SENIOR DEFENDER HENRY LANDER LEADS THE FIELD
Between his 11 seasons as Seamus McFadden’s lead assistant plus the last two years as USD’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 ’20 (BA) stands out in one crucial category.
“In a sentence, I would term Henry the best leader in my time at USD,” says Quinn. “We’ve had great captains, but he’s the best leader.”
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.
”When the bell rang for pre-season, there he was, at the front, ready to go,” says Quinn. Lander is one of only two players, along with goalie Matt Wiher ’21 (BA), who played every minute this season, which ended with an overall record of 12-5-1.
Lander grew up in Bournemouth, England, a coastal city on the English Channel. His home sat barely 300 meters from the professional soccer club AFC Bournemouth, a member of the Premier League. In soccer-mad England, you can imagine what his dream was as a child.
By the age of seven, he was selected to the AFC Academy, a professional sports organization that offers year-round soccer training. He played for the academy for 11 years. At the end of his final two years there, five players earned contracts. Four did not. Lander was one of the four.
“It was heartbreaking,” he recalls. “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,” he says. He’d 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 and 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’s been a starter since his first-year season, a captain since he was a sophomore.
“His best trait is his knowledge of the game and his positioning in regard to recognizing danger before it happens,” says 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,” he says. “I feel I left my mark on the program.” — USD Athletics