Elon University’s athletic department acted swiftly to appoint a new men’s soccer head coach following the resignation of Darren Powell in April 2014. Director of Athletics Dave Blank announced the hiring of Powell’s former assistant Chris Little just 26 days after Powell’s resignation.
Powell set off to coach in Major League Soccer’s Orlando City’s youth academy. While he no longer occupies the touchline at Elon matches, Powell’s presence is still felt in the form of new recruits freshmen Jaiden Fortune and Nicholas O’Callaghan.
Fortune and O’Callaghan both join the Phoenix after having played for Powell at Orlando City’s Pro Development Academy.
While both will begin a new environment, O’Callaghan expects the transition to be smooth.
“We played the same system [at Orlando City], so we’re able to get used to the style of play Elon plays,” he said.
Little said he is still close with Powell and trusts his ability to evaluate players. On top of that, Little said Powell is able to provide more meaningful scouting reports since he is able to watch players on a regular basis.
“The easy part is assessing who has talent, but the not-so-easy part is assessing the character, the intangibles which we think allow players to be successful,” Little said.
O’Callaghan has been competing for the starting left back spot, battling with senior Myles Mansfield and redshirt-junior Johnathan Wenger, but said the fact that he is left-footed gives him a slight advantage.
While his primary duty is to defend, O’Callaghan said he enjoys joining the attack to set up his teammates.
“Going forward, I like to get the ball at my feet out wide and then come inside or outside, play one-two [passes],” he said.
O’Callaghan said he’s been working on his fitness throughout the summer so he can have the work rate required for both attacking and defending requirements.
Fortune hopes the arrival of O’Callaghan and himself creates a link between Orlando City and Elon. Fortune said he heard good things of Powell before his arrival at Orlando City but knew next to nothing about Elon, its soccer program or Little. When deciding where to play college soccer, he said Elon felt right.
“I did a lot of research and really loved the program. I came on campus, and after meeting all of the coaches it just sort of fit,” Fortune said.
Little’s own connections are also paying dividends. Little left his assistant coaching duties following the 2012 season to become the Academy Director for the NC Fusion.
Little returned to take Powell’s position in 2014, bringing along NC Fusion midfielder Connor Mansfield, now a sophomore at Elon. This year, another NC Fusion midfielder joins the Phoenix, freshman Hassan Pinto.
“Chris put a lot of trust in me when I was at the Fusion,” Pinto said. “I had a great relationship with him, he played me a lot and was a very good communicator. When I went on my other college visits I didn’t have the same relationship with the coaches.”
Pinto plays as a defensive midfielder, using his 6-foot-1-inch, 160 pound frame to break up play in the midfield.
Pinto said he looks forward to playing in front of the Rudd Field crowd the most as he transitions to the collegiate game.
“You get to play in front of your friends and you really feel the pride when you put on the jersey,” he said.