Looking to build on a historic 2011 season that saw Valparaiso claim the Horizon League regular season championship, head men’s soccer coach Mike Avery announced today a group of three incoming freshmen and two transfers who will continue their soccer careers in a Crusader jersey. The five newest additions are Jordan Aidoud (L’Isled’Abeau, France/Centre D’Etudes Franco Americain de Management), Alvaro Betancourt (Caguas, Puerto Rico/Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola), Yannick Iwunze (Paris, France/Hightower [Texas] H.S. [Barton County C.C./West Virginia), Patrick McNulty (Waukesha, Wis./Catholic Memorial) and Michael Walsh (Wilmington, N.C./Laney).
“We are very excited to welcome this talented group of young men to the Valpo soccer family,” said Avery. “Collectively, the class represents the same recruiting strategy we have followed over the past few years where we have blended some transfers, some international experience, and some high school seniors together to form a group that can give us some help immediately, and that can help us by providing depth for the future. “
“These five have some big shoes to fill in replacing the group of seniors that led us to a solid fall season,” Avery continued. “But my guess is that we will see this group have a big impact on our team as we keep pushing toward even higher heights. We will be adding some additional names to the recruiting class in the next few weeks, but, as a starting point, I couldn’t have hoped for a better class. I thank my current players and my coaching staff for the work they did to bring this group into the fold.”
Aidoud, a 6’1” midfielder, will transfer to Valparaiso from Centre D’Etudes Franco Americain de Management – an international university of business and management in Lyon, France. Coming from a region in France with top international soccer clubs, Aidoud has considerable experience in highly competitive tournaments hosted by Manchester United, Arsenal, Paris St Germain, Bordeaux, and AC Milan. Earlier in his career, Aidoud was a member of the Olympique Lyonnais youth system, with which he won several league championships. Most recently, Aidoud has played in the FC Tour St. Clair Senior Team U-19 within the Honor League. To the Crusader program, Jordan brings significant experience as well as a passionfor the game which began at an early age.
“Coach Avery is a key figure in my decision to join the Crusaders,” said Aidoud. “His desire to have me on his team, his confidence in me, and his sporting project and its philosophy are the decisive elements. I’m very happy to join him and start a new great adventure. I’m happy and proud to become a Crusader and I really want to reach the NCAA tournament with Valpo. The University has a human scale which is an important thing for me, in addition to being located in a lovely town.”
"We had hoped to have Jordan join us as a part of last year’s recruiting class, but we are just as happy to be getting him now as a transfer student,” said Avery. “In fact, the last year has been a real positive for him as he has shown a lot of improvement in his English while attending an American university in France, and his soccer development has also benefited. Jordan has tremendous experience and a strong soccer background (his father, Farid Aidoud, is a former professional player in France), and Jordan plays with creativity and intelligence. His technical ability is very high and he has the soccer IQ to go along with it. Jordan has the potential to become a very special player for us, and he is one the Crusader fans will really enjoy watching”
Betancourt, a current member of the Puerto Rican national team program, becomes the first senior international player in Crusader history, having earned his first international cap for Puerto Rico in a World Cup qualification match against St. Lucia in November of 2011 at the age of 17. Betancourt is expected to feature for the U20 squad of Puerto Rico at the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship. The tournament will determine the region’s qualifiers for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup being held in Turkey from June 21-July 13. Betancourt was named “All-Around MVP” of the Puerto Rico High School Athletics Alliance in both his junior and senior years due to his stellar performance with Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola. As a member of his club team, Conquistadores de Guaynabo, Betancourt was an integral part of their three National Championships (2007, 2009, and 2010), U-17 Metropolitan League Tournament Championships, and U-17 Puerto Rico TV Cup Championship.
Betancourt attributes his decision to attend Valpo to the quality of both the academic and soccer reputation of the school. “Playing soccer at an NCAA Division I university and studying biology was always my dream,” Betancourt stated. “After I had the opportunity to visit Valparaiso, I immediately realized that this is where I wanted to be. Coach Mike and Jeff made me feel very welcome, and getting to meet the team was a great experience. What most excites me about the Crusader program is the philosophy of the soccer team – it provides lessons that I will use in the classroom and in my life.”
“Alvaro is a tremendous fit for our program,” said Avery. “He gives us another player with national team experience (current Crusaders Diego Calix and Gerardo Avelar both have played for El Salvador youth national teams), and his technical ability, creativity and decisions in possession all fit with how we try to play. When I saw him in December down in Puerto Rico with his club team, I was very impressed with his range of pass and his ability to both combine in tight spaces and then unlock the other team with a timely ball in behind. Most importantly, he fits with our team in terms of character. We can’t wait to get him here on campus in August.”
