Heading into Friday, there are 15 teams in Division I men’s soccer with a perfect (no losses, no draws) record. How many will survive the weekend?
On the other end of the spectrum, 16 teams enter the weekend yet to earn a point. How many will remain with double goose eggs on Monday?
Three weeks into the campaign and teams are still trying to figure out the identity for the season. The top five fixtures of this weekend highlight games that could be deciding moments of the season for the teams involved.
Five Games to Watch (Sept. 12-14):
It’s the battle of Huskies in Seattle on Friday as Washington hosts Connecticut. UConn won this fixture last season 1-0, which was the game more meaningful for the injury to Spencer Richey than the result. Richey is back and, perhaps, better than ever. However, the mood around Seattle is not quite as chirpy. Washington is coming off a surprising defeat to Saint Mary’s, which should have the home Huskies howling for a win on Friday. Darwin Jones leads the hungry pack with three goals and two assists on the campaign. Connecticut’s defense will be tested at every turn in this game. Washington will need to keep an eye on talented sophomore Cyle Larin, who headlines the UConn offense.
The Running Rebels came sprinting out of the gate thanks to the play of senior Salvador Bernal, who has five goals in the first four games of the season. Bernal is second in the nation in goals scored heading into the weekend. However, UMBC is not kind to opposing attacks. Senior center back Oumar Ballo leads the Retrievers, which have only conceded two goals in four games. Kay Banjo and Mamadou Kansaye lead a balanced UMBC attack, which is averaging 2.2 goals per game. UNLV will need to be sharp defensively if it hopes to continue the unbeaten run to start the season and pull the upset.
Syracuse is red-hot to start the season with a perfect record and 0 goals conceded over four games. Junior goalkeeper Alex Bono has been tremendous in net for Cuse. This is a daunting challenge on Saturday though as the defending national champions Notre Dame stroll into town. The Irish hold an 11-2-2 series advantage over Syracuse in the meeting of the two teams, and the last win for the Orange came in 1997. Syracuse’s hope is to overload the middle of the field and eliminate Notre Dame’s ability to control the game from that talented crop of midfielders. Bobby Clark’s boys are coming off their first loss of the season against Kentucky on Monday, and will be ready to play on Saturday.
Lynn Stadium, Louisville’s brand new soccer complex, hosts its first ACC tilt on Saturday with Duke heading to town. The Cardinals don’t have long to lick their wounds after a 1-0 loss at Saint Louis on Tuesday. Duke is a young, talented team that is a bit inconsistent. Duke’s last road game was a shocking 3-1 loss to SMU, though they bounced back with a mid-week win over Temple. Those losses are going to happen on a team that is relying heavily on a handful of freshmen in every game. At home, Louisville looks like the favorite in this conference opener, but Duke is capable of pulling off the upset thanks to that potent attack.
UC Irvine makes the long trek to the East Coast this weekend for games against West Virginia and Georgetown. The Anteaters are off to a great start this season, which comes as a bit of a surprise considering the change in the coaching staff during the offseason. Long-time head coach George Kuntz left for Cal State Fullerton and the Irvine athletics’ department decided to promote from within. New head coach Chris Volk has the group churning right along. Both West Virginia and Georgetown will be difficult tests for the Big West program. The Sunday tilt against the Hoyas will challenge the defensive make-up of this Irvine squad, as Georgetown will look to dominate the ball in the home game.