The Fighting Saints Men’s Soccer team was left with quite a bit of uncertainty following the resignation of former head coach Dan Cross at the end of June. However, Athletic Director Dave Laketa found a diamond in the rough when he decided to hire Vince Martinez at the beginning of August.
“Coach Martinez was our top candidate for the position from the beginning of the process,” Laketa said in a press release. “Securing him was a key piece to continuing the development of our program.”
Martinez’s résumé prior to his arrival at the University of St. Francis is almost endless. Martinez has seven years of coaching experience at the four-year level, all of which came at the University of The Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. During his time coaching in San Antonio, Martinez led his first two teams to NCAA Division II playoff berths, one of which included the winning of the Southwest Region title in 2012. Martinez also took one of these squads to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships following the claiming of the Lone Star Conference regular-season title. This stellar coaching performance led to him being named the Lone Star Coach of the Year in 2012. Martinez’s 2011 and 2012 teams also both achieved top 10 national rankings.
Along with his lengthy list of previous coaching successes at the collegiate level, Coach Martinez holds a United States Soccer Federation “A” License. According to Martinez, he was exempted from the courses typically required to be given licenses F through B due to his years of playing at the professional level in the United States International Soccer League. Martinez was immediately able to earn a B License from the United States Soccer Federation, and he eventually took a 10 day course in order to earn his A license.
There are renewals required to continue to hold a license from the United States Soccer Federation, which include video submissions of practice sessions that the coach holds with his or her players.
Coach Martinez shared his gratitude for the coaches’ need to keep their skills sharp.
“In soccer, the game changes all the time,” Martinez said. “It’s [the renewal of the license is] good for a coach to do.”
Martinez’s accolades are stories themselves, but the story of Martinez’s road to the Fighting Saints coaching job is nothing short of remarkable.
Martinez took a few years away from coaching soccer at the collegiate level after departing University of The Incarnate Word back in 2018. However, after turning down multiple coaching offers over the past few years, Martinez was encouraged by his wife to get back into coaching on July 2 of this year. That same day, Martinez and his wife had been at church, and the pastor who was running their church had just returned from his hometown. The pastor’s hometown just so happened to be Joliet, Illinois. When the pastor spoke to Martinez about the town of Joliet, it sparked even more interest for Martinez to want to look into the position to coach the Fighting Saints. Martinez called Laketa just two days later on the Fourth of July, and eventually, the interview was scheduled. From there, the rest is history.
It has been a big transition for Coach Martinez since arriving in the city of Joliet. Martinez’s wife is looking after the couple’s business in Las Vegas while he coaches here at the University of St. Francis. With this in consideration, one can certainly not question the love that Coach Martinez has for the game of soccer and the individuals on the men’s soccer team.
“When I came here for an interview, everyone was very welcoming and very nice,” Martinez said.
Martinez is wasting no time in building bonds with each and every individual on his team, and one can only believe that this will translate to nothing less than a winning culture moving forward.
For the Fighting Saints men’s soccer team, a future that was filled with uncertainty just a couple short months ago now has a light shining at the end of the tunnel. Martinez has already stated that “the pieces are there to have a winning tradition… We have good character guys on the team so I don’t think it [the culture] is going to be too hard to change.”
As a catalyst in instilling this winning tradition, Coach Martinez had the team set their own goal in which they agreed that they believe they can finish in the top five teams in the NAIA. It will certainly be exciting to see if this season lives up to the hype for the men’s soccer program and Coach Martinez.
Disclaimer: Alex Mielcarz is an employee of the USF Athletic Department and was involved in the editing of the article.