Collegian Feature: Mattsson The Centerpiece To Success
Nov. 2, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. - Moa Mattsson stepped up to the ball from 35 yards out, found a path between Bryant defenders and shot a screamer right into the back of the net.
Her coach, Ed Matz, called the goal "incredible."
But for Mattsson, the thinking was simple.
"I turn and see the keeper pretty far out, so I gave it a shot," Mattsson said after the game.
All praise aside, Matz was not surprised by the spectacular strike his forward had produced, knowing that instincts like those were what made her the player that she has become.
"It's rare that you see all these attributes in someone so young," Matz said of his leading forward. "You would think she was 23 or 24 years old. But she's not. She's just like all the other freshmen and sophomores that are here on campus.
"She is such a well-rounded person on and off the field," he said.
But her Rudd Field success is but only a part of what makes Mattsson an elite soccer player.
All in the family
The 5-foot-10 sophomore was born and raised in Sweden, with a sister who was also to play collegiate soccer in the U.S. - at New Haven under then-coach Brendan Faherty. Faherty joined the Minutewomen as an assistant in 2010 when Matz took over the program, which is how the third-year UMass coach first heard of Mattsson.
"The sister had a great experience not only coming to the States, not only playing collegiate soccer, but also in being coached by Brendan," Matz said. "I knew that (Mattsson) knew she would get that same type of support here from the coaching staff."
It was when Mattsson visited her sister that the now-Minutewomen coaches caught a glimpse of the talented soccer player.
"She came over and would be visiting her sister and would be knocking the ball around on the side of the field," Matz recalls. "Brendan became aware of her talents and her many qualities then."
Matz had his suspicions about her talents confirmed when he saw her play for the Swedish Under-19 team in a 4-0 victory against Slovakia in 2010.
"I knew that everything that Brendan had said about her was certainly true," he said.
For Mattsson, that chance to play for her home country was a dream come true.
"For me it has been a dream since I was a little girl starting to play soccer," Mattsson said. "It is easily one of the biggest things that I have ever done. It is hard to describe until you stand there and you're singing your own national anthem and having the Swedish national uniform on.
"You put so much effort into playing and that is a great reward," she said.
Tackling the challenges
When the 2011 preseason began, Mattsson traded in her Sweden and Danmarks IF shirts for a maroon and white UMass shirt, ready to tackle the challenges of being a student playing for a Division I soccer program.
"I think it is a lot about planning," Mattsson said of balancing her collegiate life. "Soccer is definitely fun for me. Putting a lot of effort into school when I know that I will get to play soccer is sort of a reward. We have to plan our weeks and make sure we are on top of school.
"But as I said, soccer is so much fun that it is worth it."
Since her arrival, her planning has been nothing less than a success. The sophomore has been able to maintain a 3.96 grade point average as an engineering major, making her an Atlantic 10 All-Academic honoree.
Furthermore, she has endured the challenges of being an international student. All of this while being a part of a team that made an A-10 title run last season.
"I wasn't used to this college environment when I came here last year," Mattsson said. "But I feel like I'm getting used to it. The biggest difference for me is that I have to find time to Skype my friends and family at home, whereas my team can just call them and see them.
"I think it was a bigger challenge last year with language."
The challenge this year for the Swedish forward was moving from her favored midfield role into the leading role in attack. The switch paid off with great riches as Mattsson led the team in goals (11), assists (five) and is an All-Conference selection.
"I'm happy that I have been able to help the team by scoring goals," Mattsson said. "I think the transition from playing midfield to forward has gone better than I thought. Obviously it is a different position and you have to do things differently, but with a lot of help from my teammates it has been good."
Keeping it positive
In Matz's eyes, his forward's success can be attributed to her positive attitude toward her team and her school.
"We appreciate every single quality she has (on the field)," Matz said. "But she is much more than that. Academically, we never have to worry about her. She is used to coming over to the States and she loves UMass and supports all the athletic events.
"In practice she is a competitor. It could be pouring rain and practice could be winding down, but she always wants to do one more drill."
Senior captain Jess Howe has watched Mattsson develop from a freshman to a team leader in under two years with the team.
"Every day she comes to practice it's no nonsense," Howe said. "She is already a leader on the team and I can only see her getting better. She's not only a leader but a great person, too."
For Matz, who has been coaching for more than 20 years, Mattsson is a centerpiece to his team like he has never had before.
"A lot of people come to our games just to look at what she can do on the field and how dangerous she is," Matz said. "I'm not sure I've ever coached someone who is as well-rounded academically, socially and athletically as her.
"Just during games sitting back watching everything she can do is the gravy after everything she can do."
With two years remaining in eligibility, there is plenty of time for Mattsson to continue to cement her place as a UMass star, but Matz would endorse any decision she made about her future.
"She has the ability to continue playing here at a high level in the States, or go home and play professionally in Sweden," Matz said. "But she's also a dual-major here. So I think whatever she wants to do then she can do it."