Will Orben’s debut as the Head Coach of Andover Boys Varsity Soccer has marked a new era in Boys Soccer, after longtime Coach Bill Scott stepped down to focus on his new position as Chair in Mathematics.
Orben, Instructor in Mathematics, is a gifted soccer player who has played at a professional level internationally. After finishing his collegiate career at LeHigh University, Orben went on to play for the Hershey Wildcats, a professional team in the USL-A, the predecessor to the Major League Soccer, and the Denmark team FC Copenhagen for four years until he retired from his playing career due to a foot injury.
Orben’s coaching career started at Taft, where he led the team for nine years before accepting his current position as Head Coach of Boys Varsity Soccer at Andover. Yet Orben cares for the entire boys soccer program, from the JV3 to Varsity teams. While results are important, he stresses player development, continuing Scott’s tradition of inviting JV players to practice with the Varsity team so that all four teams at Andover perform to their potential.
The Varsity team has shown promise, boasting a 7-3-5 record, but Orben’s elaborate plans target areas for further improvement, especially communication on the field and attacking the opposing defense.
“When I think about my coaching, I think of my boarding school time. When I was a high school student was when I learned how to play with a lot of passion,” said Orben.
“My college time was when I learned how to play with my body, and my professional side was when I learned how to play with my mind. I learned to think through situations really fast. When I coach, I try to bring all of those things together. There’s the raw passion, the physical part, but my professional experience makes me really analytical,” he added.
With firsthand experience in high-level soccer and in high school soccer, Orben possesses extensive knowledge of the game. In practices, he often coaches by participating in drills and scrimmages.
“When he practices with us, [Orben] is by far the best player on the field,” said Andy Manos ’16
Furthermore, Orben utilizes complex strategies in order to gain an upper hand on the opposition.
“I’ve never really played in the formation that we play in right now, or my position. There are a lot of players on the team who are used to playing in a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-2-1, so the 4-1-4-1 is definitely something new,” said Peder Bakken ’16.
The more nuanced formations require more cohesion across the field, and Orben has been working to make sure his midfielders can handle the changes.
“We do a lot of stuff in practice where we learn to play together, especially the three center midfielders. A lot of drills showing us what our movements should look like, and he’s really good at teaching us how to move as a unit,” continued Bakken.
Orben has focused practices around developing efficient communication on the field.
“It’s important to me that the team is really systematic. I want them to see patterns in the way they play. So I want things to look the same all the time. Communication is more than just ‘Come on let’s go’; it’s directing people and giving people salient information,” said Orben.
“Communication is one of the key things about how we play defense. We need to talk to one another because you need to account for every player on the other team, in addition to all spaces,” said Bakken. “Everyone needs to be on the same page as [to know] what to do, especially the back line and me (as the center defensive midfielder). It’s all about awareness and talking to one another, so that we can all be on the same page. [Orben] really stresses that in practices so that we can be at our best in the games.”
A plethora of offensive talent pushed Orben to rebuild the focus of the team. By changing the formation, he infused the team with a more offensive mindset. This has paid off, as evidenced by Andover’s 36 goals over a 15-game stretch.
“The more offensive mindset works well for the team because we are a team made up of mostly offensively minded players. Orben is playing to the team’s strengths,” said Manos.
Under Orben’s leadership, Andover Boys Soccer continues to try to clinch a playoff spot as the regular season winds down. Games against Kimball Union Academy, New Hampton and Exeter will determine Andover’s fate in the postseason.