next season?
I think it’s just making sure we do the right thing in order to continue to develop, continue to have guys step up and fill roles for guys that have left, but more importantly, doing the little things that just give us an opportunity to compete for a National Championship. I said it at the beginning of this season; I don’t think it’s fair for people to try to compare and ask, ‘are you going to be able to replicate the offensive output that the last team had.’
I don’t think it’s fair to compare any team [from year to year] because they’re always so different. For me, I think this team wants to create it’s own history and new history.
We share that goal each and every year, and right now, the guys are working extremely hard, even though we had an incredible season last year when you really sit down and think about it.
We had an incredible year, but we still have a pretty bad taste in our mouth and we want more. There’s not a guy in our locker room that doesn’t think that we can get back and put ourselves in a place to compete for a National Championship, but they know it will take a lot of hard work. It’s also going to take a lot of commitment to doing the right things on and off the field every day.
What message did you try to convey to the team after the National Championship?
You know, I didn’t really talk to the guys until we were on the bus. I gave them their own time and the leaders on the team came together. But the one thing that I did say is, this last game, the way it ended, it certainly does not define the season we had.
I’m extremely proud of the way they competed, the way they stuck together through the 110 minutes and even the way they were after the penalties.
We stuck to the way we believe the game should be played and the guys fulfilled their roles and did everything I asked of them and what they asked from each other and I couldn’t be more proud of the way they represented the team, Wake Forest and all of our alumni.
Even though that penalty didn’t go in and we didn’t win a National Championship, I think when we sit back and look at it, what an incredible year and one for the history books.
What’s the mindset of the team in Spring practice right now?
I think they’re working extremely hard. The winter and spring for us is harder than the fall because they are lifting three days a week, they are training three days a week, they are playing pickup on the days that we don’t train and some of the guys are doing extra agility sessions and conditioning sessions. From a mentality standpoint, some of these guys are getting after it.
It does become a grind because we don’t have a game in which we’re competing against another team and we don’t face an opponent until March, but they also know that we start winning and losing games right now by the way that we prepare and the way we’re working, and that’s been evident with the mindset of this group.
Has the team established any goals for the Spring season yet?
The ultimate goal is we want to win. I think individually, some of the guys have set goals for themselves in terms of turning over from a role player to leader of the group, and some guys are taking the next step and taking more ownership of the group.
Obviously there are jobs open for guys that might not have gotten as much opportunity in the Fall to step up and take, and every year we say we want guys who maybe didn’t participate as much last year during our games to take ownership of roles this spring.
We saw that with Logan Gdula last year and Steven Echevarria taking a bigger and bigger role this year and all of that is because of what they did last Spring and how much they stepped up.
We’re looking forward to that, but our goals are never going to change, no matter what our depth is, the numbers that we have in the Spring or Fall or whatever our recruiting class is.
We want to win and I don’t think we want to change our goals based off of who we lost or what we win. It’s Wake Forest soccer, and we want to win a Championship.
Are there any players that you are looking at to elevate their game?
Every one of them.
I wouldn’t want to single them out, and I know I want to see more leadership qualities and taking ownership of the team from players like Kevin Politz, Rafael Fagundo, Brad Dunwell and Jon Bakero, who are guys that have experience both on and off the field and know the rigors of the ACC and how hard it is to have the season that we just had.
It’s time for those guys to step up and take the leadership roles and reins from players like Ian Harkes, Jacori Hayes and Alec Ferrell.
What’s recruiting like at this time of the year for you?
It’s crazy. We’re trying to complete the 2017 class, and we got a commitment last Friday, signing day is tomorrow and we’re getting all the paperwork in and solidifying everything. On top of that, we’re continuing to look at trying to bring in another player or two for the 2017 class, so our class will probably end up being around nine or ten when all is said and done. Maybe even 11, but that has yet to be determined. There’ll definitely be at least nine or ten and we’re obviously actively recruiting for 2018 as well. We have a couple of members committed to that class as well, so there’s no downtime here.
Tactically, how do you see the team coming together next year now that you’ve been able to implement your system for players that have only played under you?
Yeah, I just hope that we get better at what we’re good at. I’ve always said that we want to master what we’re good at, so I think there’s a much better understanding of the defensive scheme and the way we want to defend and the way that looks, both with and without the ball. We want to get better, continue to work and really have a true identity in our attacking set pieces and be more dangerous there. Anybody that watches us play will see that we do get fouled a lot because we have a possession-based game, so we want to make opponents pay for taking advantage of us physically. I think that’s something that this group is going to take a little more ownership of. I also think we’re starting to see a little more understanding of positional roles, so if I’m playing a certain position, these are the expectations for that position on both sides of the ball. Hopefully, we take on this, and I like to say that this is reflection of myself, blue-collar, hard working attitude and grinding through games. Although we want to play good, attractive football, we can mix it up and we can grind with the best of them as well.