Iwunze, a 6’3” central defender, comes in as a transfer student from Barton County Community College, where he earned First Team All-Conference and First Team All-Region awards as a member of the Cougars from the center back position. Prior to his attendance at Barton County, Iwunze played a year for West Virginia University in the Big East Conference as a striker. As a prep standout, Iwunze was a three-year starter for Coach Doug Purcell at Hightower High School in Houston, Texas. While at Hightower, he tallied 18 goals as a senior, setting a new single-season record, and was named to the All-Greater Houston Soccer Superlatives team. In his club career with Houston Dynamo Academy, Iwunze participated in the 2009 MLS U-17 SUM Cup, competed in the 2009 Developmental Academy Winter Showcase, and was named the “Best Player at Camp” in the Houston Dynamo Academy Elite Camp in 2008.
Iwunze credits his connection with the staff and the team as a major reason for his decision to select Valpo. “I chose Valparaiso University because I really liked the coaching staff and instantly bonded with the entire team,” Iwunze said. “I fell in love with the place when I visited, from both an academic and athletic standpoint. Coach Avery really stressed the academic side of things which to me and my family is very important. I believe that the ambitions of the program will take it far, and I’m definitely going to work hard to make sure that happens.”
“Yannick fills a very big need for us as we try to replace two all-region center backs off last year’s squad in Antonijevic and Wong,” said Avery. “Yannick is a powerful athlete, with great size, speed and strength. As a youth player, first in France and then in Houston, Yannick was predominantly an attacking player. In the last year he has moved into a defensive role and that transition has been very good for him. I like the idea of having versatility in our squad, and while we are thinking of him first as a defender, Yannick’s ability to be a dangerous attacker is also very interesting. Yannick’s maturity, his outstanding character, and his leadership are all things we will look to right away. If all goes well, I think Yannick could be a big part of our team in his remaining two years of eligibility.”
McNulty has been a four year varsity player for Catholic Memorial H.S., where he has been a crucial part of the program’s success. In McNulty’s four years, Catholic Memorial has appeared in the State Championship every year and has taken home the trophy on one occasion. Named team captain in his junior and senior year, McNulty was honored as First Team All-Conference Classic 8 his final two years and First Team All-State this past fall. In his club involvement with SC Waukesha, his leadership and maturity have earned him the title of team captain for the last four years. With Waukesha, he won the 2011 Midwest Regional League 1st Division Championship.
McNulty first visited Valpo while attending the 2011 VIP Camp and enjoyed the family atmosphere of the team and staff which he saw at that event. “When I met Coach Avery and learned about his program, coaching staff, and the family that he’s created at Valparaiso, I knew this was the place for me,” McNulty recollects. “The coaching staff is committed to improving the whole player, on and off the field, and the team chemistry between players is something I want to be a part of. I’m grateful for the opportunity that I have been given and I look forward to being coached by this staff, which will help me continue my growth as a soccer player and as a person.”
“Patrick is a player we have grown very close to over the recruiting process, and I am so excited that he will finally be joining us,” said Avery. “He is one of those players that makes the game look easy because he is so simple in his decisions on the ball and clean with his technique. Additionally, he has a great engine and covers a lot of ground over the course of a game. He has a very positive personality, one that fits perfectly with how we try to view the opportunity we have here at Valparaiso, and I am certain he will be a leader among our freshmen class.”
Walsh led the Mid-Eastern Conference in points, tallying 22 goals and 15 assists during the 2011 season and also setting the Laney High School record for most goals in a season. In both his junior and senior years, Walsh was named to the North Carolina All-Region Team, First Team All Mid-Eastern Conference, and in his senior year he led the team to the 2011 4A Mid-Eastern Conference Championship (the first league championship in school history). Prior to moving to North Carolina, Walsh played in Laguna Hills, Calif. with the nationally ranked West Coast Futbol Club coached by Neil Armour and Oliver Wyss.
Walsh, along with McNulty, first viewed campus while attending the VIP Camp last summer and was able to immediately connect with the program on several levels. “My college decision was based on finding a small, private university that offered a competitive Division I soccer program,” Walsh said. “The soccer program at Valpo has a foundation of success based on a knowledgeable coaching staff and a hard-working group of players. I felt a personal connection with the coaching staff and the team which made the decision clear for me.”
“I really believe that we found one of the rare ‘hidden gems’ in this class in Michael Walsh,” said Avery. “Moving during high school from Southern California to Wilmington, N.C. probably took him off the radar to some degree, and that worked to our benefit. We identified Michael at our camp, and I could tell by the end of the first day that he was a player I wanted in my program. Michael has a tremendous attacking mentality – he is creative, fearless, technical and a very good athlete. He gives us another left sided player that could play in a lot of different positions – anywhere from forward to left back – and I am excited to see him challenge for a spot in our first team. Michael comes from a soccer family – both his father and his older brother played Division I soccer – and he understands what it takes to be successful at this level. There is no question that he is a great pick up for us.”