FORT MYERS, Fla. – Looking to bounce back from a tough 2-1 season-opening setback Friday night at Northwestern, the FGCU men’s soccer team begins the home portion of its 2016 campaign against another Big Ten foe in Michigan on Monday night at 7 from the FGCU Soccer Complex.
The meeting will be the first between the Eagles and the Wolverines. All three of the goals scored in FGCU’s opener at Northwestern were penalty kicks, while Michigan played #19 USF to a 0-0 draw Friday night. The Eagles – who received votes in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Preseason Poll – were installed as the Atlantic Sun Conference favorites earlier this month, while U-M was picked 5th in the Big Ten – one spot behind Rutgers, which FGCU will play on Sept. 27.
WHAT TO KNOW
Tickets are still available and can be secured by clicking here. The team will be holding a poster signing after the game, and all fans in attendance are encouraged to wear green. Those unable to make the game can watch on ESPN3 with David Moulton on the call.
Michigan enters its fifth season under head coach Chaka Daley in 2016, returning nine players with starting experience off the 2015 roster. Sophomores Francis Atuahene and Marcello Borges, and junior Evan Louro were named to the Big Ten Preseason Players to Watch list. Additionally, Atuahene – who finished with 10 goals last year – was tabbed to TopDrawerSoccer.com’s Best XI Third Team.
In its game at USF to start the weekend roadtrip, Michigan played the final 52 minutes of action with a man advantage, but weren’t able to convert with a goal. Still, the tie was the first result for U-M against a ranked opponent to start the season on the road since 2004. The contest was a defensive battle as just 14 total shots – eight by Michigan and six by USF – were attempted in the 110 minutes of action.
Preseason All-ASUN member Albert Ruiz (Barcelona, Spain/UE Cornella/CE L’Hospitalet) tallied FGCU’s lone goal in the 72nd minute as the Eagles were fighting their way back into the contest. FGCU finished the game with a dominant 23-8 edge in shots and a 5-3 advantage in corners, but dropped its first season opener since 2012 when then-#2 Akron shut out the Eagles.
Brandon Medina deposited both goals for Northwestern – the first in the 22nd minute and the second just more than a minute into the 2nd half.
The first PK was awarded after a Northwestern player flicked a seemingly harmless ball further up the pitch off a throw-in. However, just inches before Nicolas Samayoa (Guatemala City, Guatemala/Colegio Valle Verde) could let the ball go out along the goal line, a Northwestern player was able to gain possession and moments later was taken down in the box.
The second PK came off a Northwestern set piece as Kamar Marriott (Tampa, Fla./Heritage HS) was whistled for a foul on a Wildcat player who appeared to be diving for the service cross, but instead was given the benefit of the doubt on the Marriott foul call.
With FGCU battling to trim the deficit, Miguel Jaime (Denver, Colo./Cherry Creek HS) was taken down in nearly the exact same spot as the first PK was awarded. Ruiz stepped up and beat Northwestern keeper Francisco Tomasino to his left. The strike added to the junior’s program-record PK tally as he now has six – two more than anyone else in FGCU history.
In addition to being selected as the ASUN favorites, a trio of Eagles were named to the Preseason All-Conference Team: Samayoa, Jaime and Ruiz, with Samayoa being selected as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and Ruiz being the only unanimous selection to the 14-player team.
The Green and Blue lost six starters off last year’s team, but return 17 letterwinners, including three of their top four scorers: Ruiz (16: 7g, 2a), Dylan Sacramento (Winnipeg, Manitoba/York University/Bill Crothers S.S.) (13: 6g, 1a) and Jaime (6: 2g, 2a). Overall, six of FGCU’s top eight scorers are back, including several members of a defensive unit that once again paced the ASUN in preventing goals by a wide margin.
Arguably the biggest question for the Eagles rests between the pipes as ASUN career shutout leader Nathan Ingham (26) is gone following portions of five seasons as the Green and Blue’s starting keeper. Freshman Jared Brown (Aurora, Ontario/St. Maximilian Kolbe CHS) got the start at Northwestern and played well, making three saves – the biggest coming on a 1v1 with about 17 minutes remaining which allowed the Eagles to stay within striking distance in the closing moments of the night.
