Conference play begins this weekend for a number of teams across Division I men's soccer. The start of league play means the kick off to the meaningful games with teams competing against rivals for conference honors. The first weekend of the games is a hodgepodge of fixtures though, with many of the top teams face programs that have struggled out of the gate.
While the lack of primetime games takes away some of the luster, there is still a reason to tune in this weekend for the games in men’s Division I soccer.
Five Games to Watch
Both of these teams have already kicked off conference play. South Florida opened with a win while Temple suffered its first loss of the season. On Saturday, Temple tries to get back to its winning ways in AAC play. The Owls are averaging 2.22 goals per game heading into the week, with new forward Jorge Gomez Sanchez leading the team in scoring so far. The Spaniard has been one of the biggest surprises during the 2015 season. South Florida is in the midst of a three-game road trip, and the Bulls lost a close one on Tuesday night to Denver. Can South Florida bounce back on Saturday against Temple?
Stanford has not played a game since Sept. 20. The rather lengthy break is a rarity in college soccer as programs try to squeeze as many games as possible into a brief window of the season. Stanford’s well-rested group takes on local rival California in the Pac-12 opener for both teams. The Cardinal will be shorthanded with Jordan Morris trying to help the U.S. qualify for the Olympics, but it should still be a sporting affair in Berkley on Sunday.
New Mexico is looking to bounce back in conference play after a 2-1 loss to South Carolina in the Lobos' conference opener last week. On the other side, Kentucky is sitting at the top of Conference USA with a pair of wins already. The Wildcats have a challenging slate of games to end the season, but the one on Sunday could be the most difficult. If Kentucky finds a way to win in Albuquerque, the Wildcats will be in the driver’s seat for the regular season crown.
Providence (4-3-1, 0-1) vs. Butler (5-0-3, 1-0), Saturday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m. (ET)
Among the seven unbeaten teams left in Division I, Butler looks like it has the most difficult challenge this weekend. Providence has been on a roller coaster ride this season with highs and lows, but the Friars are capable of knocking off anybody on any given day. Butler needs to be wary Mac Steeves and the Providence attack. David Goldsmith and Vincent Mitchell have been the players to watch for Butler. The duo have combined for 12 goals this season.
The season has not gone as expected for Rhode Island. After a sublime 2014 campaign, Rhody has struggled to find consistent form against Northeast competition. The up-and-down play has Rhode Island searching for answers as the team begins its conference schedule this weekend. Could the start of Atlantic 10 play be the answer to correcting the errors for Rhode Island?
Three Players to Watch:
F Darius Madison, UMBC - The Virginia transfer continues to tear it up for UMBC. Madison and UMBC take on take on Hartford on Saturday in the America East Conference opener for both sides. Madison’s going to be the one to watch for the Hartford defense.
M Tariq Akeel, Brown - The senior midfielder is the key piece for Brown in the bid to win the Ivy League. Akeel has been a starter with Brown since his freshman season and his leadership on the field is starting to pay dividends to the rest of the group. Brown opens up conference play this weekend against Columbia.
F Francis Atuahene, Michigan - The freshman forward has been on the radar prior to his arrival and he has not disappointed through the first eight games of his career. Atuahene leads the Big Ten in scoring with six goals and three assists. Michigan takes on Wisconsin this weekend, a team that has conceded nine goals in its last three games. The chances should flow for the speedy striker.