Seven newcomers will join the men’s soccer team’s 18 returning players this season, making up a crew captain Andy Shorten ’11 believes is the most tight-knit in years.

“Our team is probably the closest it has ever been off the field, which has transferred to us being extremely close and successful on the field this preseason,” he said.

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The Bulldogs hit the field for the first time all summer two weeks ago.The Bulldogs welcome not only the long-awaited renovation of Reese Stadium, but also six freshmen and a sophomore walk-on, who teammates said they thinkwill make an impact this season.

“The freshmen coming in all have a lot to offer to the team. They are all making their impact,” defensive midfielder Andy Hackbarth ’12 said. “I feel like they have adjusted really well to the team, socially and athletically. They are all very strong technically and tactically, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they have to offer.”

The sevenrookies will get their first taste of college soccer when the Bulldogs face UConn (1–0) on Saturday in their season opener.The Huskies, ranked 10th in one national poll and 22nd in another, are coming off of a 2–0 win over St. Francis on Wednesday in the Huskies’ opener.

The Bulldogs will look to erase the bitter taste in their mouths from falling 2–0 last year in a mid-season match-up against the Huskies.Shorten said the Elis will use their past experiences against the Huskies as motivation.

“We’ve been very timid the last few years we’ve played them. We’ve almost catered to their game and played too cautiously,” Shorten said. “This year we really have the talent and skill to play our game and not worry about what they are doing.”

The Bulldogs will focus on executing one of their goals for the season: keeping possession.

“We’re working on possessing the ball and keeping it, which was one of our weak points last year,” Hackbarth added..

Shorten echoedHackbarth.

“They are always a great team and a great technical team, always moving the ball around,” Shorten said. “In order to win, we really need to play our best and play organized and move the ball around, and hopefully we’ll come out on top.”

With the last two weeks of preseason under their belts, the Elis will use the addition of new talent and past experiences to take on the Huskies.

“We have to try to be in control instead of letting them control the game,” Shorten said.

The opener will begin under the lights at Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn. at 7:30p.m.