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Men’s College soccer – A Look At Five Key Games This Week

College soccer is well and truly back, as many teams are wrapping up their non-conference schedules and turning to conference action.  While we can’t watch every game that is happening, I’ve picked out five matches from this week’s slate that you need to be tuning in to, along with key players to watch and predictions. By Brian Ludden

Syracuse @ Wake Forest – Saturday

This week’s top matchup is another battle of ACC teams, with #21 Wake Forest hosting #3 Syracuse.  

Wake Forest kicked off their season with a 3-1 win vs. Grand Canyon, despite falling behind in the 11th minute, Wake quickly rebounded to get the win.  Back-to-back draws vs. California and Maryland followed for the Demon Deacons, before they returned to winning ways with a commanding 5-1 win vs. Furman.  This past weekend, however, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Wake Forest, as they dropped their ACC opener 3-0 at Pittsburgh.  Wake Forest should be able to get back to winning ways on Tuesday as they host Gardner-Webb ahead of Saturday’s marquee matchup.  

Syracuse began their title defense with two-straight wins vs. Providence and Binghamton, followed by an entertaining 1-1 draw with Penn State which saw two goals in a six second span in the 89th minute.  After a 1-0 win over Albany, Syracuse began their ACC campaign with an exciting 2-2 draw vs. Louisville, during which Syracuse conceded an 89th-minute equalizer.  

In this early season meeting between two teams who hope to be contending come tournament time, each side looks for their first signature win of the season.  Lorenzo Boselli figures to play a key role for Syracuse, as the senior midfielder leads the team with four goals.  On the Wake Forest side, junior Roald Mitchell leads the team with four goals, in addition to junior Babacar Niang who has two goals on the season and scored vs. Syracuse in the 2021 meeting.

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

Prediction: Syracuse 2, Wake Forest 2

Marshall @ James Madison – Saturday

A Sun Belt Conference showdown between the two highest-scoring teams in the nation is next up on our list of top games this week, with #11 James Madison hosting #2 Marshall.  

James Madison began their season with a 3-1 win over Duquesne, followed by a 1-0 win over UCLA.  A 4-0 win over Radford and a 6-0 win against Mount St. Mary’s have shown James Madison’s attacking prowess, with a 2-2 draw vs. Gardner-Webb being the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record.  Things will only get tougher for James Madison, however, as the Dukes host Virginia on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s matchup with Marshall.  Following Saturday’s showdown, James Madison looks toward games against Georgetown, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Kentucky within the subsequent 27 days.  

On the Marshall side of things, the Thundering Herd have continued to show that they aren’t just a one-hit wonder, but rather a competitor that’s here to stay.  A perfect 5-0 start for Marshall began with three consecutive clean sheets (vs. Oakland, Wright State, and Xavier), followed by a 3-1 win at Pittsburgh and a 2-1 win vs. High Point.  As Marshall remains at the top end of the weekly rankings, they will hope to continue their excellent start to the season.  

A key player for JMU will be Clay Obara, the leading scorer for James Madison.  Obara has four goals on the season, with three goals and one assist in the past two games. For Marshall, Alvaro Garcia-Pascual has scored in four straight matches, as well as adding three assists across five matches.  Marshall’s goalkeeper, Gabriel Perrotta, also figures to play an important role, as he has kept three clean sheets for Marshall.

How to watch: ESPN+

Prediction: Marshall 3, James Madison 1

Washington @ Stanford – Thursday

Yes, the Pac-12 conference is falling apart.  Yes, both these two teams will be in different conferences next season.  But nonetheless, #1 Stanford hosts #23 Washington on Thursday for some late-night west coast action.

Stanford moved up to the number 1 spot in the latest College Soccer News rankings, with a perfect 4-0 start for the Cardinal.  Back-to-back wins over ranked opponents was an excellent start to the season, with a season-opening 3-1 win over last year’s runners-up, #12 Creighton; followed by a big 5-1 win over #17 Washington.  Last week, Stanford continued their strong start with a 2-0 win at San Jose State, followed by a 2-1 win at UC Irvine.

