John Murphy is in his first season in charge of the Georgia Southern men’s soccer program. Statesboro is the latest stop in a career that has seen Murphy work at Power 5 schools, internationally, and in Major League Soccer. He worked with the New England Revolution, Columbus Crew, and Colorado Rapids in a variety of capacities, including assistant coach, player development, and college scouting.
The Eagles are 4-5-1 and coming to Atlanta for an intra-state rivalry match with Georgia State tomorrow night.
Thanks to John for taking the time to chat with us!
Jason: How is the team coming together so far?
John: "I've been impressed with the group that I have inherited and despite fielding three to five freshman every game. We have shown very well overall with just a couple of exceptions thus far. I arrived on campus the day before pre-season, so we have been together for just over six weeks. During that time, there has been a great deal of growth from each individual and now we just need to add some cohesion to the process. In my experience, it takes time to get so many people on the same page off the field, forget about on it! The staff needs to be patient while holding our standards high each time we step on the field."
JL: What are some of the strengths of your squad at this point? Who are the players to watch?
JM: "I feel that we have depth and variety in attacking areas of our system which in encouraging. The ability to play different shapes depending on opposition and situations is always helpful. At this point, Blake Wilson has six goals in ten games and has been quite effective for us as a target striker. In the back, Emil Laursen and Justin Little have been very good as well. It is a solid group of players that are working towards reaching a higher level of performance as we enter conference play the first week of October."
JL: Was it a tough decision to leave the Northeast to come to Statesboro for this opportunity?
JM: "It is always tough to leave your home town and your family, but as a professional opportunity, it was an easy one. I have everything here regarding facilitites, location, support and resources to build a successful program. It will be a multiple year effort, but I am confident that we can compete within the conference, regionally and eventually on a national stage."
JL: What are some of your long term goals for the Georgia Southern program?
JM: "Well as I alluded to, it will take a few years to get the foundation of the program in order. That is the reality of our businesss. You are working more like a CEO than a traditional coach nowadays. So that means setting up a compreehsnive recruiting infrastructure state wide first and foremost. Our roster must have a strong in-state presence. Luckily for us, Georgia is one of the best states in the country for men's soccer talent. Secondly, player development must be at the heart of our work. Utilizely the strong sport science facilities and manpower on campus as well as exposing our players to top competition whether it means upgrading our schedule, taking our team oversees (Team is going to Germany in March 2017), or friendlies against pro teams in the spring, we must realize the standard of expectation here for our players."
JL: Some of your players benefited from playing in the PDL this summer with the new club South Georgia Tormenta in Statesboro. How beneficial are the summer leagues to a college program?
JM: "We have a great relationship with Tormenta as their head coach Ben Freakley is a former Eagle himself and as you mention, we had a few of our team members on the 2016 squad. I feel that these summer leagues can be quite beneficial as long as the individual player is not burned out by the end of the PDL experience. Going straight from such an intense competition into a college pre-season is not ideal and needs to be handled appropriately re: recovery and tapering work loads. Regardless, I believe this strong working relationship with Tormenta is going to be mutually beneficial to both of us and will certainly help promote the sport in the Southern Georgia region."
JL: What are some of your favorite memories of your time in MLS? How does that experience benefit you at the college level?
JM: "I was fortunate to work with some great coaches, players and teams during my nine years in the league. The 2004 Columbus Crew won the Supporter's Shield, the 2002 New England Revolution team advanced to the MLS Cup final, and my 2008 Colorado Rapids Reserve team won the MLS championship. The core of that team eventually won MLS Cup in 2010. Many of these former players coaches in the league themselves. Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado HC), Jay Heaps (New England HC), Greg Vanney (Toronto HC) as well as Jovan Kirovski (Galaxy TD), Pat Noonan (Galaxy AC) and Adin Brown (Portland AC) are all doing very well at the moment and I'm happy to see them still in the game."
JL: How important do you feel that coaching education to the development of the sport in the U.S.?
JM: "I feel it is vital as quality coaches education presented to hundreds of coaches annually will effect thousands of kids over multiple years in a positive way. US Soccer has restructured coach education at the national level which is certainly a positive thing. However, the State G, F, E and D licenses has always been effective in connecting novice adults with the game. Maintaining higher uniform standards are so important in developing a better level of coach in this country. Our appreciation of individual technique and an increased tactical sense will be required for this country to move forward and produce a higher level of play at every standard."