Jamaican Robinson Leads ‘Lopes Soccer Into Conference Crunch Time
Story by Michael Ferraresi
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
In his native Jamaica, Saeed Robinson grew up watching or playing soccer pickup games that were as available as football or basketball games at neighborhood parks in the U.S.
He has seen the unifying power of soccer in a way few Americans have in their hometowns.
“If there were two communities having a beef with each other, they would have a soccer game to bring them together,” said Robinson, who played on Jamaican club teams since he was 9 years old before working his way to a junior college in Texas, where GCU recruited him to be one of its top offensive weapons.
The 22-year-old senior striker has scored a team-high seven goals for the Antelopes this season, although he is possibly his biggest critic and worried “he should have more” through 11 games with 20 shots on goal. He was instrumental in GCU’s biggest wins this season and will be relied on to help nudge the ‘Lopes higher than their current No. 15 ranking as the end of the season nears.
GCU (9-2 overall) hosts Hawai’i Pacific University at 5:45 p.m. tonight and faces Dominican University on Saturday. Both are considered must-win home games for a ‘Lopes team with a 6-1 Pacific West Conference record. They won their fifth successive game Saturday in overtime against unranked Brigham Young University-Hawai’i.
Soccer may be an afterthought for many American sports fans raised on baseball, basketball and football, but Robinson said he was impressed with the enthusiastic support from his fellow students during GCU’s Sept. 7 upset of then-No. 1 Fort Lewis College. Without the fans keeping ‘Lopes players fired up, Robinson said the game could have had a different outcome. He scored one of the team’s three goals and assisted on another.
Robinson said he focuses on his teammates rather than the preseason PacWest Player of the Year award or any individual accolades, such as his desire to bring his explosive blend of speed and scoring to a pro team in Europe or the U.S. after college.
|MEN’S SOCCER THIS WEEK|
|Tonight: 5:45 p.m. vs. Hawai’i PacificSaturday: 5:45 p.m. vs. Dominican
Games are at GCU Soccer Field. For more info, go to www.gculopes.com.
“I try not to think about it too much because it’s a team sport and you need to play with your team to at least go somewhere,” said Robinson, who is studying sports management in GCU’s Colangelo School of Sports Business.
A big reason for Robinson’s focus is fellow Jamaican senior midfielder Oshane Brown, who transferred with him to GCU from Western Texas College after the two played on club teams in their native country since middle school. But Robinson credited everyone from trainer Travis Armstrong, who has helped Robinson recover from a sports hernia injury, to second-leading scorer Brandon Hansen (a junior with six goals) for the team’s success.
Hansen is a traditional midfielder who coaches play slightly behind Robinson’s forward position, giving him the opportunity to redirect Robinson’s deflected shots on goal. Freshman forward Alberto Sanchez Garcia (four goals, three assists) also has been a revelation for a team that lost junior forward Kyle Ciliento to injury.
“This team, we’re always talking to each other,” Robinson said. “I can honestly say this team is one. We’re in it for each other.”
In spite of the positive team attitude, GCU has been frustrated by a couple of close losses. Robinson said he felt the team “overlooked” Seattle Pacific University in a 2-1 road loss in September just three days after the Fort Lewis upset. GCU also lost to Notre Dame de Namur University a week after that.
The Antelopes have won their last five games, but Robinson and Head Coach Petar Draksin said elements such as strength of schedule are critical to making the postseason.
After this week’s home stand, the ‘Lopes wrap up the season with challenging conference road trips to Utah (to play Dixie State College) and California (to play Point Loma Nazarene University and California Baptist University). They also play Dixie and Cal Baptist at home, so the five remaining games after this week are critical to advancing in the rankings.
Draksin said this season is the first since the 1990s in which GCU has been ranked weekly in the Top 25. But rankings and statistics aside, Robinson is standing out in his senior season – and he will be relied upon to make opposing teams uncomfortable.
“He’s incredibly fast and also technically sound in his dribbling skills,” Draksin said. “People key on him, they try to mark him, but he gets away and gets the job done.”
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or email@example.com.