Where they’ve been so far this season:
After coming off the best season in program history, including a UAA Championship and a trip to the second round of the NCAA Playoffs, the Case Western Reserve University men’s soccer team has had some ups and downs. The Spartans are 3-4-1 and have had a tough start to the season. Already appearing in three double overtime games, the Spartans have had some tough matchups leading into the conference season.
The Spartans are currently on a 1-3-1 streak after starting off the season 2-1-0. The Spartans have also lost their past two home matches at Case Field against Baldwin-Wallace College and Penn St.-Behrend 3-1 in each instance. The Spartans also drew with Franklin College 1-1 last Saturday.
Scouting the Spartans:
Homecoming will hopefully mark a turnaround for the Spartans, who have struggled at home this season in limited matches. The Spartans won their season opener against Washington & Jefferson 3-0 but have since lost twice. This is a huge change in pace for Case since last year when opposing teams loathed visiting Cleveland, as the Spartans had a 7-1-0 record here last season.
The Spartans are currently averaging 1.38 goals per match while giving up the same amount. They’ve also managed to outshoot their opponents 13.2 to 11.4 but have struggled to convert that advantage into goals.
Spartans to Watch:
Eric Erb – Forward
Erb has helped pick up the Spartans’ scoring after the departure of scoring record holder Vinny Bell. Erb is currently second on the team in scoring with seven points, which have come from three goals and one assist. Erb had been phenomenal earlier with his past two goals opening the scoring against Penn St.-Behrend and Franklin. When this senior and fellow forward Patrick O’Day are firing on all cylinders, the Spartan offense is hard to stop.
Rene Silva – Midfielder
Silva is one of just three Spartans who has started all three games so far this season. Playing in the midfield, Silva has been instrumental in putting pressure on the goal and leads the Spartans with 21 shots this season. Silva also racked up the game winning assist against Muskingum College in double overtime with a throw to the box from the touchline. Look for Silva to be key in pushing the ball up the edges of the field and crossing the ball in.
Ryan Koepka – Goalkeeper
Koepka has had a tough beginning to the season as he transitions into the starting roll. Despite an impressive performance in the opening game where he shutout Washington & Jefferson 3-0, Koepka has struggled, seeing his goals against average increase to 1.59. Although he’s recorded three clean sheets, he’s also allowed Spartan opponents to score a trio of goals of three different occasions. If the Spartans want to compete at a high level in the UAA, they are going to have to start with good defending between the pipes.
Dan Palmer is in the midst of his ninth season as the head coach for the Spartans and has brought the team up to compete on a national level in the nearly ten years he’s been in Cleveland. Palmer is 88-56-16 in his career and has won two UAA Conference Championships and two NCAA Championship berths. He earned his second UAA Coaching Staff of the Year honors last year and produced two NSCAA All-Americans in 2011.
Erb and O’Day have led the Spartans’ attack so far this season, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the Spartans offense in 2012. O’Day returns from a stellar rookie campaign where he finished second on the team in scoring. O’Day is off to an impressive start to his second year, scoring four goals and tallying an assist in six games. Second behind O’Day’s nine points, Erb current has seven points off of three goals and a single assist.
The Case attack has dropped off significantly with the departure of All-American striker Vinny Bell. The Spartans have seen their productivity nearly cut in half from 2.60 goals per game in 2011 to just 1.38 in 2012. The Spartans averaged 2.14 goals per game in the UAA last season and will need to see a scoring jump if they want to successfully defend their title.
The Spartan midfield has done what it does best so far this season. Led by seniors Ross Twanmoh, Kostas Theoharides, and Rene Silva, the center of the pitch has been the area most dominated by the Spartans. The three seniors, who have matched up with rookie midfielders Brett Messieh and Chris Cvecko, add a foundation of experience and leadership for the Spartans.
The midfield focuses more on possession for the Spartans, but the quintet has shown its ability to score with Cvecko, Twanmoh, Theoharides, and rookie midfielder Slater Jameson having found the back of the net so far this season. The midfield does however need to improve its playmaking ability as just Silva and Theoharides have scored assists.
The backline has been a source of youth for the Spartans as senior defender Sam Kuehlne is the team’s elder statesman. On the last line of defense for Case are sophomores Baird Hansen and Ryan Meyer, who have both made the jump to the starting eleven in their second season. Senior Kris Bosma has also made appearances for the Spartans.
Kuehlne has proved to be an excellent source for the Case attack so far this season with spot of cross in set pieces. Kuehlne leads the team with three assists and has had an assists in two of the team’s three wins.
In goal, Koepka has picked up the starring role in his senior season. Despite having flashes of brilliance, Koepka has also struggled with a save percentage of .676 and a goals against average of 1.59. Sophomore Jay Darby has seen limited time in goal, but has been perfect so far this season in nearly 150 minutes.
Where they’ve been so far this season:
After a disappointing season for the New York University men’s soccer team, it’s off to the best start in program history. A 2011 season in which the Violets went 7-9-1 overall and 2-5-0 in the UAA is one that few people in New York remember, as the Violets are off to an 8-0-0 start in 2012. The perfect season has seen them shoot up the national rankings all the way to No. 6 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
Most notably for the Violets has been their staunch defense as they’ve allowed just two goals all season, earning six clean sheets so far. In addition NYU is on a four game streak during which it’s outscored its opponents 14-0. The biggest game for the Violets so far this season was against then-No. 22 William Patterson University where the Violets scored the game-tying goal in the 82nd minute and the game winning penalty kick with just 61 seconds left to win 2-1.
