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Men's Soccer: Coach Quinn — Lander is "Best Leader in My Time at USD"

Senior defender Henry Lander will leave USD after this season as San Diego senior defender Henry Lander, heading into tonight's Senior Day USD soccer game at home vs. Portland, earned praise from Coach Brian Quinn as "the best leader" he's coached.

Between his 11 seasons as Seamus McFadden's lead assistant plus the last two years as the University of San Diego's head men's soccer coach, Brian Quinn has coached, mentored and prodded close to 200 Toreros. Stubborn defenders, moody goalkeepers and flamboyant forwards.

Of all those players, senior defender Henry Lander stands out in one crucial category.

"In a sentence," said Quinn, "I would term Henry the best leader in my time at USD. We've had great captains. But he's the best leader."
 
Tonight when San Diego hosts Portland at 7, four seniors — Lander, Patric Krall, Miguel Berry and Freddy Polzer — will be recognized before what likely will be their final home game.

"I've given it big thought," said Lander. "(It will be) emotional. I'm an emotional person."

Quinn says Lander's leadership is exemplified by his almost professional approach to the college game. He practices hard, plays hard and expects the same of teammates. Quinn feels the way Lander dealt with a serious injury before this season is indicative of his leadership and desire to be on the pitch.

In a training session shortly after last season's final game, Lander suffered an injury in the area of his left ankle and heel.
 
"To this day, I still don't know what it was," said Lander.
 
The injury kept him sidelined for seven months, which was difficult for a young man who lives and breathes soccer.
 
He rehabbed in the training room, in a pool, on land, but the injury lingered into summer.
 
"There was some question if he would be ready," said Quinn.
 
Eventually, the injury healed, Lander played two summer games for an Orange County under-23 team, returned to his home in England for about a week, then came back to San Diego for the start of his senior season.
 
He is one of only two players, along with goalie Matt Wiher, who has played every minute this season, which sees the Toreros with a 10-5-1 record going into the final two regular season matches.
 
"When the bell rang for preseason," said Quinn, "there he was, at the front, ready to go."
 
Like many people, Lander is a product of his environment. He grew up in Bournemouth, England, a coastal city on the English Channel about 107 miles southwest of London. His home sat barely 300 meters from the professional soccer club A.F.C. Bournemouth, a member of the Premier League.
 
In soccer-mad England, you can imagine what his dream was as a child.
 
By 7, he was selected to the A.F.C. Academy. He played for the academy for 11 years. The final two years were an apprenticeship to play for the professional club. He trained four days a week and went to school one. At the end of the two years, five players earned contracts. Four did not.
 
Lander was one of the four.
 
"It was heartbreaking," said Lander. "How long I'd been there, the relationships I made."
 
In the back of his mind Lander had contemplated that if he did not make the professional team he would pursue playing collegiate soccer in the United States.
 
"I was quite keen on getting an education," said Lander, who had seen others struggle to earn good jobs when their soccer days ended.
 
He signed up for an agency that helped place players at U.S. colleges. USD assistant coach Nico Nicholson watched Lander play at a trial day. The Toreros offered a scholarship. So did the University of Pittsburgh.
 
Lander's parents, both of whom worked as flight attendants for British Airways and had traveled to San Diego, recommended Southern California. So off to USD he ventured, 5,455 miles from home.
 
He has been a starter since his freshman season, a captain since he was a sophomore.
 
Quinn said Lander's most valuable trait as a defender is one that only comes with hundreds of matches at highly competitive levels.
 
"His best trait is his knowledge of the game and his positioning in regards to recognizing danger before it happens," said Quinn.
 
Lander is humbled that Quinn called him the best leader during his 13 seasons at USD.
 
"To have that come from someone like Quinny, the caliber person he is, who has been there, done that, played on national-level teams, it does mean a lot," said Lander. "I feel I left my mark on the program."
 
With the Toreros chasing an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, Lander admits he is disappointed by one thing. At one end of Torero Stadium, a blue banner hangs from the fence. It lists the years San Diego's soccer team advanced to the NCAA Tournament or won the WCC championship.
 
Thus far, Lander's first three seasons are not represented. "It's bittersweet," he said.
 
He said his teammate, Berry, has been one of the most influential people in his life at USD. "He knows when I'm down, when I'm upset at something," said Lander. "He's been my little sidekick. He's been there for me."
 
Asked what he likes most about soccer and Lander doesn't talk about heading out crosses, stunting a forward's attack or directing traffic in the defensive zone. He thinks back to his final two years when he tried to make the Bournemouth professional team.
 
"I love what soccer teaches you as a person and how you can carry that over into everyday life." he said.
 
During that apprenticeship the younger players cleaned the coaches' office, cleaned the first team players' boots, washed plates after lunch, assisted the grounds crew, took out equipment for the Premier League team.
 
"It taught us discipline, respect, honesty, integrity," said Lander. "We were treated as men. We were held to a higher standard, not just in football but to be a good person. It laid the foundation for me maturing into a man."
 
Quinn said that when some players come to USD, they get what he calls "Californiaized." The idyllic weather lulls some players into complacency. A siren song calls them to the beach.
 
"We want you to be your own man," said Quinn. "But six months later, guys are on the beach, working on their suntan. The truth is. Henry's been his own man since Day One."
 
Lander again thinks back to those two years he was serving an apprenticeship for the A.F.C. Bournemouth team.
 
"I came from an environment where it was life or death, people were trying to put food on the table,” he said.
 
He wants to play professionally, probably in the States. Then he longs to coach.
 
"I just feel it's in my DNA," he said. "Since I can remember I've had a ball at my feet. I'm the person I am today because of all my experiences through football."

— USD Athletics

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