The Louisville Cardinal

Selfless Kubel looks beyond individual glory in 2017

By Jordan Shim —

Leaving a lasting legacy is something men’s soccer coach Ken Lolla stresses to his players every year. Buying into his system is key to success in the program.

“We’ve been preaching for a number of years, about the responsibility of leaving the program better than they have,” Lolla said. “After a year of underachieving, we definitely did that. Getting to the quarterfinals and losing to the national champion was a major step forward, not just from a result standpoint, but culturally, as well.”

One player who will leave the program better than it was, upon graduation, is senior Tim Kubel. In 2016, the German was a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, which honors the NCAA’s Division I top soccer player. His 19 career assists rank fifth all-time at Louisville, and he set the school record for assists in a single game with four against Virginia last season.

Lolla highly rates him as one of the best to have ever worn Cardinal colors, but what he admires more than his talent is his leadership.

“What I love about Tim is that he continues to grow, more importantly, as a person,” Lolla said. “He’s a tremendous leader, and that’s what makes him so valuable. We appreciate the talent he brings and how he helps others become better. Tim can elevate those around him, and that is most impressive about him.”

Even Kubel acknowledges the personal transformation and the fact that becoming benevolent was for the betterment of himself and the team. He had gained a wealth of experience playing for Germany’s Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 before coming overseas.

“I was super self-centered and trying to do my own thing,” Kubel said. “I used to be a leader back in Germany, but a much different kind. Ken shaped me into a more well-rounded person and opened my eyes to be a leader for my teammates.”

Kubel knows his time as a Cardinal is nearly over and wants to prepare his upcoming teammates.

“I always take a few guys under my wing to get them ready in one or two years. That’s what I want to leave as my legacy,” Kubel said. “I want to have an impact on several guys so they can go on to be stars for the team.”

Kubel could have left for the pros as early as two years ago, but he values education and honors the title of “student-athlete.”

Defending national champion Stanford bested the Cardinals in the Elite Eight to end their 2016 campaign. Back for his last hurrah, Kubel wants to achieve something Louisville has never done: Win a NCAA soccer national championship.

His teammates share the hunger and strive to win it for him.

“Lots of guys came back early in the summer,” Kubel said.  “That was good because we had time to play together as a team. Usually we only have a week before the season starts to train together. This year we had an entire month, and I think that helped us a lot. From a team-building aspect and a playing aspect, just getting the reps.”

The hard work has already translated to success. The ninth-ranked Cards are 2-0-0,defeating UC Irvine 2-1 and No. 25 Butler 1-0 via Kubel’s first half goal.

You can follow Jordan on Twitter @tlcjordanshim.

Courtesy photo / University of Louisville Sports Information