It’s an interesting opening weekend in men’s Division I college soccer, as some of the best games at this point in the season are slated for Monday’s holiday. That includes Stanford-Akron and Maryland-Virginia.
But those matches aside, below are five games to follow as the men’s DI season begins.
Friday, August 30
Two teams that are looking to make strides and deep postseason runs, the Orange have more questions to answer than the Hoyas. However, the ACC outfit should have plenty to test Georgetown with, including rising sophomore Ryan Raposo. Keep an eye on incoming freshman Luther Archimede. Georgetown does have to replace two key defenders from last year’s roster, but offensive weapons Achara, Derek Dodson and Jacob Montes gives them plenty going forward.
The weekend begins for UCF with a huge chance to make a statement against a pair of ACC powers. After Friday’s match against Wake, they’ll bus over to Chapel Hill for a battle with the Tar Heels. Cal Jennings is sure to be eager to back up a 20-goal season, and senior captain Jonathan Dean leads the team once again after being granted another year of eligibility. Besting Wake Forest is not going to be easy obviously, as the Demon Deacons have gaps to fill, but are going to be anchored by familiar faces like Bruno Lapa, Michael DeShields and Eddie Folds.
With a number of returning starters, the Zips enter this season with plenty of ambition and dreams of a third straight College Cup appearance. David Egbo should continue to emerge as one of the top striker’s in college soccer, Skye Harter anchors the midfield and super sophomore Carlo Ritaccio guides the back line. It’ll be the first chance to see the program’s 17-player recruiting class, which could see the likes of Mani Austmann and Will Jackson step into big roles. The hosts Xavier will seek to get things off to a strong start, incorporating a Top 10 recruiting class of their own. Senior Samson Sergi earned Preseason All-Big East honors, and it’ll be interesting to see if the likes of Karsen Henderlong and defender Johannes Sundgot start from the first game.
Another fascinating Friday night matchup features the Panthers traveling to Bloomington and offering a big test for a new-look Indiana side. The Hoosiers have plenty of rebuilding and retooling ahead of them, but there’s still plenty of expectations surrounding a side that features Jack Maher, one of the nation’s best defenders. IU’s season could be defined by freshmen. And that’s not to say they don’t have returning players who will step into significant roles, but if newcomers such as Victor Bezerra, Josh Penn and Aidan Morris right straight away, it’ll be big. Incoming senior transfers Joris Ahlinvi and Simon Waever are going to be as well. For Pitt, this provides a huge chance for a marquee win that would put the Panthers on the path towards an NCAA tournament. Edward Kizza is just one of several names on the roster to watch, as the junior scored 15 times last season.
Saturday, August 31
Another match featuring an ACC side features a significant test for a Saint Louis team that should take a big step forward this season. The Billikens are another team hoping for a big contribution from a strong recruiting class, which includes the transfer of U.S. youth international Simon Becher. But the contributions from returning players such as John Klein or Devin Boyce are just as, if not more critical to any improvement. A solid and steady Notre Dame side pays a visit for the Saturday clash, needing to re-tool in the attack but bringing back Felicien Dumas as a key leader. Junior Aidan McFadden is one of the best bets to contribute for a team that should be reliant on set pieces again to generate offense. Michael Pellegino’s earned starts during preseason, and he could help anchor the midfield from the early days of the season. No matter what, this game provides an early snapshot of where each stands early on in 2019.