FGCU returns a core defensive unit that paced the ASUN in goals allowed (13 – nine fewer than any other team), goals-against average (0.88 – 0.45 better than any other team) and shutouts (seven – two more than any other team) last year. During conference matches, the Eagles scored 14 more goals than their opponents, allowing just one goal in their five ASUN games.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS UP FRONT
FGCU returns two of the most lethal strikers in not only the ASUN, but possibly the country, in Ruiz and Sacramento. Combined, the forwards were responsible for half (13 of 26) of FGCU’s goals last year and nearly 40 percent of the team’s points (29 of 75).
Ruiz led FGCU in points (16) and goals (seven) to rank fifth in the ASUN in both categories. The 16 points were one shy of tying the single-season program record, and his 1.45 points per game average was the highest in single-season program history and ranked third in the league. What made the campaign even more impressive is that he missed the first five games of the season with an injury. Ruiz tied the single-season program record with seven goals, going a perfect 5-5 on penalty kicks to break the program’s all-time mark of four. Additionally, his 0.65 goals per game average were the most in single-season program history and ranked second in the ASUN.
Sacramento was an ASUN Second Team member last year after finishing second on FGCU and sixth in the league with six goals. He added one assist for 13 points, the third-most on the Eagles and eighth-most in the league. Sacramento’s six goals were one shy of matching the single-season program record held by four players, and his 0.60 goals per game and 1.30 points per game were the second-best in single-season program history. Like Ruiz, what made Sacramento’s season even more impressive was that he only played in 10 games and logged 439 minutes – averaging out to one point every 34 minutes of action.
BREAKING DOWN THE SCHEDULE
FGCU’s 2016 schedule features 11 non-league matchups, eight home contests (all scheduled for 7 p.m. starts) and nine road competitions. Four opponents made 2015 NCAA Tournament appearances and four accumulated double-figure wins last season. Eight teams join FGCU in having finished in the top 100 of the RPI last year, three of which were inside the top 30.
2015 IN REVIEW
FGCU claimed a sixth-straight ASUN regular-season crown with a 4-0-1 mark in 2015 as part of a 7-4-3 overall record against one of the strongest non-conference schedules in the nation. FGCU was ranked nationally for nearly half of last season, climbing as high as #19. The Eagles led the league in points per game at 5.36 (next closest: North Florida, 5.00) and assists per game at 1.64 (next closest: North Florida, 1.33).
The Green and Blue produced three professional players off its 2015 roster: Rodrigo Saravia (MLS, Columbus Crew SC), Aaron Guillen (MLS, FC Dallas) and Ingham (NASL, FC Edmonton). Saravia was named ASUN Player of the Year, Guillen was tabbed as the ASUN Defensive Player of the Year and Ingham was garnered with ASUN Goalkeeper of the Year superlatives. Additionally, head coach Bob Butehorn was named ASUN Co-Coach of the Year.
DID YOU KNOW?
FGCU owns the longest home conference regular-season unbeaten streak in the nation at 28 straight (25-0-3). The Eagles have not lost a home ASUN regular-season game in nearly eight years, dating back to a 2-0 defeat against Jacksonville in October of 2008 – the program’s second season.
FGCU heads to the West Coast to face Loyola Marymount (0-1 entering its game at Syracuse Sunday night) on Friday, Sept. 2, at 10 p.m. Eastern, and UC Irvine (0-2) on Sunday, Sept. 4, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern.
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.
FGCU is led by Bob Butehorn, who has coached six professional players and 54 ASUN All-Conference selections since FGCU started its program in 2007. In just five years of postseason eligibility, Butehorn has guided FGCU to three ASUN Tournament championships and NCAA Tournament appearances – in 2011, 2012 and 2014 – and has won an unprecedented six-straight ASUN regular-season championships. His teams have been ranked nationally on several occasions by multiple media outlets. Now in his 14th season as a head coach, Butehorn has a 115-91-25 (.552) overall record, 81-59-21 (.569) mark in his nine seasons at FGCU and 48-17-6 (.718) record in ASUN contests.
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.