Emerson’s men’s soccer team finished up a meeting on a rainy Boston night. Most would expect the type of gloom that was present in the sky to be on their faces after a long practice. First-year head coach Bryan Harkin led the team out of the locker room with a strong sense of energy and optimism as they began the trek back home.
Sophomore defenseman Creighton Dorfman said the team is enthusiastic about Harkin.
“We’re really excited to have him aboard,” he said. “We know he’s the guy who is going to take us in the right direction.”
As a young boy in Derry, Northern Ireland, Harkin lived and breathed soccer. When he was 13 years old, Liverpool FC noticed the young Harkin and eventually signed him to its youth academy. By the time he turned 16, he had moved to England to play for the team professionally.
In 1999, Harkin moved to the United States to play for Fairfield University, where his success landed him an opportunity with the Cape Cod Crusaders of the United Soccer League Premier Development League.
After finishing his playing career with Crystal Palace Baltimore FC in 2009, Harkin devoted his career to coaching. He served as an assistant at Loyola Maryland and won a Division III national championship as an assistant with Tufts University in 2014. He most recently won another national title in 2016 with Tufts.
Harkin decided to come to Emerson for a new opportunity and a chance to help what he thinks is a promising squad
“I was just looking for a position where I could come over, and it was exciting, and I felt Emerson had lots of positives coming in,” Harkin said. “They were heading in a new direction and I felt that I could come in and help.”
Veteran goalkeeping trainer Colin Connolly is confident that the team’s strong start is due in part to the players’ trust and belief in their new head coach.
“I think they’ve bought into his style of play, and we’re starting to see results already,” Connolly said.
Dorfman also praised Harkin’s style and impact since his arrival.
“He’s a great guy to get behind and believe in. We trust him with everything that he’s doing,” Dorfman said. “The improvement that we’ve seen in the program with him at the helm is something to look forward to.”
Harkin spent a large majority of his life playing the sport, and he attributes those years as a player to his success and development as a coach.
“Whatever you learned as a player and under certain coaches, you take little pieces from everyone along the way and you kind of adapt it and put it into what works for you,” Harkin said.
The men’s team started their NEWMAC season on Saturday with a tough 1-0 loss at Clark, but Harkin said he has high expectations that he hopes will carry onto the field for the remainder of the year.
“My expectation is to make the NEWMAC playoffs. That’s our goal, it has been our goal since the start of the year, and it’s a challenge, but we’re up for it,” he said. “Until it’s not attainable, we’re still in the mix, and that’s what we’ll be hoping for this year and every year going forward.”
Dorfman made sure there was no doubt about how the team feels about Harkin.
“There’s no guy we’d rather have,” Dorfman said.