Washington, on the other hand, has had a rollercoaster of a start.  The Huskies kicked off their campaign with a 2-0 win over USF, but followed up that with a disappointing 2-0 loss vs. San Diego, a game in which Washington had 10 corner kicks to San Diego’s 1, but were unable to convert any chances.  However, Washington immediately bounced back in their next game, going on the road to Bloomington and upsetting #3 Indiana, 1-0.  But since the big win over Indiana, the Huskies have needed two late equalizers to salvage 1-1 draws against Ohio State and Cal State Fullerton.

Stanford will look to Zach Bohane to provide the goals, with the sophomore midfielder tallying four goals and three assists so far on the season.  For Washington, Defender Nate Jones is one of just two players to play every minute so far for the Huskies this season, and will be essential if Washington wants to slow down this strong Stanford attack.

How to watch: Pac-12 Bay Area

Prediction: Stanford 2, Washington 0

South Carolina @ Kentucky – Friday

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking.  “This game isn’t that good, a 3-2 Kentucky hosting a 1-3-1 South Carolina. Who cares?”  I can admit, it’s not gonna be a matchup between two title contenders.  But I can’t just ignore the “SEC Derby”.

South Carolina goes into Saturday’s matchup with a less-than-stellar resumé.  A 1-1 draw vs. Campbell opened the season, before three straight 2-0 losses to Gardner-Webb, Clemson, and UNC-Wilmington.  The Gamecocks got their first win of the season last Friday with a fairly comfortable 4-0 win over Queens University.  South Carolina will host Winthrop on Tuesday, looking to gain momentum heading into Friday’s matchup.

After just one regular season loss in the past two seasons, #24 Kentucky has already surpassed that mark just a month into the 2023 season.  Two wins vs. Florida Gulf Coast and East Tennessee State was a positive start to the season, but a 1-0 loss at Wisconsin handed the Wildcats their first regular season loss in over 22 months.  It went from bad to worse, however, for Kentucky, as four days later they fell to in-state rivals Louisville by a score of 4-2.  Looking to right the ship on Friday, Kentucky actually went down 2-0 to Lipscomb in the first half.  However, they completely turned the game around with three second-half goals to get back to winning ways. That win may have served as a wake up call for the Wildcats.

For South Carolina, Adam Lockhurst leads the team offensively with two goals for a side that is only averaging one goal per game.  South Carolina will have to find some form of attack and take advantage of their opportunities if they want to get the win.  A key player for Kentucky will likely be Max Miller, as the sophomore has four assists and will look to provide opportunities for the front line.

How to watch: ESPN+

Prediction: Kentucky 2, South Carolina 0

Duke @ Clemson – Friday

One of this week’s notable matches includes Clemson, the 2021 national champions, vs. the #4 ranked Duke Blue Devils.  

It’s been anything but an ideal start to the season for Clemson, with the Tigers losing to UCF at home on opening night.  Clemson was then held to a 1-1 draw by UNC Wilmington, before bouncing back with two shutout wins vs. in-state opponents South Carolina (2-0) and Presbyterian (6-0).  Then on Saturday, despite rebounding from a two-goal deficit, Clemson fell to Notre Dame by a score of 3-2. 

Duke, on the other hand, exploded out of the gates with wins over Jacksonville and Furman.  A 2-2 draw vs. Wofford on August 31st proved to just be a minor speed bump, as Duke rebounded with wins against Princeton and Virginia.  

Clemson will hope that they can benefit from the home crowd and kick start this season, while Duke looks to continue their strong start.  Players to watch include Duke’s Forster Ajago and Clemson’s Mohamed Seye who both lead their respective teams with five goals each, while Duke’s Ulfur Bjornsson has scored in back to back games for the Blue Devils.

How to watch: ACC Network Extra

Prediction: Duke 2, Clemson 0

Picture from Wake Forest Athletics

Brian Ludden is a contributing writer for College Soccer News. He can be reached at

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