JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The four-time defending Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season champion FGCU men’s soccer team (1-4-3) begins its pursuit of an unprecedented fifth-straight title Wednesday evening at 7 when the Eagles kick off their league schedule at Jacksonville University (3-5-0).
FGCU has a 28-3-2 mark in A-Sun regular-season games since the start of the 2010 season. All three of its conference losses have come on the road, and out of a possible 99 points that could have been earned in that time, the Eagles have claimed an impressive 86 of them.
TURNING IT AROUND
A slow start by virtue of playing an extremely demanding non-conference schedule is nothing new for FGCU, and this year is no exception as head coach Bob Butehorn assembled the most difficult non-league docket in program history. However, since 2010 FGCU has used that non-conference slate to prepare for its A-Sun schedule.
Below is FGCU’s record each season before playing its first conference game and then its record for the remainder of the season following its first league contest:
2010: 4-2-2 > 10-1-1
2011: 3-2-2 > 9-4-0
2012: 3-4-1 > 8-2-1
2013: 2-5-1 > 6-2-1
2014: 1-4-3 > ???
Total: 12-13-6 > 33-9-3
Some of those opponents following FGCU’s first A-Sun match were not conference foes, but the Eagles have clearly used the non-league slate to help pave the way to their four straight A-Sun regular-season titles.
Jacksonville welcomed FGCU to the A-Sun by handing the Eagles three losses in their first three meetings, outscoring them 9-1 along the way. FGCU has reversed the script in recent seasons, defeating Jacksonville in four consecutive matches to improve its all-time record against the Dolphins to 4-3. In those four meetings – dating back to 2010 – FGCU has out-scored Jacksonville, 11-3.
LAST YEAR’S MEETING
On the strength of goals from Santiago Echeverri (Medellin, Colombia/Celebration HS) and Aaron Guillen (El Paso, Texas/Coronado HS) and a shutout from Danny George (Safety Harbor, Fla./Countryside HS), FGCU completed its fifth-straight unbeaten A-Sun regular-season home schedule with a 2-0 victory over Jacksonville. In the process, the Green and Blue clinched a share of the A-Sun regular-season title.
The Dolphins have won two-straight games and have not allowed a goal in 184 minutes. Ejiroghene Mrabure leads the offensive attack as his three goals are tied for fifth in the conference and his eight points are tied for sixth in the league. Rijad Kobijar has four assists early in the year, good for a tie for second in the A-Sun in that category. In net, Marc Meny has made 36 saves and boasts a .720 save percentage – both of which are second in the league. He was named the A-Sun Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after shutting out Georgia Southern, 3-0, and Campbell, 1-0, last week.
FGCU boasts the best defense in the A-Sun and one of the best defensive units in the entire nation. The Eagles lead the A-Sun in goals-against average (0.69), fewest goals allowed (6) and are tied with Jacksonville in shutouts (3). Nationally, FGCU ranks 27th in goals-against average, and its team save percentage of .818 is 35th-best in the country. If FGCU’s total goals allowed was doubled, the resulting 12 scores would still be less than the next closest team in the A-Sun (Lipscomb, 13).
Individually, redshirt junior goalkeeper Nathan Ingham (Keswick, Ontario/Keswick HS) has three shutouts to his name this year. His .812 save percentage easily leads the conference (no one else is even at .730), and he is the only goalie in the A-Sun with a goals-against average below 1.0. His 0.69 average is 29th in the nation, while his .813 save percentage is 39th in the country.
Ingham, who missed most of last year with a concussion, has 13 career shutouts. He is just six shy of tying 2011 graduate Adam Glick’s program record for shutouts with 19. On the year there have been 12 shutouts recorded by A-Sun teams, and Ingham is responsible for 25 percent of those.
NOT FOR A LACK OF CHANCES
FGCU’s offense hasn’t finished as much as it would like to start the year, but it hasn’t been for a lack of chances. In fact, the Eagles lead the A-Sun in shots with 129 – the only team with at least 120 shots. The per-game shot average of 16.12 is nearly three better than the next closest team (Lipscomb, 13.25).
Junior Felipe DeSousa (Tampa, Fla./Wharton HS) leads the A-Sun in shots per game at 3.43, while sophomore Isaiah Madrid (Albuquerque, N.M./Eldorado HS/Westminster) is second at 3.33 – two of only three players with at least a 3.0 average (Lucas Diniz, Stetson, 3.0). In addition to the shot attempts, the Green and Blue have generated 45 corner attempts – second in the league only to Stetson’s 48. Furthermore, FGCU’s average of 5.62 corners per game leads all A-Sun teams.
In FGCU’s last game – a 2-1 loss at FIU last Wednesday – the Eagles had 17 shots, and eight came from DeSousa, who set a program single-game record for shots, surpassing five others who were tied with seven – himself included.
Of the first eight opponents FGCU has faced this year, four have either been nationally ranked or receiving votes in the national poll, while the other four have defeated nationally-ranked teams. In addition, the first official NCAA RPI rankings were released this week, and FGCU has, or will, play six teams that are currently in the top-70, including two in the top-25.
FGCU will have a quick turnaround when the Eagles return home to face Stetson on Saturday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. for their home A-Sun opener.
For men’s soccer ticket information, visit the Alico Arena Ticket Office, call 239-590-7145 or log on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. For up-to-the minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at the program, follow on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer and Instagram @FGCU_MSoccer.
FGCU is led by Bob Butehorn, who has coached 30 A-Sun All-Conference selections since FGCU started its program in 2007. In just three years of postseason eligibility, Butehorn has guided FGCU to the NCAA Tournament twice – in 2011 and 2012 – and has won an unprecedented four-straight A-Sun regular-season championships. His teams have been ranked nationally on several occasions by multiple media outlets, and in 2013 he won his 100th career game.