Panthers fortify defense with transfer student

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

By Nicholas Poblete/Asst. Sports Director


FIU’s soccer team adds depth to its defense with Nicholas O’Callaghan, a junior transfer student from Elon University studying finance, who can only play soccer for one more year in college.

“I really wanted to come to a program that pushes me everyday … and get better. Come to a place where I can put my head down, fight for the team and do my own thing,” said O’Callaghan. “[I want to] really become the best player I can be in one year, and give myself the best chance to go pro.”

O’Callaghan played club soccer with the Orlando City Pro Development Academy, a youth player training school run by the Orlando City Soccer Club (SC). FIU’s head soccer coach, Kevin Nylen worked as a scout at the academy before coming to FIU.

O’Callaghan will compete with another Orlando City Academy student, Jordi Avila, at the left back position. According to the O’Callaghan, the healthy competition with Avila will help him continue to improve.

“It’s been good — the school I was at before, I didn’t really have … competition in my position,” O’Callaghan said. “Coming here, where I have that … it’s been pushing me everyday, I know I have to work hard and really fight for that spot. It makes me a better player.”

The Orlando native, O’Callaghan, describes himself as an offensive minded player. He believes his best attribute is slide tackling, claiming he loves to hit the ground and knock his opponents off the ball.

“… I’m a pretty technical player, I like to keep the ball. I like to be on a team that likes to keep possession and move it,” he said. “I like to go forward a lot. The outside back position is a position that’s having more and more people go up the field.”

Silva also strives to have a good presence on the field and be a good defender.

O’Callaghan came into a team that went undefeated during the regular season for the first time in program history, claiming the Conference USA regular season title, registering a 6-0-2 and an overall record of 12-2-4.

The Panthers were defeated by the Charlotte 49ers in the semi final game of the C-USA Tournament, and ended their season falling to Duke University in the second round of the NCAA Soccer Tournament back in November.

Despite coming into a winning side, O’Callaghan said he is not shying away from the challenge of breaking into the starting 11 group of players.

“It’s been good actually that they had such a good season last year … because people are motivated to get even better for next year,” he said. “We have high standards. Coach has been pushing us every day to the max, he knows that we can’t get complacent and just go through the motions in training. Working on a high horse after that year of going undefeated.”

The men’s soccer team have endured a rigorous Spring season. O’Callaghan, who became a Panther at the beginning of the Spring season, has had the chance to face several professional teams: River Plate of Argentina, St. Louis FC of the United Soccer League and Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC. The Panthers also played against local team, Miami United, of the National Premier Soccer League and MLS side Minnesota United FC.

O’Callaghan, who aspires to make it to the professional level after college, believes the opportunity to play against such high caliber teams has been a growing experience.

“It’s been a great experience. Not many college teams get the experience to play professional teams. Especially since the Spring season is short, you only get so many games, and to have them all be against professional teams has been a privilege actually,” O’Callaghan said. “It’s been hard and the competition has been tough, but it’s what we need and it is good to see how we match up against those pros.”

Although his time at FIU will be short-lived with one-year left of playing time, O’Callaghan aspires to make the most out of his time as a Panther.

“I really just want to become the best player I can be here. Every single day, I’m doing extra work, on and off the field. I just want to come here every single day, do what I can and make the most of it,” he said.

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