THere Are No Easy Wins and Plenty of unaswered questions At This Point In The Season.
Marshall at Georgia Southern – Sunday – Marshall faces VCU on Wednesday in Richmond before traveling to Statesboro to face Georgia Southern on Sunday in a Sun Belt Conference contest. The number one ranked Thundering Herd is no doubt a big favorite to top Georgia Southern but the fact that the Eagles have only allowed a total of six goals and will come into the contest off four straight ties including a surprising scoreless tie with West Virginia in Morganton creates a little intrigue. In the tie with West Virginia the Mountaineers had a 20 to two advantage in shots.
Marshall has also been rock solid on the defensive side of the ball with a balanced attack lead by Matthew Bell and Marco Silva. One of the Thundering Herds strengths is that they do not make a lot of mistakes. Defense has been Georgia Southern’s calling card and they will have to put in a full 90 minutes of play without lapses to have a chance. A scoreless tie with Marshall is unlikely but not totally out of the question.
Grand Canyon at SMU – Wednesday –Grand Canyon began the season with losses in three of their first four games but they have since rebounded to win four in a row including a solid win 1-0 win over San Diego.
SMU has won five straight to improve to 7-1-0 with their only loss a 3-0 early season setback on the road to Denver. The Mustangs have not dominated their opponents but they have done a good job of finding a way to come up with the big plays they need to prevail.
This one may hinge on whether Grand Canyon can contain SMU forward Jelldrik Dallmann who has six goals including three game-winners to date.
North Carolina at Pittsburgh – Friday –Transfers Quenzi Huerman(6g,3a) and Martin Vician (4g, 1a) have been a big plus on the offensive side of the ball for the Tar Heels who are 4-0-3 and are coming off a solid win over ACC foe and in-state rival Duke. UNC has already scored a total of 14 goals as compared to a total of 19 during the entire 2022 season.
Pitt is 4-3-2 overall and is coming off an impressive 3-1 win over Denver. Its noteworthy that Pitt’s three losses have been to nationally ranked Georgetown 4-1, Marshall 3-1 and Syracuse 3-2. In other words, this Panther team is battle tested and much more competitive than their record might otherwise indicate. This one could go either way depending upon which team is able to settle in and get into a rhythm.
Louisville at Virginia – Friday – Louisville gained national attention when they had early season wins over then nationally ranked Kentucky and UNCG. The wins over Kentucky and UNCG were good wins but may be a little misleading since both have not had the type of season so far that was initially projected and they have dropped out of the rankings. Nonetheless the Cardinals are off to a great start with a 6-1-1 overall record. It is significant that they have outscored their opponents 11 to 3 in the first half of play.
Virginia is 5-3-1 with losses to LMU 3-1, Duke 2-0 and Notre Dame 3-1. Freshman forward Stephen Annor has been a force on the offensive side of the ball for Virginia.
This one is going to come down to whether Virginia can contain what has been an explosive Louisville offense particularly in the early going. Gage Guerra has been the main man in the Cardinals attack but he did not play in Louisville’s 5-2 win over N.C. State on Sunday.
Washington at Oregon State – Saturday – It is tough to get a handle on both teams. Both look to be a work in progress. Both are currently 1-0-1 in Pac-12 play. Oregon State is 4-3-1 with a signature on the road win over Pac-12 foe Stanford 2-1. Washington is 4-2-3 with a signature with over non-conference foe Portland and a 1-1 tie on the road with Stanford.
Wins on the road in Pac-12 play or difficult to obtain so give Oregon State the edge. In addition, the Huskies have had trouble matching up with the Beavers in the past. What we do know is that the winner will come out of this one with a lot of momentum that could set the pace for the remainder of the season.
Michigan State at Penn State – Sunday –Michigan State roared out to a 5-0-2 record and a national ranking generated by wins over Notre Dame and Indiana before sustaining a somewhat disappointing 2-2 tie with Oakland at home on Tuesday during which they needed a goal from sophomore forward Jonathan Stout in the 88th minute to salvage a draw.
Penn State (5-1-2) hosts Howard in a non-conference match up on Wednesday before facing Big Ten opponent Michigan State on Sunday. Fifth year senior goalkeeper Kris Shakes has anchored a Nittany Lion defense that has allowed only five goals while forwards senior Peter Mangione and fifth-year senior Liam Butts have been a key part of Penn State’s attack. Solid team defense would appear to be a key to this one which is likely to be decided by a single goal.
Missouri State at Saint Louis – Wednesday -Saint Louis (3-3-1) began the season with losses in three of their first four games. However, they look to be jelling as a team with a scoreless tie on the road against VCU followed by wins over Oral Roberts 1-0 and Fordham 2-1 in their last three games.
Missouri State (5-0-1) opened the season with a 1-0 win on the road over a then ranked Maryland team that has since dropped out of the rankings. The Bears are a good team but just how good remains to be seen. The Missouri State defense anchored in goal by senior Harry Townsend has only allowed one goal to date. This one is going to come down to whether Saint Louis can break the code on Missouri State’s defense. Whoever scores first in this one will have a huge advantage.
Stanford at San Diego State – Sunday –Stanford (5-1-1) faces UCLA on Thursday night in Los Angeles before facing San Diego State on the road on Sunday.
San Diego State (6-0-1) opens Pac-12 play when they host California on Thursday before facing Stanford on Sunday. San Diego State has looked good so far this year but the contests with California and Stanford are significant because they will provide a much better idea of just how competitive the Aztecs are.
Stanford is tough to beat when they can apply pressure and put in a full 90 minutes of play but lapses in play at times have hampered their effectiveness. San Diego State has not allowed a goal so far this year. Can they maintain that against California and Stanford? It should be interesting and revealing.