Daily Nexus: After nine months of being on top of the collegiate soccer world, how does it feel to finally begin the national title defense?
Tim Vom Steeg: I’m excited because we are returning 22 players and its always great to have a great group back and step right back on the practice field and build on where we finished last year. More than anything, I think this season we’re very excited because I think we can take the way we played to another level.

What made you choose to have the ring ceremony on Aug. 25 instead of a date after school has started?
The idea is simply that we wanted to have the ceremony and move forward with our season. If the students were coming back on Sept. 6 then we would have waited, but at the end of September we’re through a third of our season and you’re really into your campaign. I also feel like the ring ceremony is a pretty big distraction. For us every game is important so I’d rather be distracted in a scrimmage.

How did the team benefit from its trip to Argentina this summer?
I’ve always thought that trips like that are really about the team getting together, living in close quarters for 10 days, and I think it allows you to build relationships and common experiences. I believe that trip is invaluable as it relates to your team getting closer together, especially this year where I think our team is going to be tested and is going to have some difficult times.

[Three-time All-American senior] Andy Iro played through pain for much of last season. After off-season knee surgery and his recent participation in the World University Games for England, how is his knee holding up?
The knee seems to be doing well. He played some full games, but I think we still have to regulate the use and the training and the regiment that we do. All players get worn down as the season goes on, but I feel like we are in such a better position this year, whereas last year from the get-go it was hard for him to finish the season.

How has junior All-College Cup Outstanding Offensive Player Nick Perera performed this summer and what do you expect from the squad’s strikers?
I think he caught people by surprise last year and I think people are a little more versed on the fact that they can’t leave him open. It’ll be harder for him this year and he’s had to expand his repertoire in order to stay effective. We have basically seven or eight forwards. [Sophomore] Memo [Jalomo] we’ve moved up front after having a very good spring for us and he did well in Argentina. We’ll need to decide who is probably our top four and develop a rotation among them.

Has the team’s approach changed now that the target is on its back?
Last year we ran into two new coaching changes in our conference and ran into a 4-5-1 [team formation] and we ended up facing that nine times. Typically we’ve been a team with three in the back and struggled against the 4-5-1 and that was probably one of the reasons we didn’t score as many goals as in the past. We’ve spent a lot of time in preseason trying to address teams that would potentially come out with just one forward. I still feel like it gives us problems so we’re going to have to work on that.