You often hear the word “family” thrown around when discussing team chemistry with any coach or player of a successful team. Developing the correct team dynamic over the course of an NPSL season is without a doubt a challenge for all coaches holding postseason aspirations in this league.
As Head Coach and Sporting Director Eric Rudland is viewed as one of the best managers in our league, he demands respect from all of his players and provides an environment for his side that allows for individuals to jell quickly.
There are also shortcuts to this process, one of which Rudland has opted to use in 4 consecutive seasons. Zach Pagani will be returning to Ann Arbor for his second season with the club and once again joins his younger brother Chase as a member of The Mighty Oak. What better way to foster a family environment than rostering family members themselves?
As Zach now joins Chase for his second season in his hometown of Ann Arbor, their relationship with Rudland dates back to their days in Lansing as Zach Pagani was a key attacking role of a NPSL postseason qualifying Lansing United side. These two Ann Arbor Pioneer alums add a constant in the team building side of things and with their talent combined it was priority for Rudland to bring them back to AFC Ann Arbor.
Zach Pagini will return to Ann Arbor as an alum of Colgate University and a 4 year letterwinner of their soccer program. In his senior season this past fall, he was an integral part in a Raider side that captured a Patriot League title, securing a berth in the NCAA tournament. Zach will be looked to by his Ann Arbor teammates as an accomplished collegiate player and NPSL veteran, one who’s attacking ability will be eagerly awaiting his opportunity to help AFC Ann Arbor qualify for the postseason once again.
Read the full interview with Zach below:
AFC: I believe this will be your 3rd season playing for Coach Rudland. What has he helped you accomplish with your game personally during that time?
ZP: This would be my 4th season playing for coach Rudland. He puts a lot of emphasis in technical ability. His professional training sessions help his players grow a lot in this aspect. He has also helped me grow my understanding of the game.
AFC: Being one of the Ann Arbor natives on the team, do you feel like a host at times? What does it mean for you to be able to represent your city such elite talent?
ZP: I don't think I'd categorize it as feeling like a host. I believe Eric does a great job at making everyone feel like an Ann Arbor native even if you're from abroad. But being able to play for the city you grew up in is a very unique and awesome feeling.
AFC: As you've completed another year (your final one) with Colgate which has helped you grow and develop even more as a player, what is your approach to the 2017 season with AFC and what do you hope to accomplish?
ZP: My final season at Colgate was a personal best. I hope to bring that momentum to AFC Ann Arbor where I hope I can continue to work very hard and score some more goals.
AFC: You've accomplished a lot at the NPSL level having won the Midwest Region Championship with Coach Rudland in Lansing, and moving on to the playoffs last year with AFC- how challenging is it to continue that success and what goals do you have for the club this season?
ZP: With Rudland you always seem to find success as a team. He is able to instill the right mentality in his players which results in successful seasons.
AFC: Now that school is done for you, what do you hope to accomplish with the game of soccer moving forward and beyond the 2017 AFC Ann Arbor season?
ZP: I've thought about making the move to professional somewhere in the world. That dream still hasn't left my mind. However as of now I'm searching for a job outside of soccer.
AFC: What advice would you give young soccer players in the area who want to play in college and beyond like yourself?
ZP: It sounds cliché but it is for a reason. You really need to work your ass off and also be a good teammate. Coaches really do pay attention to that even more so than being a good player sometimes.