Matchup: #15 FGCU (14-4-3, 4-1-1 ASUN in 2016) @ #3 Denver (20-1-3, 4-0-1 Summit League in 2016)
When: Friday, Aug. 25 | 9:30 PM Eastern (7:30 Local) | Denver, Colo.
Coaches: Jesse Cormier (1st Season @ FGCU; 14th Overall, 114-89-47) | Jamie Franks (3rd Season @ Denver, 35-2-6; Same Overall)
Matchup: #15 FGCU @ Air Force (14-7-1, 6-3-1 WAC in 2016)
When: Sunday, Aug. 27 | 1:30 PM Eastern (11:30 Local) | Colorado Springs, Colo.
Coach: Doug Hill (10th Season @ Air Force, 78-94-20; Same Overall)
COLORADO – Coming off the best season in program history, the #15 FGCU men’s soccer team commences the 2017 campaign with a pair of games in Colorado over the weekend, beginning with a marquee showdown Friday night at 9:30 against #3 Denver. The Eagles will then battle the Air Force Academy on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
FGCU will be facing a pair of first-time opponents in Denver and Air Force. Denver reached its first College Cup (NCAA semifinals) last year, and is the first program to go unbeaten in consecutive regular seasons since Clemson in 1977-78 (Denver: 35-2-6 overall the last two years). The Pioneers enter 2017 on a 35-match regular-season unbeaten streak, dating back to Halloween Night in 2014. Denver is 40-1-2 in its last 43 matches at home.
Air Force hosted Denver for an exhibition match last week, and the two sides played to a 1-1 draw. The Falcons return seven starters from a team that concluded the season at No. 79 in the RPI and just missed the NCAA Tournament after losing in the WAC Tournament Final.
FGCU enters the season as the preseason ASUN favorites. Reigning ASUN Player of the Year Albert Ruiz (Barcelona, Spain/UE Cornella/CE L’Hospitalet) was selected as the unanimous preseason choice to repeat, while Nicolas Samayoa (Guatemala City, Guatemala/Colegio Valle Verde) was chosen as the ASUN Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Senior midfielders Miguel Jaime (Denver, Colo./Cherry Creek HS) – who will be making his Denver homecoming – and Kamar Marriott (Tampa, Fla./Heritage HS) joined Ruiz and Samayoa on the 12-player All-ASUN Preseason Team.
It marks the fifth-straight season that FGCU has been selected as the preseason ASUN favorites (co-favorites with Lipscomb in 2014). Impressively, the Eagles have lived up to that billing each year as the Green and Blue have won either the ASUN regular season title or tournament championship every single campaign since 2010 (regular season and tournament champions in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016).
HEAD COACH JESSE CORMIER
Jesse Cormier was hired in January to become just the second head coach in program history. The head coach at Vermont for the previous 13 seasons, Cormier won 14 games with the Catamounts in 2016 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round.
During his time with Vermont, Cormier guided the program to the America East Tournament in 12 of 13 seasons, making five title game appearances, winning two tournament crowns, claiming a regular-season championship and advancing to three NCAA tournaments, including a pair of Second Round appearances.
RECORD-SETTING 2016 CAMPAIGN
FGCU led the country in nearly every offensive category a season ago, including goals with 62 – nine more than any other team. The club reached record heights as it secured a program-record 14 wins. Included in that victory total was a program- and nation-best 10-match winning streak in the middle of the season.
The Eagles advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round for the first time after claiming a 3-0 triumph in penalty kicks at USF in the opening round following a 2-2 double-overtime tie. FGCU went on to face North Carolina, and the Green and Blue had a 2-1 lead until an 86th-minute goal by the Tar Heels. FGCU played the final 52 minutes of the match with 10 men, and UNC finally tallied a double-overtime goal to emerge victorious, 3-2. The Eagles return nearly every player from 2016, including 10 starters.
The Eagles begin this year ranked #15 in the College Soccer News Preseason Poll. Additionally, FGCU is ranked #22 in the Top Drawer Soccer Preseason Poll and #23 in the United Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll (formerly the NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches Association of America). While there are several prominent and respected national polls, the United Soccer Coaches is the only official poll the NCAA recognizes, and FGCU is the lone ASUN representative.
