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.

Merry Christmas to all

Switching into full Christmas mode, getting with some of the kids, immersing ourselves in the holiday season. 

What a year it has been for the University of Louisville, a steady diet of highs and lows. Just when we get used to not being on the front page, something happens. But the lows are only temporary, and we are no longer shocked. Continuous learning, sometimes what not to do.

New faces in key positions — Neeli Bendapudi, Vince Tyra, Chris Mack and Scott Satterfield — providing refreshing outlooks for the future. 

Moving forward in the face of unprecedented challenges, academia and athletes performing at high levels, fans and supporters remaining faithful, continuing to support UofL without fail.

Much to be thankful for, knowing the challenges only make us stronger, the issues will be resolved and the university has so much more to achieve. 

Thanks for being fellow UofL fans, appreciate your support of Card Game as well. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Bigger the game the better for Asia Durr

Asia Durr is currently averaging 21.7 points per game for 11-0 Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

So much fun watching Asia Durr for fans of University of Louisville women’s basketball team. Making it look so easy as she gets her shots off against double-teams, triple-teams, full-court presses, box-and-ones. Asia has seen them all, the bigger the opponent the better, the more she excels.

Case in point, her heroics in UofL’s recent win over Kentucky in a battle of the unbeaten. She would secure her team’s first seven points, with Wildcat defenders literally hanging on her, en route to a 32-point performance. Her best game thus far may have been that 36-point outpoint in a 100-67 drubbing of eventual national champion Notre Dame last season.

Asia Durr thrives best on the big stage, the bigger the opponent the better (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“I’ve really embraced being the go-to player,” said Durr, who is averaging 21.7 points through 11 games this season. “I want to be the player where, when the game is on the line, coach draws up the play for me.

“But whatever Coach needs me to do, I’ll do it. Anything. He’s asked me to do different things, like help lead the freshmen, help make them better, and that’s been a good challenge.”

Asia will likely be a lottery pick during the WNBA draft at the end of the season but she wants to stay focused on the present, enjoying every minute of her time at Louisville, and hopefully a second consecutive Final Four appearance.

“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,” Durr told ESPN. “This is my last year, so I want to leave a mark here with how people will think of me — not just with basketball but with the type of person I am. I like spending time with our fans and the kids who look up to me. With that and school and basketball, it keeps me pretty busy.”

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.