Soccer Nation Coach’s Corner 2017: Ziggy Korytoski of Albion Pros (Part I)

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Soccer Nation Coach’s Corner 2017: Ziggy Korytoski of Albion Pros (Part I)

After a stellar inaugural season in 2016 that saw Albion Pros cement themselves as a contender for national honors, Head Coach Ziggy Korytoski and his

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After a stellar inaugural season in 2016 that saw Albion Pros cement themselves as a contender for national honors, Head Coach Ziggy Korytoski and his staff are ready for more.  Not only will Albion be kicking off their second National Premier Soccer League campaign in April, but the club will also be taking part in the historic U.S. Open Cup, thanks to their quarter-final appearance in last season’s NPSL playoffs.

Though the regular season is just under three months away, Albion Pros are already getting started with a jam packed pre-season schedule.  Nate Abaurrea caught up with Korytoski in this week’s Soccer Nation Coach’s Corner. In part one of the conversation, the coach discusses the upcoming year for Albion Pros and the continuous cultivation of the Albion culture.

 

Nate Abaurrea: Happy 2017, Ziggy. It’s a new year for the Albion Pros, year two.

Ziggy Korytoski: Good to be back with you, Nate. I’m excited for this year. There’s a foundation in place from last year, and we are already moving into the season in ways that are far beyond where we began last year. The player pool has expanded greatly. The talent level continues to rise. The professional facilities and truly professional culture that exist are just fantastic. We set a standard with our debut season, a standard that a lot of teams are trying to match. Therefore, we need to be better, and create even higher standards, being the benchmark for this league.

NA: The NPSL regular season is still about three months away, but it seems like the season is already very much getting started for your club.

ZK: Absolutely. We had a great mini-camp in December, which was followed by an exhibition with the Club Tijuana Xolos reserve team. It was a good experience. There were a lot of trialists we were looking at, and some guys gave great showings for themselves. We have so many guys who want to play for this team. That’s a testament to much of what we did last year.

We also got an opportunity to play one of our academy players in that Xolos match. He is a 15-year-old named Arman Samimi. He played 30 minutes and did very well. We were very impressed…

NA: Tell us a little more about Arman, and what he represents in terms of the Albion senior team.

ZK: Arman is a hard worker, and an extremely humble kid. I think the most noticeable trait for him is that he’s motivated. He’s never content. He always wants more. That’s what we want out of our young guys, and all of our players for that matter. As far as what his appearance in that match represents, it’s so much of what we want in our club culture. We want to integrate. We want to be able to integrate our youth squad and our incredible talent base. There could be quite a few homegrown guys who become part of this team. We want to do things on scale with top flight European and Latin American clubs. It’s a professional team, Albion Pros, backed by an amazing youth soccer organization.  We want to be that model. It’s the vision of what we’re trying to create.  I think we’re well on our way.

NA: It was such a successful year in 2016 for you and Albion Pros, both on and off the pitch. You talk about continuing to grow and continuing to be better. But where does the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” logic lay? What would you say you are going to do the same as last year?

ZK: That’s an interesting question. We’ve created a fantastic culture, one of accountability, preparation, and execution.  Those things are important as we grow, and we need to always remember what we did right from the very beginning. Off the field, hosting events was something I thought we did a really good job with. I think we should be very similar to last year with those events, but at the same time, we can always do more.

On the field, in matches and of course in training, we want to always be preparing our players and ultimately showcasing them to this San Diego community and to this national league. Those things don’t change. But again, we want to grow as a professional club. Our staff is getting stronger. Our team and player pool are getting stronger. The commitment from the club to the project as a whole, the totality of it all, it is great to be a part of.

NA: On the flip side of this token, after going through the first year and examining how things went, what are some of the things you are gonna do differently this year?

ZK: I don’t know if it’s as much changing anything as it is just enhancing our awareness.  Whether you’re a head coach, a general manager, or anything, there are things that sneak up on you.  I felt pretty comfortable that we had the right recipes, but we can always be more prepared and aware of what’s around the next corner. As we continue to strengthen the whole thing, we will continue to expand the empire and make this project flourish.

NA: That’s an interesting line, “expanding the empire”. You’ve preached so much about local identity, cohesion with the community and truly being a part of San Diego. How does that line relate to that? How do you balance the goals of “expanding the empire”, making Albion Pros successful on a national level, while not drifting too far away from that local cohesion?

ZK: It’s definitely a balance. We are all about strengthening this group from the ground up. We’re not rushing through anything. We’re getting the right people involved in this club.  There are more and more people that want to invest their time and energy into not only Albion SC, but specifically Albion Pros.  We become stronger with numbers, but it must be under the very same vision shared by Noah Gins (Albion SC Executive Director), a vision that has helped make Albion synonymous with success.

With our senior team, we’ve more than doubled the amount of interest in the player pool from last year. We are in the process of putting together a schedule for our Albion Pros reserve team, giving those guys minutes and making sure that if the time comes and they are called upon, that they will be more than ready to answer the call.  The word integration has been a major part of the project, from the Pros to the reserves to the youth academy, and everywhere in between.  Any “expansion of the empire” must be along the lines of what’s supporting us, what’s coming in to our culture and making us better as a club and as a senior team. We’re able to do all these things that much better with all the added support, and we want that to continue growing. That’s how you build a winner.

See Part II here