September 28, 2010

Freshman Spotlight: Daniel Haber

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When I told men’s soccer freshman attacking-midfielder Daniel Haber that I wanted to interview him in order to get a glimpse of the Red’s new class of players and its promising future, he asked, “Why did you pick me?” Just to let the readers know, he did not say this with the intention of, “I do not want to do this, you should have interviewed another player.” On the contrary, he said it with a genuine feeling of wonder. At that instant, I learned that Haber was a down-to-earth guy.Haber is a rookie that has managed to be in the starting lineup of every game so far this season –– even though he believed he was not going to get any playing time at all. He was also the player of the game in Cornell’s home debut –– an exciting 3-2 victory over Hartwick College. Haber was a main factor in two of the three goals the Red notched in a lapse of four minutes to come from behind and win the game. He scored the tying goal with a header in the 77th minute and then assisted junior forward Will Ogden to secure the victory –– the first for Cornell in this year’s campaign. “I have never experienced something as exciting as that on a soccer field,” he said. “The goal, the assist and the crowd. It was definitely something special.”   At the end of that week, Haber earned his first Division-I accolade when the Ivy League named him a Co-Rookie of the Week, along with Columbia’s Henning Sauerbier. He was also a key piece in last Wednesday’s 1-1 tie against Syracuse University. Haber received a pass from junior midfielder Jimmy Lannon and then proceeded to assist sophomore attacking-midfielder Nico Nissi, who converted the opportunity and gave the Red the lead. Without any doubt, Haber is an essential part of this year’s squad and represents the future of Cornell soccer –– although he certainly would not put it in these words.

Haber started playing soccer when he was three years old. “Both of my older brothers played it,” he said. “I used to be a very energetic kid and liked to run around, and as soon as I started playing it I loved it and never stopped.” His activeness and passion for the sport guided him to represent the U-18 Canadian team at the 2009 Maccabiah Games –– the Jewish Olympics –– in Israel. “It was really cool to go and compete with 18 teams from all over the world,” he admitted. “We played the United States, England, Sweden, Germany and Argentina. It was great to interact with Jewish players from different countries.” Haber was able to participate in the tournament all the way to the quarterfinals, where Canada lost a close game to Argentina. “The competition was very good. There were many talented teams,” he said. “But in general terms, our team performed pretty well.”

Before Cornell, Haber played as a forward and attacking midfielder for Spartacus Football Club. With this team –– which at one time was ranked No. 10 in the United States –– he won three consecutive providence titles (in Ontario), several tournament cups in the U.S. and in one season scored 21 goals in a 16-game span to lead the league in goals. “I have always been an attacking player,” he recognized. “Here [at Cornell] I am asked to do a lot more defensively than I have ever done before, but that also helps me to develop and improve as a soccer player.” Haber also feels that the high-tempo strategy implemented by head coach Jaro Zawislan creates a good combination with his offensive style of playing.

According to Haber, Spartacus obtained positive results in competitions because the squad’s chemistry was supportive. “As a team, we were great. We had a good chemistry. We all were in the same page and able to create sophisticated plays that dominated defenses,” he said. “At Cornell, the team is starting to build this type of chemistry. Once we have it, our team will release its full potential.”

Haber always wanted to play Division-I soccer in the United States, but he also sought to receive a world-class education. Zawislan made Haber’s dream possible by offering him a spot in the Red’s squad. “I sent out a video to about 40 coaches and I received a couple responses, including coach Jaro, who was interested in me,” he recalled. “I went to the [Cornell] camp in June of 2009, and at the end, [Zawislan] offered me a spot and I verbally committed. As soon as I arrived and took a tour of the campus, I knew that if could get admitted, I would love to come here.”

Haber seems very happy with his decision to play for Cornell. As claimed by him, it is a different yet exciting opportunity to form part of the Red’s culture. “I have never been on a team with these types of personalities, everyone is very motivated and happy all the time, especially supporting players when they are in action,” he said. “It does not seem like anybody is bitter about being on the bench, everybody is just in a good mood all the time.”

Regarding the men’s soccer team’s future, Haber believes that there is strong capacity to achieve many things. “I think we have a lot of talented players. We just have one or two seniors in our starting lineup and at one point this season we had up to four freshmen,” he analyzed. “We are trying to build some chemistry together and I think we have a really good team going forward. In general, I think we are moving in the right direction.”

When I first met Haber, I asked him what he thought of Cornell. He told me that the combination of studies with his commitment to the varsity team was tough. Soon enough, I identified with him. Sometimes fans go to the games and criticize players for not getting the desired results. However, many of these “fans” do not realize that players are students as well, and they are trying their best to perform well on both playing fields. Personally, as a soccer fan with considerable knowledge of the sport, I think this team has a bright future ahead and we must start supporting them now in order to see how players like Daniel Haber –– along with coaches and experienced players –– will guide Cornell to a new phase of success.

Original Author: AJ Ortiz