By James Paleologopoulos
Boston University News Service
BOSTON – It was Jan. 23, 2020 when Boston University’s director of athletics formally introduced Kevin Nylen, the man picked to succeed men’s soccer head coach, Neil Roberts.
An Ipswich-native, Nylen returned to Massachusetts hot off a successful stint as coach at Florida International University (FIU). He took the reins from Roberts, who retired after 35 seasons with the program.
Speaking to both his players and the BU community at the press conference, Nylen thanked family and friends while describing the days ahead and the work he looked forward to completing with his team.
“You guys are going to get the best of myself every day and we’re going to look forward,” Nylen said. “Hopefully that’s reciprocated [and] we get the best out of each other every day.”
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic forced most athletic programs across the country to cancel all games from March 2020 onward.
Instead of a full spring preseason and a coaching debut in the fall, Nylen and his players spent the year training.
14 months after that press conference, though, Nylen now has his first Patriots League game under his belt, as the Terriers beat Colgate University 3-0 Saturday. Sophomore forward Ronaldo Marshall scored the opening goal at 50:29, while sophomore defender Ryan Lee and freshman midfielder Aidan Holmes added two more at 56′ and ’77, respectively.
“It’s an overall very good performance from start to finish,” Nylen said in a post-game video chat. “A lot of the guys got some really good minutes. I’m really happy for the group; it’s a lot of work that they’ve been putting in for some time now.”
While it was his first “W” with BU, Nylen is no stranger to earning wins at the Division I level. He joined the Terriers after several seasons at FIU, earning a record of 29-15-9, including an undefeated regular season in 2017.
In an interview on “Coaches with Coffee,” a video podcast run by BU’s athletics department, Nylen said he was fortunate to have the level of success he had with FIU. He believed his time with the program allowed him to “enter a conversation” with BU as the university searched for a new head coach.
He added that taking the job also meant heading back to New England, a move he and his wife, Michele, were happy to make.
Before FIU, Nylen spent time at Amherst College and Boston College as an assistant coach.
“I say this to everybody: soccer has been very good to me,” Nylen said in a phone interview. “Soccer has treated me very, very well in terms of my experiences, and you build on your experiences; that’s what life’s about.”
Those experiences included time with the Wilmington Hammerheads in the United Soccer League in 2003. Nylen joined the league soon after graduating from Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, where he earned the honor of “Male Athlete of the Year” during his collegiate career.
“The day after graduation, I went down to Wilmington,” Nylen said. “I had already signed a contract that spring, [but] my family wouldn’t let me leave school early and I don’t blame them.”
Nylen later jumped ship to the Charleston Battery in 2006, where he finished his playing years as a defender in 2008. Describing him as a “hard-nosed defender” who could play multiple positions, longtime Battery coach Michael Anhaeuser said Nylen’s interest and potential as a coach was always apparent.
“I think Kevin was the type of player that wanted to get into coaching and was always listening and learning, from Wilmington to Charleston, and I am sure in college,” Anhaeuser said in an email. “He had a passion for soccer and I am not surprised and always proud when past players move up levels or start coaching careers and have success.”
Now living in Medford, Mass. with his wife and two children, the head coach begins his tenure with a shortened season. The Patriots League only has four more games booked for BU before the conference tournament in mid-April.
Shortened or not, Nylen will be trying to turn the Terriers’ fortunes around after more than a decade of missing the College Cup. BU hasn’t appeared in the competition since 2008 and, according to New England Soccer Journal editor and BU alum, Jonathan Sigal, the team has struggled to be competitive in conference play, finishing 2019 in second-to-last place, with only three wins.
“I think it’s fair to say BU soccer has struggled over these last few years, at least compared to the standard it set in the region and Patriot League,” Sigal said. “So I wouldn’t expect any drastic changes overnight, but rather a long-term project where Coach Nylen seems like a great addition to potentially help restore some of the glory days to BU soccer.”
Next up for the men’s team is the College of the Holy Cross on Sun., March 21. Continuing a month of first’s for Nylen, it will be the head coach’s first conference match at home, playing at Nickerson Field. Kickoff is 5 p.m. EST.