PROVO — The BYU men's soccer team is off to a rough start this season in the ultra-competitive USL Premier Development League, which is essentially the equivalent of rookie league baseball. The Cougars chose to make the leap to the league in 2001 after completely dominating the college club circuit.
This season the team is 1-4-1 in league play and is unlikely to advance to the postseason. Despite the struggles, however, players like team leader Colby Bauer couldn't be happier to be at BYU and to be part of its unique soccer program. Deseret News BYU reporter Brandon Gurney asked Bauer five questions to gain insight into the team and what its goals are moving forward.
Q. What's the best part about playing in the PDL?
A. The competition is great in our league and that's definitely a great thing for us and our progress and development into becoming the best soccer players we can be. You're playing great athletes every game and it's tough, but we're that much better for it. All of us love to compete and play against the best competition we can and playing in this league allows us to do that. It's the best preparation for the next level.
Q. What are the biggest challenges of playing in the PDL?
A. Well, you don't win as much as we otherwise would if we were in a regular club league, and we don't get to be on scholarship, so that's tough. We don't get all the benefits of getting tutors and other benefits that scholarship athletes have, so that has been a bit of a challenge for most of us.
Q. What are the best things about the BYU program? Why did you choose to play for BYU?
A. BYU offers the best combination of great soccer, education and social environment out there, at least for me. I had offers to play for other programs, but none of them could offer me everything BYU could and I think most of my teammates feel the same.
The coaches are great and coach (Chris) Watkins really understands the game and how to push his players to be the best they can be. He really brings out the competitive nature in his players and he understands their strengths. He really does great in adapting to the player's strengths.
Q. What has led to the team's early struggles this year and what do you need to do to improve?
A. We've just struggled taking advantage of scoring opportunities. We've been pretty solid defensively, but scoring just four goals so far this year is definitely our biggest problem.
We simply need to find the back of the net better. I think we've made some good strides, but it's all about taking advantage of scoring situations in soccer and unfortunately we haven't been able to do that. We just need to stay confident and work on those things we know we can improve on and things should work out.
Q. What are your personal goals as a player and what are the team's goals?
A. My personal goal is to continually strive to be a better example both on and off the soccer field. I want to represent BYU in the best way possible and be an example to my teammates and to my fellow students.
As a team I think we probably dug too big of a hole to make the playoffs, which is always our goal. Now our goal is to just keep playing and practicing as hard as we can to improve in every aspect of our lives — as students and as players.