Men’s Soccer Squad Off to a Subpar Start – The University News

Evie Nguyen

The Saint Louis University men’s soccer is off to a subpar start to their season, opening with a 3-3 record: an adequate result for most teams, but a far cry from their single loss run in 2021. After clawing their way to the NCAA quarterfinals last year, taking their only loss from the Washington Huskies (who then went on to get second place overall), the boys in blue were expected to perform immensely well this season. Perhaps the pressure was too great for the squad to bear, as opponents they were competitively battling with last year swiftly disposed of the Billikens this year.

In the men’s team’s first game of the actual season, despite going into the match ranked number 10 in the nation, they were quickly bested by the Louisville Cardinals, taking a 3-1 loss. While last year’s victory was certainly no walk in the park, with the Billikens edging out a 2-1 victory in double overtime, a 3-1 defeat in 2022 was unprecedented. Sophomore Erich Legut was able to rocket the ball into the net early on in the game, bringing the Bills to an early 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, the rivals in red did not let up, scoring once more before the half was over, then putting the nail in the coffin with two more goals in the 66th and 75th minute respectively.

To continue the losing streak, just three days later the soccer squad fell to Lipscomb 2-1. The match was hard fought, with a penalty kick scored by each team within just the first fifteen minutes of the game. Both teams were trapped in a 1-1 stalemate until the 68th minute when, according to the official game recap, “after a great save by SLU starting keeper Carlos Tofern, (the opposing team) pounced on a loose ball and scored.” The season opening losses were especially disheartening after a tie and 2-0 exhibition start to the season.

At last, the Billikens saw success, winning their faceoff against the Creighton Bluejays 3-2. Going into the match the Bluejays were ranked number 7 in the nation, despite beginning the season unranked. The deadly trio of fifth year John Klein, junior Kevin Komodi, and senior Alberto Suarez dominated the game, scoring a goal each as well as assisting one another. The victory was accomplished in Omaha, Nebraska on September 2nd, making the trip “SLU’s first road win against a top-10 opponent since Sept. 20, 2014, when it also defeated Creighton, then ranked No. 3, at Morrison Stadium, ”as cited by the official game recap. While a 3-2 win is wonderful, they had previously shot the Bluejays right out of the sky with a 4-0 blowout last year, meaning that even in victory the SLU squad struggled to perform up to their own precedent.

Unfortunately, the men’s soccer team’s success did not last long, as they were smoked by the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Mustangs 3-0. In the previous season, the Billikens fought to a standstill that resulted in a 1-1 tie after double overtime. The drastic difference in results outlines the discrepancy in skill between the past and present men’s SLU soccer teams. Just two minutes into the game the Mustangs took the lead and never stopped running, plowing through the finish line by scoring two more goals in the second half.

On September 9th, the Billikens were able to bring back the bronze boot against the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) Cougars. For the first time this season, the SLU squad performed far better than last year. Instead of a 1-1 tie in double overtime, the Billikens wiped the floor with the Cougars in a dominant 4-1 match. Goals were scored by an underclassman onslaught with sophomore Seth Anderson, freshman CJ Coppola, and sophomore Grady Easton each putting one into the back of the net.

To continue their winning streak the SLU men’s soccer team conquered LaSalle in their A-10 opener. Klein asserted himself as a force of nature on the field, scoring two for SLU.

“Klein has vaulted into elite territory in the Billikens’ record book with his two goals tonight. He now has 73 career points (25G, 23A), tying him with Denny Hadican and Kyle Patterson for 18th in school history, ”stated the official match recap. “He is the first Billiken since Robert Kristo to crack SLU’s top 20 career scoring list and just the fourth player this century to rank among the program’s top 20 scorers.” Klein will certainly look to end his career as a Billiken high in the history books.

Redshirt sophomore Christian Buendia and junior Alex Shterenburg also joined the fray with goals of their own to keep the Explorers at bay. Overall the Billikens claimed a 3-1 victory, bringing their win streak up to 2 games, and their record to 3-3.

Compared to their 3-0-3 record at the same number of games in 2021, the 3-3 start of the current Billikens is quite evidently disappointing. The recent win streak may bode well for the future. Alternatively, the team’s early losses may have sealed their fate. Huge, and talented, the onslaught of newcomers certainly plays a role in the Billikens’ performance. Seventeen athletes on the roster returned to SLU from last season. Kevin Kalish used his recruiting expertise to bring in not only talented freshmen but exceptionally talented transfers. His recruiting looked to replace multiple MLS draft selections in Isaiah Parker, Kipp Keller, Patrick Schulte, Chandler Vaughn, Chase Niece, and Simon Becher. Only time will tell whether or not SLU’s shattered soccer squad will be able to put its pieces back together by the end of the season.

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