Icelandic men’s soccer play, long way from home, steadies defense for GW

Media Credit: Hatchet file photo by Cameron Lancaster
Junior defender Andri Alexandersson moves the ball up field during an exhibition match earlier this season.

Watch Andri Alexandersson anchor the Colonials’ defense during any men’s soccer game and he will seem perfectly in his element. Off the soccer field, though, that’s not the case.

Three years ago, Alexandersson moved to the U.S. from a small port town called Akranes on the western coast of Iceland. With a population of about 6,600, the town was jokingly called a “postage stamp” by an Icelandic television personality because it is so off the beaten track.

Now, Alexandersson’s path to playing soccer at GW brought him 5,000 miles from home, to two different universities, and finally, to being the only Icelandic student at GW last year. As a junior and a co-captain, Alexandersson takes his international perspective onto the field with him.

“I think what’s most different is because the sport is so popular in Europe, I’ve grown up playing it all my life. I’ve watched it for 15 years and I started playing it when I was four years old,” he said. “It’s been my passion for such a long time and my understanding of the game is maybe what I have over the other players.”

Alexandersson is exclusively a defensive player, but he is seasoned enough to be a play-maker on both ends of the field. His field vision has led to his five shots on goal – ranking him third on the team – even from his position on the back line.

The confidence and leadership that comes from his understanding of the game was key for the team on Friday, as the Colonials’ defense went wire to wire with Dayton – the nation’s highest scoring team – holding them to a shutout tie.

When not worrying about a big game, Alexandersson said that it has been easy to maintain a connection with those at home because he is always being checked up on.

“People back home are really interested in what I’m doing here,” he said. “People are interested in what I’m doing because it’s different than what everyone else is doing. I talk to a lot of people.”

Head coach Craig Jones said that, as far as soccer was concerned, Alexandersson was well-adjusted.

“His initial changes were already made by the time we saw him, and he was familiar with the college game,” Jones said.

That comfort and consistency with the game is definitive of Alexandersson, who played every minute in 16 out of 17 games last season. Jones said that was no accident, calling Alexandersson “calm” and “composed” on the field.

So far this season, Alexandersson has continued his steady defense and is one of just four players on the team to start every game he has played in. His 657 minutes are the fourth most among his teammates.

Choosing to pursue soccer in Iceland could have prevented Alexandersson from going to college at all. He said it was “hard to say” whether or not he would have pursued a degree there, and that continuing to play in Iceland’s club system would have been what would have made it difficult to do so.

He said he left his home country because he was “tired of the same old same old.” Alexandersson said that he “just started emailing coaches,” eventually winding up as a freshman on the soccer team at Florida International University. After just a year in Miami, though, he transferred to GW.

But besides the adjustment to the American college game – which is faster and more physical, but less technical than soccer in Iceland – being away from home came as a shock.

“The first few weeks after I moved away I was like ‘Wow, what did I just do?’ but you have to move away sometimes,” he said.

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