AFC Ann Arbor are thrilled to announce its newest member to the AFCAA Family, center back Iwan Webster. Webster is coming off the conclusion off his sophomore season with the Maryville Saints, located in St. Louis, Missouri. Webster stands 6’3” and follows in the steps of Jack Cawley last season and David Cross the season before in providing a British center back in the squad for The Mighty Oak as Webster hails from Liverpool. A Third Team All-GLVC selection as a freshman, Webster has been a starter for the Saints in both his seasons with the side.
With Maryville, Webster has made 38 career starts with 39 appearances. He scored his first career goal this past season in the 84th minute of a 1-1 game against Drury University to ultimately give his Saints the 2-1 victory. During his freshman season he was part of a side that went 13-4-2 and helped hold ten clean sheets, including one in the NCAA Division II Tournament, only conceding more than one goal three times, two of those games going to overtime. This past season, he helped Maryville get to another tournament with a 10-5-5 record and eight clean sheets over the season, along with a GLVC Conference Tournament victory.
Webster, as evidenced by his collegiate side’s successes, has plenty of attributes that help make him a strong player. “A big strength of mine is my calmness on the ball and range of passing,” Webster said. Expanding on just why that is so vital, he said, “In the modern game, if a central defender can play through lines and control the tempo of the game, his team has a massive advantage, so I pride myself in this.” As a whole, a passion for the game is one of the newest CBs greatest attributes as well. Webster said, “Another strength of mine is my love for defending. Every game, my number one priority is keeping a clean sheet, so general defending is a strong side of my game.” Coming off a season with Cawley and Stanley Okumu both in the back line, both being incredibly smart defenders, it is clear that Webster’s smarts at such a young age will suit him well in the NPSL.
When asked about what he liked about Webster, Eric Rudland responded, “He has great feet to play out of pressure, good size to dominate aerial challenges and is an imposing figure.” He added, reflecting on the team’s composition, “Iwan will bring a lot of quality to our team defense and our ability to play out from the back.” Given the general style of play from The Mighty Oak, and the principles seen in high-level European football with playing the ball out from the back, Webster will surely fit right into the side.
The links to AFCAA came from the collegiate level. Webster said, “Coach [David] Korn (my college head coach) connected me with Coach Rudland, as he had a good relationship with him and knew of his impressive record. Once I had heard about this, I was immediately interested and wanted to find out more.” The trust in his head coach helped lead him over to Ann Arbor. Rudland’s experience coaching in England with Crewe Alexandria appealed to the England native as well. “After speaking to Coach Rudland, hearing of his goals and intentions with the club and where he saw me fitting into it,” Webster would continue, “I knew this was a great opportunity and wanted to be a part of it.”
As a whole, the style change from England to the United States was something Webster, as a player, had to prepare for ahead of the start of his college career. “Comparing the UK and the States, there are big differences. I’d say one of the greatest differences is the physicality,” Webster shared with AFCAA. He explained how athletic ability and faster and stronger players had a higher emphasis on the sport. “Having this explained to me before arriving in the US was really helpful, as it meant I had to continue to work hard on the physical side of my game, and ensure I was in the best shape I could be in,” is what Webster described as his adjustments for the transition. Things have seemed to work out quite well for the center back in his couple of years in the States.
With the season’s training just a week away, Webster is already anticipating the season to come. “I’m really excited to be a part of The Mighty Oak. The team’s successes over the last few years speak for themselves, so the opportunity to be a part of this club was very exciting for me.” He added, “This season, I hope we can win our conference and progress in the postseason opportunities.”
Webster would conclude discussing his own personal thoughts, saying, “Personally, I am grateful for the chance to keep playing over the summer and continue to develop myself as a player and person, with great coaches and players to learn from.” He added, “To play in such a successful and player-focused environment will be a fantastic experience.” With a message to fans telling them to “be excited” for what is going to be a memorable season, the confidence from the newest member of The Mighty Oak is exciting to see.
About AFC Ann Arbor
Founded in 2014, Association Football Club Ann Arbor launched it’s men’s semi-pro team in 2015 and has competed in the NPSL since 2016. Led by Head Coach & Sporting Director, Eric Rudland, the team has found great success winning back to back Great Lakes Championships (‘17 & ‘18) and earning US Open Cup bids three straight years (2017-2019). In October 2018, the club announced the launch of the women’s side, who will be skippered by Andy “Pritch” Pritchard in their inaugural season of the United Women’s Soccer national league. Owned and operated by a group of local soccer fans and entrepreneurs, AFC Ann Arbor has become a fixture in the greater Ann Arbor community.