Bond between two senior soccer players has team on right track

A lot can happen in four years. There are successes, failures, hardships and triumphs, and a pair of SF State men’s soccer seniors have seen them all.

Kevin Johnson and Hayden Roberts are in their fourth and final year in Gator uniforms. The two seniors formed a great relationship in their freshman year, and even planned on potentially going semi-pro after their college careers.

“The main quality Kevin has is he is a true friend,” Roberts said. “He will go out of his way to help you and he will always be there no matter what.”

Seniors Kevin Johnson (left) and Hayden Roberts (right), who have been buddies since freshman year, stand in Cox Stadium at SF State Tuesday, Sept. 16. Martin Bustamante / Xpress

Seniors Kevin Johnson (left) and Hayden Roberts (right), who have been buddies since freshman year, stand in Cox Stadium at SF State Tuesday, Sept. 16. Martin Bustamante / Xpress.

Roberts said his first season as a Gator was intimidating and took some time to get adjusted.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Roberts said. “The only thing I knew was to play my game and work hard because in my mind I needed to prove myself to my teammates.”

When Johnson joined the team as a freshmen, he said the game was more complex than what he experienced in high school.

“I noticed how physical college soccer was and every team in the conference had their own style of play,” Johnson said.

Although their freshman seasons were daunting, they solidified their friendship through a season of uncertainty.

“I think we have the same sense of humor and from the beginning I knew he was going to become one of my great friends,” Johnson said of Roberts.

Their sophomore season saw a different tone when the two got more play time and experienced SF State soccer at full speed.

“I became more mature and more relaxed on the ball,” Johnson said. “I gained some confidence and started taking players one on one, and earned a starting position before preseason ended.”

For Roberts, he had to become a scrappy and tough competitor to earn a role on the team. His hunger to improve transformed him as a player.

“Going into my sophomore year I felt less humble and more competitive as a player,” Roberts said. “I was looking to earn that starting spot and become a difference maker for the team.”

After recording no goals or assists as a sophomore, Roberts hit a roadblock. He switched positions as a junior, but saw his season end early to an MCL injury.

“It was hard to come back from (the injury) but I worked hard and did a lot of rehab to get me back on the field as soon as possible,” Roberts said.

Roberts said he came back in the best shape of his life, and earned Academic All-American honors.

Despite Johnson’s hardships in the middle of his career, Roberts said Johnson sets the example for his teammates no matter what.

“Can’t imagine going into a soccer game without someone like Kevin by your side,” Roberts said. “He makes you want to fight and pull your weight for the team.”

The team struggled throughout Johnson and Roberts careers, finishing under .500 each season they played. But after sitting through three years of a mediocrity, the team is off to it’s hottest start in five years under new head coach Matt Barnes, and the team is firing on all cylinders.

Johnson is back at his natural winger position and was named a team captain. He scored the game-winning goal in the season opener against Holy Names University, and continues to use his aggressive play style to attack the net.

“We are both dedicated to this season and want nothing more than to see this team go to playoffs for the first time in a long time,” said Johnson.

Coach Barnes praises both of his seniors and loves their work ethic.

“They haven’t had off days to this point it is really what I appreciate about both of them is them buying in them being good leaders from the top and putting their work in everyday,” Barnes said.

Johnson and Roberts said they’ve cherished their time as Gators. They advised their freshman teammates to take advantage of their opportunities while playing for SF State.

“These four years go by faster than you can ever imagine and you have to make the most of it,” Johnson said. “A lot of our careers will end after college and before you know it, you are turning in your jerseys for the last time and that senior day game will be the last time you represent a school playing the sport you love.”

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