Northern Illinois University men’s soccer head coach Eric Luzzi announced the addition of six student-athletes to the Huskie soccer program for the upcoming 2014 season.
Len Heinson (Wuppertal, Germany/Carl-Fuhlrott Gymnasium), Eddie Kim (Morton Grove, Ill./Niles North), Charlie Raasch (Liberty, Mo./Liberty), Luke Read (Ilford, England/Barking Abbey School), Alex Saliba (Rhode-St-Genese, Belgium/European School of Brussels 1) and Marcos Soma (Coconut Creek, Fla./Deerfield Beach) will join the Huskies this season.
“I am really pleased to announce the remainder of our 2014 recruiting class,” said Luzzi. “Along with the four guys that we announced on Signing Day in February, this group of six players will complement our current group of guys very well. We have filled a few holes within our team that needed to be addressed, but most importantly, this group of incoming players will add greatly to the depth of our team. Our goal is to play at a very fast pace and a high level of intensity, and to do that effectively, we need to have good depth at every position on the field.”
Heinson played last season with Wuppertaler SV in the Under-19 Bundesliga West in Germany, helping his team to an eighth-place finish. Prior to joining Wuppertaler SV, Heinson spent the previous three seasons in the youth system at Fortuna Dusseldorf, helping the club win regional championships at both the U-18 and U-16 levels. Heinson is NIU’s first German player since Mino Kayser.
“Len has very good size; he is about 6-foot-3,” said Luzzi. “He has played pretty much everywhere up the spine for his club team in Germany over the last couple years, so he brings with him a lot of versatility. For us, I think we will use him in the defensive midfield role. He has very good feet for a bigger kid, and has a very good soccer brain. He will help us on both sides of the ball in the midfield, as well as on set pieces, which was a real weakness for us last year.”
A goalkeeper, Kim helped lead Niles North High School to its first Central Suburban League North title last fall, recording six shutouts. Kim was a member of the Team Evanston club program and helped the club win the U16 state championship in 2012, the first for the club.
“Eddie is a kid that we got onto late, mainly because he is a bit of a late bloomer,” said Luzzi. “He is an outstanding shot stopper and has great potential in the other areas of his game as well. He is a fearless kid, which for me is a huge trait that goalkeepers need to have. He will be a great addition to our already solid goalkeeper corps for this fall and I definitely see him pushing our other two keepers every day.”
Raasch set a school record by starting 90 games during his career at Liberty High School, helping lead the Blue Jays to four district championships. Raasch scored 34 goals, including 12 game-winners, in high school, earning first team all-area honors twice. Raasch played for the Futura Academy club team, twice winning the Missouri State Cup.
“Charlie is another kid that we got onto kind of late,” said Luzzi. “He had some other offers from some other good schools, but never seemed to find the right fit for him. Athletically, Charlie is a very solid and he will bring a physical component to our pool of center backs that will help our team a lot. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy who really cares about winning and I think he will fit into our team culture very well.”
Read played last season for AFC Hornchurch in England’s Ryman Premier Division, helping the club reach the division playoff final. Read spent the previous season at Redbridge Football Club in the Ryman Division I North. Read attended Barking Abbey School and was a part of three London Cup winners and a National Schools Cup finalist.
“Luke is a guy that you would probably have to watch a few times to notice,” said Luzzi. “He is not a flashy, dominant type of center back – he just gets the job done. He is very steady, comfortable on the ball and reads play defensively extremely well. He is not the biggest center back, but he is very good in the air due to his timing. He is a very mature young man, and one that I could definitely see as being a captain for us in the future.”
Saliba comes to NIU from AFC Tubize in Tubize, Belgium, the same club that produced current Chelsea and Belgian National Team star Eden Hazard, where has played this past season with the Elite U19 Team. Saliba led Tubize to the U17 Belgian Cup in 2013, earning Man of the Match honors in both the semifinals and final. Saliba is the first Belgian signed during Luzzi’s tenure at NIU.
“Alex is a pretty exciting player for us,” said Luzzi. “He is not the biggest kid, but he has a very high soccer IQ, and he has a relentless work rate on the field. He will do well for us in the No. 10 (attacking midfield) role – he understands how the play the position, the quality of his final pass is outstanding, and he will work very hard for the team when we don’t have the ball. He is definitely a guy that I could see earning time on the field sooner rather than later in his time at NIU.”
Soma earned first team All-Broward County honors as a senior at Deerfield Beach High School. He led Deerfield Beach to a district championship as a junior and district runner-up finishes in both his sophomore and senior seasons, scoring 20 goals and recording 18 assists in those three seasons. Soma also played for the Boca United club team.
“Marcos is a guy that (Associate Head Coach) Garrett Biller saw at a camp down in Florida,” said Luzzi. “I think he will fit our team well. He is very competent on the ball and has a good attacking mentality. He is a versatile player that could probably play anywhere in the front four for us and I think he will be a guy that will eventually help our team create lots of good chances in our attack.
Combined with the four incoming players announced in February, Taylor Cole, Chris Paton, Drew Donnally and Giovanni Garcia, the Huskies have signed 10 new players for the upcoming 2014 season.
“I think this group of incoming players will fit in with our team right away,” said Luzzi. “We are always looking for talented players who have a high level of technical ability and a good level of athleticism. It is just as important, however, to make sure that each guy on our roster is a good team guy, and it’s very important that anyone that we bring into our program cares about winning above all else.
“I feel really good about this new group coming in and I feel confident that they will complement our current guys well as we get back to where we should be as a program, which is competing for trophies every year.”