The Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, with its six million or so residents, is just the right size for Northwood’s two soccer coaches. After all, Nasko Arsov and Krasi Kolarov were born and raised in Bulgaria, a Southeastern European country with a population only a million or so larger than the bustling area that is home to the Northwood Texas campus.
Arsov, men’s coach, and Kolarov, women’s coach, both came to America after enjoying successful soccer careers in Bulgaria. Both played professionally there, and Arsov later played one season of indoor soccer in America for the Tupelo (Mississippi) Hound Dogs.
“It’s a long way from Bulgaria to Mississippi,” Arsov says. “Blagoevgrad (Arsov’s home town) is in a valley between two mountains, not far from Greece. There are no mountains that I know of anywhere near Tupelo.”
In Bulgaria Arsov was a midfielder for FC Marek, playing professionally from 1984 until 1986. After completing his professional career in Bulgaria, Arsov moved to Dallas, where he began coaching youth soccer in North Texas. In 2000 Arsov was hired to start the women’s soccer program at Hill College in Hillsboro, Texas about 60 miles south of Dallas. “In 2006 I started the men’s program at Hill as well,” he says, “and coached both men’s and women’s teams there until coming to Northwood in 2011.”
Compared to Arsov, Kolarov is a “city boy.” “I’m from Varna, on the Black Sea,” Kolarov explains. “It is a city of about a million people, and is second in size only to the capital, Sofia.” Kolarov adds that “less than 100,000 live in Nasko’s town.”
Kolarov’s father, a pastry chef, moved the family to Corsicana, a town about 50 miles south of Dallas, in 1992. “Dad took a job with the world’s largest producer of fruit cakes,” he says, “and I enrolled at Corsicana High School.” And lucky for the small high school’s soccer program he did. A three-year starter at Corsicana, Kolarov became the leading scorer in Texas high school soccer. One season he scored 26 goals and played in the state’s all-star game.
After graduating from high school, Kolarov studied for two years at Hill College, then moved back to Bulgaria to play professional soccer for FC Spartak. When he turned 25 Kolarov decided to hang up his cleats and return to America. He finished his undergraduate work before earning a master’s degree from Dallas Baptist University. He coached both the men’s and women’s soccer teams at LSU Shreveport before leaving Louisiana to head Northwood’s women’s program in 2010.
“Krasi and I have similar coaching philosophies,” Arsov says. “We both try hard to get to really know our players and get the most out of them.”
Kolarov says tactically he believes in “possession with quick transition.” “That just means we should always be in position to maintain possession of the ball,” he says. “And whenever we change from offense to defense, or vice-versa, we need to do so quickly and intelligently.”
The philosophy seems to be working. Last year’s women’s team went 12-5-1 before losing in the semi-final round of the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) tournament. All three top women’s honors in the conference—Best Offensive Player, Best Defensive Player, and Newcomer of the Year—went to members of Kolarov’s team.
Arsov’s men’s team went 9-9-2 and also lost in the semi-final round, 2-1 to eventual tournament winner Our Lady of the Lake University.
“The kids are learning our system and we will be better next year,” Kolarov says. Arsov adds that both teams are already having some recruiting success.
“We will keep improving,” Kolarov adds, “and we’ll be ready for our entry next year into the tough Sooner Athletic Conference.” Northwood announced last fall that this would be its final year in the RRAC, and that it had accepted an invitation to join the SAC.
“Krasi and I both love coaching at Northwood,” Arsov concludes. “The environment here, with all the trees and wildlife, makes this a wonderful place to come to work each morning. Plus the people are all so friendly.”
Kolarov adds that the Knights’ soccer field, which he and Arsov have worked to improve since the day they arrived on campus, is “first rate.” “And the kids are great,” he adds. “They are here to play soccer, but also to get an education.”
And how about the Metroplex—among the half dozen largest metropolitan areas in the United States—is it too big for them?
Not at all, they answer, reminding the interviewer that “size-wise, this is about like being back in Bulgaria.”
- Jack Allday