It marks the fourth-straight season that FGCU has been nationally ranked, but the first time in program history the Green and Blue have received a spot in the United Soccer Coaches (or NSCAA) Preseason Poll. The Eagles finished last year #20 in the NSCAA Poll after being ranked for the final nine weeks of the season and climbing to a program-best #11 in mid-October.
FGCU NATIONAL RANKING HISTORY
10/5/2010: #25 Soccer America
10/12/2010: #24 Soccer America
10/14/2010: #24 Top Drawer Soccer
10/19/2010: #21 Soccer America
10/26/2010: #23 Soccer America
11/2/2010: #19 Soccer America
11/9/2010: #19 Soccer America
11/16/2010: #20 Soccer America (Final Poll)
8/2/2011: #14 Goal.com (Preseason Poll)
8/30/2011: #22 Goal.com
9/27/2011: #25 Goal.com
9/9/2014: #24 NSCAA and Soccer America
8/31/2015: #19 Top Drawer Soccer
10/13/2015: #22 Top Drawer Soccer
10/20/2015: #22 Top Drawer Soccer
9/27/2016: #15 NSCAA
10/4/2016: #12 NSCAA
10/11/2016: #12 NSCAA
10/18/2016: #11 NSCAA
10/25/2016: #20 NSCAA
11/1/2016: #22 NSCAA
11/8/2016: #21 NSCAA
11/15/2016: #18 NSCAA
12/13/2016: #20 NSCAA (Final Poll)
Ruiz has been named to the 2017 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List as one of the nation’s top players after finishing runner-up for the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy a season ago. The lethal striker – who is also one of just three forwards on Top Drawer Soccer’s Best XI list – destroyed single-season program records in goals (22) and points (49) en route to being named an NSCAA First Team All-American – the first ASUN Conference representative since 1997.
The senior – the only unanimous selection to the ASUN Preseason All-Conference Team – scored five more goals and totaled nine more points than any other player in the country in 2016. He also led all Division-I players in goals per game (1.10; next closest: 0.89) and points per game (2.45; next closest: 1.95). By himself, Ruiz scored more goals than 74 teams – more than one-third of the 203 D-I men’s programs – and secured more points than 43 teams last season.
INSIDE THE SCHEDULE
FGCU’s 17-game schedule features 11 non-conference matchups and eight home contests all scheduled for 7 p.m. starts. Three opponents made NCAA Tournament appearances in 2016, and three more lost in their respective conference tournament final. Nine opponents join FGCU in having finished in the top 100 of the RPI last year (FGCU: No. 36), and another was just outside the top 100.
BUILDING A CHAMPIONSHIP PROGRAM
Since the program’s first two seasons in 2007 and 2008, FGCU has posted a winning record each of the past eight years, including double-figure victory totals in half of those campaigns. All-time, the Eagles are 95-63-24 (.588) in 10 seasons, including a dominant 52-18-7 (.721) record in ASUN contests.
FGCU has produced six professional players – including two current MLS members in Rodrigo Saravia (Columbus Crew) and Aaron Guillen (FC Dallas) – and 63 ASUN All-Conference selections. In just six years of D-I postseason eligibility, FGCU has won four ASUN Tournament championships and made four NCAA Tournament appearances – in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016 – and won an unprecedented six-straight ASUN regular-season championships from 2010-15.
From Colorado, the Eagles will return to Florida for a few days before flocking to the Northeast for a pair of games as part of Vermont’s Peter Baldwin Memorial Classic. FGCU will take on the host Catamounts (Sept. 1, 7 p.m.) before opposing Central Connecticut State (Sept. 3, 11:30 a.m.).
The matchup with Vermont – where Cormier graduated from in 1995 – will conclude a challenging opening three-game stretch for FGCU as the Catamounts finished with an RPI of No. 29. Denver, Air Force and Vermont combined to go 48-15-5 last year and win four NCAA Tournament contests. In addition to the aforementioned FGCU leading the nation in points last year with 179, Air Force was 4th (133), Denver was 5th (128) and Vermont was 8th (120).
For up-to-the minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at the FGCU men’s soccer program, follow on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer, Instagram @FGCU_MSoccer, Facebook /FGCUMSoccer and YouTube /FGCUAthletics.
SUPPORT THE CAUSE
FGCU Athletics sponsors events throughout the year to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics’ charities of choice. For more information, including how to make a contribution, please visit www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry and utilize the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.