Lara makes smooth transition to Charleston


Jason Howell

Men’s soccer coach Kiki Lara is introduced as the new coach on March 10, 2015.

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

Kiki Lara was hired as the ninth men’s soccer coach in Eastern history on March 10, 2015.

Lara comes over from Dayton University where he spent six seasons there as an assistant focusing more on the defensive side of the ball.

Last season, Dayton had seven shutouts as a team and posted a 0.74 goals against average, which ranked second in the Atlantic 10.

Lara has been living in Charleston for just over five months and he said the move from Dayton, Ohio to Charleston has been smooth with his wife and two kids.

“We have found that the townspeople are very nice around here and welcoming,” he said. “It has been like that since I visited the campus on my interview. It hasn’t changed.”

Lara takes over a team that finished 3-13-1 overall and finishing last in the Summit League last season

Soccer-wise, Lara said you never feel like you have settled in. In a job like this, he is constantly thinking ahead of ways to try to make the program improve.

“We finally have been through at least two weeks of preseason, and we feel like we are going in the right direction,” he said.

The Panthers have played two exhibitions games thus far and have won both of them. Eastern defeated Cincinnati, 2-1, at Lakeside Field a couple weeks ago, and then played NAIA school St. Xavier and won 4-1.

The players have bought in to what Lara is bringing to the table in his first year as a head coach, according to junior goalkeeper Michael Spencer.

“Coach Lara has a commitment to a coherent identity that he works to instill within the side everyday,” Spencer said. “The basis for that identity is the experience he has as a college player, coach and a professional.”

Spencer added that Division I soccer is a deeply physical and direct brand of soccer, so Lara wants his team to compete on a physical level, but also wants his team to play an intelligent, attacking game.

Lara also played four years professionally. He played three seasons with the Minnesota Thunder of the United Soccer League from 2004-2006. He would later play for the Portland Timbers of the USL from 2007-2008.

He appeared in 25 games for the Timbers helping the team advanced to the USL semifinals.

Senior defender/midfielder Kyle Callender said Lara’s experience as a player and a coach go hand in hand with his commitment to detail.

“His experience creates a sense of purpose with everything he does, which is pushing our team to be better individually on and off the field,” he said. “It is creating a culture within this program that will outlast any of the players within it.”

Eastern will open up its season Friday at Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]