Men’s Soccer: Head coach Joey Worthen and players reflect on memorable season, look to make more history next year

Worthen coached FAU to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2003 and 2004.


Alex Liscio

Joey Worthen (pictured right) coached FAU to a 9-7-3 record in the Fall 2021 campaign, which featured the team’s first appearance in a conference title game since 2007.

Richard Pereira, Sports Editor

Following the Fall 2021 campaign, FAU men’s soccer head coach Joey Worthen and his players reflected on what was a season to remember for them.

The team went 9-7-3 while going 2-4-2 in Conference USA (C-USA) play and making it to the final of the C-USA Tournament. Not only did it mark back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2003 and 2004, it was also the first time since 2007 that the program reached the final of a conference tournament.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had this pretty steady progression in terms of our results and our play,” Worthen said. “For them to finally get into the tournament and make a run like we did, I’m just really happy for them [to] get a taste of the reward for all their hard work.”

FAU’s tournament was quite a surprise considering how the team performed in conference play, particularly against Charlotte, Marshall, and Kentucky. In the regular season, FAU suffered 3-0, 5-1, and 3-0 defeats against them. In the tournament, they beat Charlotte in a penalty shootout, took down the defending NCAA Champions Marshall 3-1, and competed against a defensive juggernaut in Kentucky before ultimately falling 2-1 in overtime.

Worthen said he made defensive adjustments and switched up the formation heading into the tournament as eliminating the mistakes they had in the regular season allowed them to play with the best teams in the conference.

“Their commitment to the way that we defended was fantastic [as it’s] usually the less glamorous side of the game, and our guys just completely bought into it and really enjoyed it,” Worthen said. “The guys on the bench were getting excited for the way that we were defending and you can tell that it obviously worked and we did really well.”

In his last season with the team, senior forward Ivan Mykhailenko ended his three-year college career on a high note. For the third straight year, Mykhailenko led the team in goals scored with nine as he holds the fourth-most career goals all-time for FAU with 22, the second-most game-winners all-time with 11, and the eighth-most points all-time with 47.

“You look at big-time players making big-time plays, he scores his penalty in the shootout against Charlotte, he scores the game-winner against Marshall, and he scores the goal to put us ahead at the time against Kentucky,” Worthen said. “That’s three really big goals against top teams in the country and he just stepped up and delivered. I think it was great for him to be able to go out that way in his season [and] his career.”

On the defensive end, senior goalkeeper Neil Strauber made himself active in the saving department. He saved 81 shots as he led the conference and has the seventh-most saves in a season for FAU.

Worthen gave credit to Strauber for making big progress throughout the season as he came off a fantastic spring campaign and tried to build upon it in the fall.

“There were so many times in the games where Neil just kept us in, coming up with a big save after a big save,” Worthen said. “We’d like it to get to where he’s not having to make as many saves, but I think it says a lot about him and his abilities to step up and be able to make big-time plays.”

Even the freshmen on the team made huge contributions, especially forward Filip Jauk and midfielder Davide Romeo. Jauk scored the second-most goals on the team with eight and Romeo provided two goals and three assists as they both made the C-USA All-Freshman team.

“It’s not easy to come into a new team when you have a two-week preseason and you’ve also come to a new country with a foreign language with a new team and trying to learn college soccer. To have the impact that they did just speaks volumes about them as players and their character,” Worthen said. “Both [Jauk] and [Romeo] are special players that we’re really excited to have for the next few years here because then we’ll be able to continue to build off the years that they have.”

Although all eight seniors have different situations in terms of their remaining time, Worthen credited them with their roles in the team’s transition to becoming a winning program.

“I just can’t speak highly enough about what they’ve done to elevate this program and the character they have and what they’ve done to the culture,” Worthen said. “They’re all fantastic guys and I’m really excited to see what is next for all of them, whether it’s coming back, whether it’s grad school or their careers beyond. They’re just great young men and I’m really pleased and honored to have worked with them.”

For the offseason before the team returns in 2022, Worthen said the next step is to look at areas where the team fell short as they are always looking to improve while getting the boost of confidence after another solid season.

“What I mentioned after the conference tournament is the standards and the expectations within this program are changing,” Worthen said. “It’s not good enough to just win a couple of games or to just limp into the conference tournament. We want to win.”

Senior midfielder Alonso Coello Camarero said his favorite part of the season was the conference tournament as the team got there after a tough stretch of games in which they didn’t get the desired results.

“The way we came together as a team and competed against the top teams in our conference, reaching the [C-USA Tournament] final for the first time in program history, it was an amazing run and an incredible experience for all of our guys,” Camarero said.

Strauber recalled the penalty shootout in the quarterfinals against Charlotte as he realized the magnitude of what they’ve done throughout the season.

“I was looking back at the guys and thinking to myself, ‘wow, we fought like warriors.’ I was so proud of everyone,” Strauber said. “Right after we won the game, I knew something special was going to happen in this tournament. Seeing the guys on the bench and on the field pushing each other and leaving everything out there on the field [was] worth even more than the win.” 

Being a major contributor to the team’s success, Jauk sees the achievements they’ve made as no surprise because they know they are capable of doing so.

“I think the whole season will be marked in my special place as we achieved many great things,” Jauk said. “For the next season, we only need to look forward and set our standard higher, which is to get into [the] NCAA Tournament.”

Coming to a program that was rebuilding in 2018, Camarero said it was a great personal experience for him as he joined the team with the end goal being to have a better season than the year prior.

“That’s exactly what we have done. It required a lot of work, many sacrifices and [believing],” Camarero said. “But the main reason we have been able to achieve what we have achieved is how good of a culture we have been able to develop within the team and how strong of a bond we have with each other.”

For Strauber, the title game against Kentucky still runs in his head as he felt it was a missed opportunity. Despite that, he and the team feels motivated heading into 2022.

“We proved to ourselves and to other people that we can be a very tough team to beat and I think we need to build up on that for next season and to prove everyone what we did wasn’t coincidental,” Strauber said. 

Richard Pereira is the Sports Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Rich26Pereira.