In the spotlight- Nyal Higgins

Zac Grasl, Staff Intern

After spending the summer training with three Major League Soccer (MLS) teams and playing for an amateur soccer league in Ontario, Canada, Junior defensemen Nyal Higgins of the Oakland Men’s soccer team, is expected to have a breakout season and to take the role of being the team’s leader this upcoming season in 2018.

Men’s head soccer coach Eric Pogue initially saw Higgins play at a tournament in Toronto, Canada, in December of 2014, playing for his Ajax SC team.

He was playing center back right in front of me and I was immediately drawn to him due to his command of the position, his physical and vocal presence, his technical calmness on the ball, and his immense athleticism,” Pogue said. “Nyal really commanded the game, which can be a difficult thing to do as a defender.”

Higgins would later attend Oakland’s soccer recruiting camp in February 2015, and when Pogue spotted Higgins at the camp, he knew that Higgins was someone he needed to see in Oakland’s black and gold.

Higgins has played soccer since he was four years old, basically his whole life. Many athletes have that one pro athlete they try to copy their game off of. For Higgins, that athlete was NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

I love his will to win,” Higgins said. “He would do anything to win, his mindset is different from the rest and he prepares the people around him for big tasks.”   

But as for soccer players, the player he has recently started to follow is Barcelona’s centre Samuel Umtiti.

“He’s very smart, he’s an all around player at his position, and he does things that normal people wouldn’t imagine doing on the soccer field,” Higgins said. “He will also step up to the plate and help his team in many ways.”

Pogue says that Higgins is one of the most consistent players he has ever coach, implying that every game, Higgins goes out on the soccer field and gives you everything he has.

“I remember one game his freshman year that really lit a spark inside of Nyal,” Pogue said. “He helped us defeat our rivals, University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), coming from behind by scoring a set piece late in the game that eventually led us to victory. It may not have been for a national championship, but beating your rival is always a great feeling.”

Higgins would go on to be named to the All-Region 3rd team his freshman year, which is an accomplishment for a freshman.

“A lot of players play their entire careers and not be named to the All-Region team, but Nyal did it his freshman year,” Pogue said. “That tells you his play was being recognized not only in the Horizon League, but also regionally and nationally.”

With the 2018 season quickly approaching, Pogue believes that the 2018 season will be Higgins’ breakout year as a college soccer player.

“Nyal would be the first to tell you that he is expecting our team and himself to have a breakout year,” Pogue said. “He has spent the summer playing at a very high level in League One Ontario with Vaughan SC and being invited to train with three MLS teams, Sporting Kansas City, Columbus Crew SC, and Nashville SC (which enters MLS in 2019).  As a junior and upperclassman, the team will be counting on Nyal’s experience and talent to contribute to the leadership of the team, on and off the field and I think he is up for the challenge.”