By James Duffy, deputy sports editor
After head coach Brian Ainscough stepped down in November following a disappointing 3-12-2 season, the Northeastern University (NU) men’s soccer team began its search for a new face to guide the squad. After months of deliberation, the team decided on its man: Chris Gbandi.
Having served as an associate coach at Dartmouth University for the past two seasons, Gbandi decided that it was time to take full reigns of a program, and Northeastern stood out to him.
“It was an easy decision,” Gbandi said about coming to Northeastern. “You’re talking about one of the premier universities in the country.”
Gbandi has a long and illustrious resume in soccer that speaks for itself, dating back to his playing days on the pitch in college.
A star at the University of Connecticut (UConn), Gbandi won the coveted Hermann Award in 2000 – given to the top player in college soccer – and led UConn to a national championship season.
In 2002, Gbandi was selected first overall by FC Dallas in the Major League Soccer (MLS) draft, and he played in 167 games over nine MLS seasons.
He then took to coaching, working at College of the Holy Cross as an assistant for two years before returning to his alma mater and spending one season as the assistant director of soccer operations for UConn. He then moved on to Dartmouth for two seasons, his last job before NU.
Gbandi has had success at every school where he has coached, most recently helping to lead Dartmouth to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament.
By walking away from a soccer powerhouse like Dartmouth to come to NU, Gbandi faces a number of new challenges, namely improving on the team’s lackluster 3-12-2 season.
Gbandi feels that he is up to the task and plans to use his past experiences as a player and coach to his advantage to guide the team.
While he shies away from the term “talent,” Gbandi praised the ability of his players, something he saw when Dartmouth and NU squared off in the last game of the regular season.
“We have a lot of guys who’ve played soccer their whole life,” Gbandi said. “They’re young, they’re hungry and they have a lot of ability.”
With that in mind, he does see room for improvement.
“We need to get back to enjoying the game,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun and competing.”
Systematically, Gbandi will bring a strong defensive mind to the team, which he hopes will in turn allow for more creativity and freedom on offense.
As far as expectations for the season, Gbandi preferred to keep his hopes in-house.
“I’d like to get back to a winning season, but I won’t say anything beyond that for the paper,” he said with a smile.
“We have a chance for sort of a ‘revenge tour,’” Gbandi said of the upcoming season. “We get the chance to play a lot of the teams that beat us last year.”
For Gbandi and the Huskies, the road to revenge starts now, as the team will look to have their first winning season since 2012 under his guidance.
Photo courtesy UConnMSOC, Twitter.