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Men’s Preview: Big Ten showdown

Article Written by Travis Clark
Published: October 26, 2017

The final weekend of action across most men’s Division I soccer conferences is on the docket this weekend. These five matches are crucial to each team’s respective hopes.

Saturday, Oct. 28

No. 5 Georgetown (11-2-2, 5-1-1) at St. John's (7-6-2, 4-2-1), 7 p.m. (Big East Digital Network)

In the wake of Wednesday’s results, Georgetown’s trip to Queens has turned into a must-win, with Butler now holding a three-point lead at the top of the Big East standings. The Hoyas weren’t able to find the back of the net in a 0-0 draw at home with Providence, and a loss here would dent the team’s RPI. Midfielder Christopher Lema’s been one of the nation’s best in the middle of the park, circulating the ball and creating chances. He’ll need to be at his best to unlock a stubborn St. John’s defense that’s helped the team taste success this season. Harry Cooksley and freshman Jack Shearer have been two of the Red Storm’s most dangerous players in the final third, and can certainly do damage if given chances in front of goal. St. John’s are relatively safe when it comes to secure a Big East tournament spot, though they'll want more than that this season.

Rhode Island (8-4-2, 3-2-1) at VCU (9-4, 5-1), 7 p.m. (vcuathletics.com)

A decisive Atlantic 10 clash in Richmond sees Rhode Island make the trip south looking for an upset. VCU is rolling into this one, fresh off a mid-week win against Maryland, with Rafael Andrade Santos scoring a spectacular goal at Ludwig Field. Luc Fatton and Francesco Amorosino have also chipped in seven goals apiece for a VCU team poised to return to the NCAA Tournament. The same can be said for Rhode Island, although their RPI is in a bit more of a precarious situation. Back-to-back losses to UMass and Fordham haven’t helped, though Rhode Island certainly has the makeup to defeat VCU on the road. DII transfer Chae Brangman’s provided seven goals and is the kind of attacking player that can be a difference-maker in a big game like this one.

Sunday, Oct. 29

No. 2 Indiana (13-0-3, 5-0-2) at No. 14 Michigan State (11-2-2, 5-0-2), 3 p.m. (ESPNU)

The Big Ten regular season finale is poised for an entertaining conclusion, with IU, Michigan State and Maryland each sitting at 5-0-2 on the final day of play. Michigan is also in with a shout if results go their way for the regular season title. In theory, if these two sides tie and the Terps-Michigan game ends in shared points, the former three sides could share the regular season title. The Spartans and Hoosiers will both look to cement their national title credentials in this one. IU’s defense makes them an automatic contender, and if the freshmen forwards like Griff Dorsey and Mason Toye continue to fire, then a road win in Lansing isn’t a stretch. However, given Michigan State’s defensive solidity – they’ve conceded just eight goals this season, and four of those came in one game – a 0-0 result wouldn’t be out of the question. And that would open the door wide open for the Terrapins or Wolverines.

No. 21 Michigan (10-4-2, 5-1-1) at No. 8 Maryland (10-3-3, 5-0-2), 4 p.m. (Big Ten Network)

While the second half kicks off in Michigan, the Terps will take the field in College Park looking to snap a three-game losing streak and put themselves in position for a Big Ten crown. Fortunately, that losing streak came in non-conference play, keeping Maryland in the title conversation. Goal scoring’s been an issue for Maryland, as they’ve failed to find the back of the net in those three games, although part of that can be attributed to bad luck. Getting the offense clicking, whether it’s Gordon Wild, Eryk Williamson or Sebastian Elney, is critical as the Terps eye a deep postseason run. Michigan has plenty to play for, however, as the Wolverines are also in the running for first place. That would require a draw between IU and Michigan State, and victory in College Park. After several impressive recruiting classes, this is the year it’s finally clicked for head coach Chaka Daley. The team has attacking depth behind Francis Atuahene, as Mohammed Zakyi’s stepped up, while Jack Hallahan has quietly scored five goals and added six assists. With both teams facing defensive questions, this clash has potential to evolve into a high-scoring affair.

No. 13 Florida International (11-0-3, 6-0-1) at Kentucky (8-5-2, 4-2), 7 p.m. (WatchESPN)

Riding an eight-game winning streak into the regular season finale, FIU remains one of the stories of the 2017 season. Facing two tricky tests last week, FIU answered them emphatically, handily beating both Old Dominion and New Mexico. Kentucky is one final test in FIU's bid for a perfect regular season. It won't come easy, as the Wildcats would significantly boost their NCAA tournament chances with a win. The key matchup is FIU’s high-powered attack (44 goals on the year, second best in the country) against Kentucky’s dour defense. Santiago Patino is chasing the national lead in goals scored, as the FIU junior sits on 14 tallies this season, so he'll be eager to be in among the scorers. Freshman goalkeeper Enrique Facusse has excelled between the posts for Kentucky, and he could have a busy – and important – shift this Sunday.

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