Scouting the Violets:
The Violets have been unstoppable this season on their way to a perfect start. NYU is averaging a blistering 2.75 goals per game clip. The offense is nearly as remarkable as the defense, which has allowed just two goals over the entire season. The big thing for the Violets has been their ability to shoot, with nearly 19 shots per game. The attack is also consistent and pressurized as the Violets have 18 assists and have scored four goals on penalty kicks.
The Violets are 3-0 on the road and have outscored the home teams 13-0 in the three games. NYU has also played two nationally ranked teams and defeated them both by a single goal.
Violets to Watch:
Paolo Luciano – Forward
Luciano has had an impressive beginning to his final year on the pitch. Luciano has started seven of the Violets’ eight games, scoring four goals and making two assists. Most impressively for Luciano is that all four of his goals were game winners, including the sole goals against No. 18 Sevens Institute of Technology and the Merchant Marine Academy. He also has an astonishing 34 shots in eight games. Luciano will need to be stopped if the Spartans hope to keep the Violets off the board and give them their first loss of the year.
Niki Chow – Midfielder
Chow, one of the Violets’ captains, has had an exceptional beginning to the season as well. Chow is tied for second on the team in scoring with four goals and leads the squad with a remarkable .308 shot percentage. As one of the team’s leaders, Chow has also taken two of the Violet’s seven penalty kicks on the season, making both. Chow hasn’t had an assist yet this season but is still a dangerous part of the Violet arsenal.
Jonas Poster – Goalkeeper
Poster, a senior, is off to the best start of his career, notching eight wins and six clean sheets so far this season. Poster’s allowed just two goals this season and has a goals against average of 0.27 and a save percentage of .867. The Violets’ brilliant start can be chalked up to a number of things, but Poster’s performance in goal needs to be at the top of the list. His GAA is the best in the UAA by nearly half of the next closest keeper and his save percentage is second in the UAA.
Coach: Joe Behan
Joe Behan graduated from NYU in 1995 and promptly signed right back up as the head coach just a year later. He has a career record of 153-123-29 and has led the Spartans to three appearances in the NCAA Championship and one University Athletic Association title. Behan also led the Violet to the NCAA Final Four in 2006, the first in program history. In his 17th season the No. 6 Violets are knocking on the door of their highest ever ranking of No. 4 and what looks like a strong UAA campaign.
Playing true to their positions, the Violets’ No. 9 Kyle Green and No. 10 Luciano have been unstoppable so far this season. Green has scored five goals in just six games while Luciano has tallied four in eight. The two forwards, both seniors are one of the reasons NYU has the third highest scoring program in the UAA. The two aren’t just pure attackers either, but also have combined for five assists.
Sticking to the mantra of “if you don’t shoot, you can’t score,” Luciano is second in the UAA in shorts with 34 and third in shots per game with 4.25 while Green is second in shots per game with 4.33. NYU’s 18.75 shots per game are second in the UAA and Luciano and Green are not afraid of shooting the ball.
The Violets’ midfield has been solid on all sides. NYU has dominated nearly every team it has faced both offensively and defensively and that begins in the midfield. Chow has led the Violets to one of the best offensive/defensive combos in the UAA. Chow is joined by sophomores Mickey Ingerman and Mac Yumoto and junior Chris Ramirez. Despite having just one senior in the midfield, the center of the pitch is one of the Violets’ biggest strengths.
Ramirez and Chow have been the offensive players so far in the center with three and four goals, respectively. Both are exceptional shooters and have the patience to pick their shots as they both average over .300 for shooting. Yumoto and Ingerman have been more of setup players so far this season. The two sophomores have each scored once but have contributed a total of five assists so far.
The Violets’ defense has been the defining part of the team’s 2012 campaign and a key reason that they have reached No. 6 in the country. Juniors Danny Weisbaum and Tino Kardassis have been dominating on the backline. Weisbaum, one of the Violets’ captains, has been key in stopping opponent fast breaks in the center. Joining them on the back line are Juan Velez, Colby Kwan and Joseph Lee. Kardassis has two assists on the year while Weisbaum has one.
In goal has been Poster, who has been phenomenal in the first eight games this season. Poster’s .27 GAA is top in the UAA and his save percentage of .867 is second in the conference. The only question mark is arguably the defense’s biggest strength, in that the Violets have only faced 17 shots all season and that Poster and the NYU defense have faced just 1.28 shots per game, lowest in the UAA.
Men’s Soccer Prediction:
Case 2-2 NYU
The Spartans get a home crowd boost, but it won’t be enough to take down the No. 6 Violet. Erb scores early for the Spartans and the Case defense holds on to go into halftime up 1-0. NYU will come out blazing and get quick back-to-back scores before the 70th minute. With Case pressuring to come away with a point, NYU commits a bad foul and gives the Spartans a set piece. Keuhlne connects for the fourth time of the season, this time with O’Day for the tie. A back and forth overtime yields nothing for either team and the Spartans escape the No. 6 team in the nation with a point.