Tomorrow, Georgetown’s men’s soccer team will play at Villanova (kickoff at 1 PM) to open their 2021 spring schedule. That will also be their first match since winning the 2019 NCAA Championship over Virginia. It would be easy for the team to be complacent with that title on their resume, but that appears to be the opposite of the team’s current mindset, according to junior midfielder Sean Zawadzki. “It seems as if this team has more motivation to win a national championship than the team last year,” Zawadzki told BGN. “I know that’s funny to hear, but just given the circumstances and not having the ability to come back in the fall has kind of lit a fire under us. Returners had been apart for ten months, and the freshman hadn’t even stepped on campus as student-athletes yet.”
“Given what entailed in the fall, with all of us being home training by ourselves while other teams were playing in the fall, is all the motivation that this team needs. In our group chat or on zoom calls with us players, guys would express the frustration in all that was happening. With that, I think the best message that we received was to make the most out of our opportunity when it comes because it will.”
While the motivations seems to have increased, how can the reigning champions actually improve on their 2019 form? Zawadzki said, “I think the main thing this year’s team can improve on from last year is the ability to play a full 90 minutes. Even though we won the national championship, I do not think we played a full 90 minutes. I think there was a portion of every game where we let our opponent feel comfortable.”
“With the way we play as a team, we want to affect the game in many different ways, which leads to the other team getting frustrated. When we allow them to get comfortable in the game, it gives them the belief that the game is still there for them.”
Individually, Sean has improved over his time as a Hoya. In 2018, he played in 21 matches (13 starts) as a freshman and finished with one assist. He was invited to U-19 camp with the USMNT after the season. Then, during the national title-winning 2019 campaign, he started all 22 matches and scored three goals (including the rocket below in the NCAA semifinals) to go with one assist.
Now, the preseason All-Big East selection steps into his first season as a team captain. “Being named a team captain by the coaching staff and my teammates, especially after coming on the back of a national championship, means a lot to me,” he said. “Being a captain allows me to continue to evolve in my time here at Georgetown. When I first came in, I was a quiet freshman that was nervous about various things. Then, I started to gain more confidence in my ability to play at this level, and I think my teammates began to realize that too.”
“Now being a captain in my junior year, I continue to gain confidence in my ability to be a player that can help this team both on and off the field to reach our goals. My leadership style is more of a lead by example. I am not one for giving motivational speeches, but I am capable of helping teammates individually or in smaller groups.”
In addition to growing as a leader, Zawadzki has worked on perfecting his craft since the 2019 season. He explained, “During this long layoff, it’s been hard to find guys to train with back home in Ohio, so the thing that I looked to improve the most was my range of pass, specifically with my left foot. I wanted to have more confidence in my ability to hit a longer pass with both of my feet. Having the ability to hit that type of pass with both feet will make me more of a complete player in my mind.”
For anyone unfamiliar with his game, is there a player comparison that he feels could be accurate on the professional level? “Being part of the Crew academy, I always tried to mirror my game around Wil Trapp, but since I have been at Georgetown, I would say that my playing style is similar to N’Golo Kanté,” Zawadzki answered. “I would say Kanté because of the willingness to do the dirty work defensively, keeps everything simple in the attack, and can score a goal every once in a while.”
As he mentioned, Zawadzki was a star in the Columbus Crew Academy for multiple years, also serving as a captain there. Obviously, he was an emotionally invested spectator in the #SaveTheCrew movement to keep the club in Columbus, Ohio. “Being in the Crew system for five years, it would have been hard to fathom the team not being in Columbus anymore,” he said. “However, to see how the fans of Columbus stood by their team through the whole process was remarkable. The energy that the fans displayed was not only contagious to the first team but also for the Academy. In my U18/19 year of the Academy, my team put together money to have #SaveTheCrew shirts made for our team. The Crew is too important to the city of Columbus to be gone.”
— Sean Zawadzki (@zawadzki_sean) December 5, 2016
“Now fast forward to 2021 during a global pandemic, and they are the MLS Cup champions. I think that is just a testament to the type of players and the organization in Columbus. To battle, the adversity of not knowing whether they would be in Columbus a couple of years earlier to then playing and winning the MLS Cup final in front of their fans shows what the Crew is all about.”
As his college career continues to raise his stock as a player, ranked #28 in Top Drawer Soccer’s latest Top 100 NCAA players list, Sean could potentially find his way back into a Crew kit. “With all of the memories and relationships I have formed from my time in the Crew Academy, it is a goal of mine to hopefully represent the Crew in the future,” he said.
A native of Olmsted Falls, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, Sean also enjoyed the success of another Ohio sports team this year. The Cleveland Browns made the playoffs for the first time since 2001 and defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the team’s first playoff win since 1995, five years before Sean was born. “Like any other Browns season, there was hope before the season started that this team would be successful,” he said. “Seeing the leadership that they brought in made this team special. From the first day that Stefanski stepped in, there seemed to be a different mentality from the city.”
“The Browns release these episodes on YouTube called Building the Browns that covers the week of practice and then the games, and they have player interviews that allow them to give their opinions. Being a lifelong fan, having the ability to get a behind-the-scenes look at what was happening was pretty remarkable. To have a behind-the-scenes look and then have the ability to watch that same team have success on the field was a miracle in my eyes. For the first time in my lifetime, each time they played, there was a sense of worry that filled my house that continued to grow as the season progressed.”
He added, “I think my favorite players have to be Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Jarvis Landry. I love Baker’s mentality. He was a walk-on in college that won the Heisman before becoming the first pick in the draft. He wanted to be part of a franchise that just came off of an 0-16 season. He wanted to be part of the turnaround here in Cleveland. Nick Chubb is an incredible football player that continuously goes about his business every day. He doesn’t let the outside comments affect his game. To be as good as he is and to carry himself in that manner is rare. Then, with Jarvis, you have an emotional leader. He came to Cleveland when everyone was worried about the Browns, and in 2-3 years, he helped lead them to the playoffs.”
Now, it’s Zawadzki’s turn as he looks to lead the Hoyas to repeat as NCAA champions. They would be only the third team to repeat as champions since 2000 (Indiana, three-peat by Stanford). The journey back to the top of the mountain begins tomorrow.