Hayden wants championships for Louisville soccer

His dream job is a reality.

John Michael Hayden has played on two national championship teams and was a first round pick in the Major League Soccer draft. Now he wants to take the University of Louisville to the next level.

Coach John Michael Hayden is accompanied by his sons Jacob and Liam during the press conference (Charlie Springer photo).

Hayden was selected as the fifth head coach of the UofL soccer program on Thursday, after having served as an assistant to former Louisville Coach Ken Lolla for the past four seasons. He’s a Louisville native and a Trinity graduate.

“You look at my past and you say okay you’ve  won national championships and an  MLS cup,” he said. “Coming to Louisville, one of the things I know it that in this environment we can win championships.” This is where I want to be the most, and I’m very excited about it.

“Throughout my soccer career, I have spent time in a number of championship environments as both a player and coach, which gives me a blueprint for what it takes to win. My hope is to build on success Ken Lolla achieved at Louisville and to raise the program to an even higher standard of excellence.”

As a collegian, Hayden helped the Indiana University soccer team to back-to-back NCAA Soccer Cup championships during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. He scored the winning goal against Maryland with a header in the 2004 finale. In 2007, he was selected 13th overall in the MLS Super Draft by the Houston Dynamo. During his rookie season, Houston won an MLS Cup Championship.

Hayden plans on being here for a long time, saying he wants to be last UofL soccer coach AD Vince Tyra hires. “This is where I want to be the most, and I’m very excited about it,” he stated.

Ken Lolla misses having Tom Jurich around

Ken Lolla with son Tyler and wife Tina shortly after UofL soccer competed in the College Cup championship game in 2011 (Photo by Charlie Springer).

This Observer is still trying to come to grips with Ken Lolla’s surprising decision to resign as head coach of the University of Louisville soccer team. One of the highest paid college coaches, with the absolute best facilities, and the solid support of the fan base. Just up and leaves.

Lolla has indicated that he accepted the UofL job because he got caught in Tom Jurich’s vision for the athletic program. Took the job because of Jurich and was rewarded with a $17 million stadium, the envy of college soccer programs everywhere.

Tom Jurich at the opening of the Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium in 2014.

One suspects that Lolla never got over how Jurich was abruptly dismissed by an interim President in 2017, fired with “cause” for what later proved to be allegations with no basis in fact. The Lollas and Jurichs were close friends and the treatment left an indelible impression on Lolla.

“We came here because of Tom’s leadership style and the way he handled people, and really his vision as well,” Lolla told WLKY-TV.  “It was very easy to get caught in that wave of Tom’s vision and what he saw. 

“It was intoxicating, motivating and exciting at the same time. Did that change when he left? Certainly, it did. Not to disparage anyone else, but (when) somebody like that, as dynamic as he is, leaves, there’s a void.”

As good as Vince Tyra is proving to be as athletic director, there is still a vacuum to be filled at UofL with the absence of Tom Jurich. Anyone who watched what he built over two decades feels it and misses Jurich. The University owes him a great deal.

Ken Lolla is right. He felt strongly enough about the treatment of Jurich that he finally resigned in mid-stream to face an uncertain future. He came because of Tom Jurich and could no longer do without Tom around.

Any acknowledgement of Jurich’s accomplishments should not perceived as Tyra shortcomings. Tyra has been impressive in following a legend, making unprecedented efforts to listen to fans and to respond to their concerns. . Tyra didn’t need the job, taking it because UofL needed someone like him at the helm during at a critical time for the school. He is the right man at the right time.

If at all possible, however, the University needs to find a way to show its appreciation Tom Jurich for all he did. UofL needs to welcome him and his family back into the fold, certainly on a honorary basis. He should always be a part of the University of Louisville.

Louisville soccer needs to derail Akron’s 12-game winning streak

Ken Lolla needs to get past Akron, his former team that denied Louisville the national championship in 2010.

Ken Lolla’s soccer team is back. So close. So far.

Final home game, last chance to see a University of Louisville team within three wins of a national championship. 

Big challenge, however, with a foe that has won its past 12 games and evoking significant emotional ties for Lolla. In the quarterfinal round, competing for  a berth in the 2017 College Cup semifinals.

