Herd Soccer gets CUSA recognition

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NORFOLK, Va. The 13th-ranked Marshall men’s soccer team pulled in several All-Conference USA selections as well as individual specialty awards, the league office announced Tuesday.

The top-overall seed garnered the Coach of the Year (Chris Grassie), Offensive MVP (Milo Yosef), Freshman of the Year (Yosef), and the Co-Golden Glove Award (Paulo Pita). Along with the specialty awards seven different players were honored as All-C-USA selections.

Senior Illal Osmanu and redshirt freshman Milo Yosef were named First Team All-Conference. Redshirt senior Paulo Pita and juniors Pedro Dolabella and Jamil Roberts were named Second Team All-Conference. Sophomore Jan-Erik Leinhos was named Third Team All-Conference. Max Schneider and Yosef were named to the All-Freshman Team.

“Very happy for the guys to be recognized by the other coaches,” Herd head coach Chris Grassie said. “It just goes to show that all the work you put in is visible on the outside. We know the guys are good players but when they show that to other people that is also pretty cool.

“It is a team game so there is a lot of individual awards. Milo and Paulo with Golden Glove and Forward of the Year but it is a team game so some of the guys that didn’t get mentioned had great seasons. Carlos (Diaz-Salcedo), Joao (Souza), Collin (Mocyunas), Jonas (Westmeyer), Vitor (Dias) have all been the supporting cast that deserve recognition as well. Congrats to the guys who won it and hopefully it is just a continuation of the amount of awards they can win this season.”

2019 has been a banner year so far for the Thundering Herd going into the C-USA Tournament with a ranking of 13th and its first conference regular season title since 2000 in the Mid-American Conference. This is the first time that Marshall has had more than one player selected to the C-USA First Team, and the first time a player was named to the first team since Daniel Withrow in 2012. Yosef is also the first Freshman of the Year since Withrow back in 2009, and is the team’s first Offensive MVP since moving into C-USA back in 2005.

It was repeat honors for Osmanu and Pita. Leinhos was named to the 2018 C-USA All-Tournament team.

Coach Grassie in just his third season has led the Herd on a steady climb through the conference rankings. Marshall missed the tournament in 2016 and then Grassie was hired to take over in 2017. The Herd was selected to finish eighth in the preseason poll in 2017 and finished sixth with a first-round upset of No. 3 seed Kentucky. In 2018, Marshall was selected to finish sixth in the preseason poll and finished fifth with yet another first-round upset of No. 4 seed FIU. In 2019, the Herd was picked to finish fourth in the preseason and instead Marshall rolled off a 5-1-1 C-USA record and the No. 1 overall seed.

Osmanu has started and played in every match this season. The senior defender made an impression with his excellent play as he was named third team all-conference in 2018 and then this year up to first team. Osmanu was a major defensive piece that allowed just 15 goals in 18 matches. His combination of size, speed and his knowledge of the game give him a leg up in cutting off the opposing attackers. The Accra, Ghana native has missed only 14 minutes on the pitch this year.

Yosef made an immediate impact in his Herd debut this season scoring 11 goals and three assists. He is the first Marshall player to record double-digit goals in a season since Tom Jackson had 10 in 2011. His 11 goals is tied for seventh all-time in program history with Andy Zulauf in 1985. The Aachen, Germany native scored two goals in a single match three times and was twice named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week.

Pita shared in the Golden Glove Award that goes to the keepers with the most shutouts in conference action. The redshirt senior had the clean sheets against South Carolina, UAB, Charlotte and Kentucky. He added two more in non-conference action. Pita is tied for sixth all-time in Herd history with 9.5 career shutouts. The Santos, Sau Paolo, Brazil native has played every minute this year, sports a 0.80 goals against average, 57 saves and a .792 save percentage.

Dolabella has been a force in the midfield using his height, knowledge of the game and range to be a presence just about everywhere. The junior is tied for second on the team with six goals and also has four assists. He has started every match this year with 1,475 minutes played. Dolabella played a season-high 98 minutes in the scoreless draw at then No. 5 Charlotte. The Brasilia, Brazil native has 11 goals in his Marshall career with 50 starts and over 4,100 minutes on the pitch.

Roberts caught fire this year as a goal scorer and with his passing. The junior forward leads the team and Conference USA with nine assists which is also good for second-most in a season in Marshall history. He has also tallied six goals, scoring both of the Herd’s goals in a win over Butler and both goals in the regular season title-clinching match at FIU. The Langport, England native was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week on Monday.

Leinhos has been a driving force for the Herd as a defender but also a player with the range to move the ball down the field. The sophomore recently saw his 36-match starting streak come to an end with an injury, however he has logged 1,375 minutes in 2019 and has four goals. Both times that Marshall has been granted a penalty kick, Leinhos has been the player chosen and he was successful both times. The Felsberg, Germany native scored the equalizer in the 79th minute against Akron with one of those penalty kicks.

Schneider has been another excellent addition to the 2019 Marshall squad with his play in the defensive midfield. However, Schneider has great range as well and can help push the ball forward in the attacking end. The freshman has appeared and started in 16 matches this season with 1,386 minutes played. He has netted two goals and has three assists. The Cologne, Germany native tallied his first career assist in his collegiate debut against Purdue Fort Wayne.

As the top-overall seed in the Conference USA tournament, Marshall – along with No. 2 seed Charlotte – receives a first round bye. The Herd will take the field on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in Norfolk, Va. Marshall awaits the winner of No. 4 Kentucky and No. 5 seed Florida Atlantic. The Wildcats and Owls play on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. The entire tournament will be broadcast on ESPN+ with Jake Griffith on the call.