The Mines men’s soccer team is putting together an impressive season thus far, winning 13 of their first 14 games, staying undefeated (10-0) in conference play, and earning a top five national ranking for the first time in six years. The Orediggers have outscored their opponents 38 to 9 so far. Forward Johnny Haist has led the way offensively with 15 goals, including two hat tricks.
The senior has been a part of some great Mines teams the past three years, and has racked up impressive career numbers. Haist is currently second all-time in goals for a Mines player, behind Tesho Akindele, the only player in program history to go on to play professionally, and he has a legitimate shot at breaking the program record for single season goals he tied last year. “The fact that we’re winning as a team means more to me than the individual stuff,” said Haist.
“I think we’ve got cooler things coming up; bigger games and conference championships.”
Hometown: Wantage, Oxfordshire, England
Major: Chemical Engineering
Why did you choose Mines? Why the United States?
Haist had a friend through secondary school that played on scholarship in the U.S. and enjoyed it, so he started looking around at Division I schools to play at. When Haist heard from the Mines head coach, he had found what he was looking for. “[Mines] fit the bill for me in terms of academics, [and] the soccer was good,” said Haist. He had also heard great things about the weather and scenery in Colorado and knew that he wanted to pursue a chemical engineering degree. Haist had actually never visited Colorado before choosing to attend Mines. “It was a crazy experience when I first came here,” admitted Haist. “Just getting off the plane like entering a whole new world. It was intense, but I’m glad I did it.”
Is there anything you still find strange about the US or Americans?
Since Haist has spent almost all of his time at Mines since moving to the States, he has a little trouble distinguishing between U.S. culture and CSM culture. “Mines is quite unique in itself,” Haist explained. “I thought, for example, that everyone [in the U.S.] was obsessed with Harry Potter, and then I realized maybe that was more of a Mines thing.” Haist has embraced his American life the past 3+ years. “It’s been a cool learning curve for me, to experience it all and get used to a completely different life,” said Haist. “But I think I’m accustomed to it now, and I really love it.”
What is your favorite part of soccer? Favorite part of this team?
Haist played a myriad of sports growing up, but soccer was his favorite. “I’ve always loved soccer for the nature of the game,” explained Haist. “I was always drawn to soccer because of the amount of creativity that the game requires.” Soccer is not like many American sports with set plays and concrete possessions, which gives players a lot of freedom. Soccer at Mines has given Haist a chance to use that freedom to his advantage. “I really enjoy our style of play,” said Haist, “we’re a very direct team.” The Mines soccer team plays with three men up front, which is a very aggressive position, giving the Orediggers more chances. Apart from the play, Haist also values the bonds he has made with his teammates. “The relationships you form are probably the best part of it all,” said Haist. “Sharing success with them is the best part.”
What is your role on the team?
Haist is one of the two captains on the team. “I like to think of myself as a leader by example,”he says. As a player, Haist’s primary goal is scoring and creating chances for others. “Pummel the goalkeeper,” said Haist, “make the defenders on the other team not want to play us.” This strategy has been very effective this season thus far.
Rituals and routines are not much of a priority for Haist on game day. “I used to be more superstitious than I am now,” Haist admitted. He believes in preparation but does not concern himself with the minutia. “Over the years I’ve developed an increased focus on gameday and the 90 minutes you will be playing,” said Haist. “Being focused then is more important than focusing on all the superstitious tasks that come before and after it.”
Haist’s soccer role model is Bastian Schweinsteiger, the captain of Germany when they won the World Cup in 2016. Haist’s father is German, and has always been a fan of the national team. More locally, Haist looks up to Tesho Akindele, the only soccer player from Mines to go on to play professionally. “He broke into the pathway that I’d like to pursue,” said Haist. Apart from soccer, Haist respects Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson: “Me and a couple of teammates have been listening to him a lot,” said Haist. “I like his outlook on life [and] he’s been really influential for me recently.”
Hobbies other than soccer?
“Homework,” replied Haist half-jokingly. We all know that chemical engineering is not the easiest major on campus, and it’s even tougher with a full training schedule. “I like to say I read,” said Haist. “I’ve always liked to play other sports as well,” he said, listing swimming, running, basketball, and rugby. “I’m sure later in life I’ll come back to them,” said Haist.
Haist is keeping an open mind so far, but the decisions are likely to be coming after this season. “I’m open to a number of things,” said Haist. “My plan is still to play professional soccer, only time will tell if I get the interest.” Haist had the chance to play on the Colorado Rapids U-23 team this summer, and he was certainly up to the standards of play. If playing professionally doesn’t work out, a Mines chemical engineering degree is not a bad backup plan.
What can we expect from the Orediggers the rest of this season?
“Great things,” Haist said candidly. “I think we have a good enough team to have a record-breaking season for Mines.” The men’s soccer program at Mines has a very strong history, and this year they have set themselves up for one of the better years in the history of the program. “Although we’ve been playing very well, and have a lot of success,” said Haist, “I think we haven’t peaked at all…we still have a lot more to show. I’ve played in the [final] 8 my freshman year, and the sweet 16 last year, and I think we’re capable of doing all of that again and more.”
Watch Haist in action:
10/25 vs. SDSM
10/27 vs. Regis University