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Men’s College Soccer. A Look At The Results Of Several Key Season Opening Games And The Potential Implications Moving Forward.

Syracuse 2 Providence 0 – The jury is still out on every team in the country including number one ranked Syracuse. However, it is fair to say that the defending national champions looked very good in their season opening win over a good Providence team which bodes well for continued success. Much will hinge on the ability of others including several transfers to replace the offensive firepower that forwards Levonte Johnson and Nathan Opoku provided last year. Senior forward Lorenzo Boselli came up big for the Orange scoring twice during the first 13 minutes. Junior midfielder Giona Leibold provided the assist on the first goal and highly regarded transfer junior midfielder Mateo Leveque contributed the helper on the second.  

Indiana 1 Notre Dame 1 – Not a bad season opening result for number two ranked IU against a good Notre Dame side in a contest played in South Bend. The Hoosiers and the Irish have historically had close contests. Nonetheless a draw was not the outcome that Indiana had hoped for. On the other hand, it was a positive that Indiana was able to come from a goal down on the road to tie the contest. The Hoosiers started slowly last year and it again may take a little time for this team to settle in. This is a talented Indiana team but their margin for error is small and they have a target on their chests which means their opponent will always have a little extra motivation. Freshman Collins Oduro who started the game scored Indiana’s lone goal. Senior defender Paddy Burns converted a header out of a free kick to get the Irish on the board.  This one could prove to be a springboard for a successful Irish season.  

 Kentucky 3 FGCU 0 – The outcome is not a surprise but what is notable in this one is that Kentucky’s high-profile transfers lived up to expectations. Forwards senior Aboubacar Camara and junior Logan Dorsey and graduate student midfielder Fin Ballard McBride contributed Kentucky’s goals. Camara converted a penalty kick, Dorsey sent a left footer into the frame with an assist from defender Max Miller and Ballard McBride scored out of a breakaway. If this team jells, they are going to be tough to beat.    

UCF 2 Clemson 1 – Down go the number eight ranked Tigers. Let’s begin by stating that it is way too early to draw any conclusions based on one game but then again it is foolish to totally ignore the implications of a disappointing loss particularly when Clemson sustained it in the friendly confines of Historic Riggs Field. Not a result that likely pleased Tiger head coach Mike Noonan or the 4,000 plus Clemson faithful that were on hand but the focus will be on learning from it and moving forward. The Tigers added several high-profile transfers to a solid core of returning players. One of the biggest challenges of transfers is that you never really know how well they will merge in with existing players. It may take a while for the Tigers to settle in. In years past breakdowns on the defensive side of the ball have been problematic for Clemson. It remains to be seen if that is the case in 2023. It was a good season opening on the road win for a UCF team that begins play this year as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.  

Washington 2 South Florida 0 – The departure of their top four goal scorers meant that the Huskies entered the 2023 season with a huge void to fill on the offensive side of the ball. Graduate Student Brian Iliohan who transferred in from Cal Baptist where he was a difference maker looked to be among the newcomers who could help fill the void. The unanswered question was whether Iliohan could transition the playmaking ability he displayed at Cal Baptist out of the WAC over to Washington in the Pac-12. Iliohan scored both of Washington’s goals in the win over South Florida providing at least an early indication that he may prove to be just what the doctor ordered.

Pittsburgh 1 – Penn State 1 – ThePanthers entered the season with a high national ranking based in part on the success that they have had under Jay Vidovich despite having about as many unanswered questions as a game of Trivial Pursuit. Much will hinge on the ability of several returning players to slot into a greater role and the ability of several of the newcomers to make an immediate impact. Freshman forward Albert Thorsen provided Pitt’s lone goal with an assist from newcomer junior forward Abdoulaye Toure before a sellout crowd at Ambrose Urbanic Field. Not a great but clearly a good season opening performance by both teams. Look for both teams to build on this one.

UNCG 1 – California 1 –Another season opening tie in a game that featured two weather delays that likely impacted the ability of both teams to settle in. It looked like UNCG was going to take control of the contest when freshman forward Arnaud Tattevin scored just over three minutes into the game but California responded with a goal of their own in the 22nd minute of play from senior forward Nonso Adimabua to knot the score. Defense ruled from that point forward as is often the case early in the season as it often takes time for teams to jell on the offensive side of the ball. Both teams had to settle for a draw which was perhaps a moral victory for an unranked California team over a ranked UNCG team. It is always challenging to travel cross country for a season opener. UNCG travels to face Maryland on Sunday while California heads to Winston-Salem to face Wake Forest.  

Stanford 3 – Creighton 1 –Stanford looked good in this one with midfielders Shane de Flores, Zach Bohane and freshman forward Duncan Jarvie contributing the goals. Several younger players performed well which is an added plus. The Cardinal are a tough team to beat when they can come out on the front foot and control the tempo of a match as they did in this one. This team will be good but of course just how good remains to be seen. The effort was there on the part of Creighton but they simply did not match up well with Stanford.

Vermont 2 – Western Michigan 0 –Vermont forward redshirt junior Yaniv Bazini and senior midfielder Carter Johnson, a transfer from Utah Valley, scored in the second half of play to give the Catamounts a good season opening win over a very competitive Western Michigan team. Redshirt senior Owen Jack, a transfer from Stetson, recorded the clean sheet in goal for Vermont. All things considered it was a very impressive season opener for a Catamount team that is without four fifth year senior starters from the 2022 team including All-American midfielder Alex Nagy.  Vermont will be tested when they face Akron on Monday.    

Marshall 4 – Oakland 0 – Sophomore forward Matthew Bell, the 2022 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year and 2023 College Soccer News Preseason All-American, hit the ground running with a three-goal evening to power the Marshall attack. Junior Alvaro-Garcia -Pascual, a transfer from Coastal Carolina, had a two-assist evening in his first contest for Marshall. Senior Aymane Sordo, a transfer from Gardner-Webb, added the fourth goal. The Thundering Herd looked to be in sync as a team which is always a good thing.

Missouri State 1 – Maryland 0 – This one was somewhat of a surprise despite the fact that the Terps entered the season with big gaps to fill including the loss of players who scored 21 of 31 goals last year. Maryland never seemed to get into gear and Missouri State did what they needed to do to secure a solid season opening win on the road over the Terps. Senior midfielder Jack Denton scored the lone goal of the game for the Bears while senior goalkeeper Harry Townsend recorded the shutout in goal with a one stop evening. Maryland will seek to rebound on Sunday when they host UNCG. Look for Maryland to regroup but it may take this team a while to establish their identity.

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