That foe just happens to Akron University, where Lolla coached for 13 seasons before being recruiting by Tom Jurich to taking over the UofL program in 2005. The same man who made Akron a power has made Louisville a national contender for the past 12 years.

Any match against Akron is an experience for Lolla but none more gut-wrenching than the game between UofL and Akron in the College Cup in 2010. Akron won that game 1-0 in the national championship final at Santa Barbara, Calif. 

If he gets emotional about playing Akron again, Lolla doesn’t let it show. “I think the biggest thing is to relish the moment,” he said. “To play in the NCAA Tournament is special as it is. To play for the opportunity to go to the College Cup, the biggest event, is even more special.”

The Cardinals (13-2-4) are led by junior Tate Schmitt who had the game-winning goals in NCAA tournament wins over San Francisco and Colgate. He’s also the team’s leading scorer with nine goals on the season. The Zips (18-3) are led by Stuart Holthusen, a senior from Auckland, New Zealand, with 12 goals.

Lolla himself needs to “relish the moment” while putting Akron behind him this time around.

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A visit to an Akron soccer message board revealed that a sizeable number of fans from the Ohio school will be making the five-and-a-half trip to the Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium for the game. Seated among them in Section 211 will be Scott Caldwell who scored the winning goal in the 2010 championship game:

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Akron Coach Aaron Embick who felt strongly that fifth-seeded Akron deserved the No. 4 seed over Louisville, telling an Akron newspaper, “I think as a team we felt like we probably did more in the regular season,” he said. “We were a little bit hotter at the end of the regular season than Louisville to deserve the fourth seed. 

Nice bulletin board material.

Louisville Soccer goes down, but, hey, 2016 is almost over

On the verge of something special, but down they go. Again.

One game short of the College Cup for UofL but it's still the year 2016 (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Falling short of post season glory for UofL, a familiar refrain in 2016 (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Still the year 2016, folks, a memorable one for University of Louisville athletics, and not in a good way. Lots of potential, plenty of wins, but consistently falling short of any special post-season milestones.

The latest to fall is the UofL soccer team. Just one game short of making it to the sport’s Final Four, teasing fans with the possibility of a national championship. Losing by a score of 2-0 to Stanford, the defending national champion, before a crowd of 3,247 Saturday at the Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium. 

Continue reading “Louisville Soccer goes down, but, hey, 2016 is almost over”

Soccer team comes through for UofL, on to the Elite 8

Having sat through three consecutive University of Louisville losses over the extended holiday weekend, one was more than little apprehensive about showing up for the UofL-Notre Dame soccer NCAA tournament game on Sunday.

Mohamed Thiaw put UofL ahead in the first half with his 12th goal of the season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Mohamed Thiaw put UofL ahead in the first half with his 12th goal of the season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Losses to Baylor in men’s basketball on Friday, Kentucky in football on Saturday, and South Carolina in women’s basketball on Sunday. A dark weekend for UofL athletics.

Why risk more disappointment? Probably because the soccer team has L-o-u-i-s- v-i-l-l-e on the front of the jersey and this UofL fan believes his team is always going to win the next game. 

The Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium turned out to be the perfect place to shake the doldrums, with more than 1,858 fans in attendance. Their enthusiasm embodied in the raucous group of students behind the east goal who never stopped singing. 

The Louligans bring a raucous atmosphere to the Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
The Louligans bring a raucous atmosphere to the Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The UofL soccer team would not disappoint any of them. The decisive goal coming at the 19:53 mark in the second half — an in-your-face boomer by sophomore Tate Schmitt of a corner kick by his classmate Danny Reynolds. 

Freshman Cherif Dieye would break free for another goal with six seconds remaining to seal a 3-1 victory over Notre Dame. The win sends Louisville to the NCAA’s Elite Eight for the first time in four years and the fourth time in the seven years.

Louisville soccer ending the weekend on a high note, evoking memories of a deep tournament run in 2010, creating the vision of some special magic over the next couple of weeks. The Cardinals will next clash with Stanford here on Saturday .

UofL fans needed some positive news and the soccer team was happy to oblige.