Men’s soccer needs the offense to come alive this weekend against 11th ranked Denver, who has not lost a home game since 2013.
Denver has yet to experience a loss, home or away, this year. They are currently 11-0-3 and sit atop the Summit League standings with a 3-0-1 record against conference opponents this year.
Eastern coach Kiki Lara will be taking on Denver for the first time and knows it has been a tough place to play
“I think Denver, at the moment, is just a confident team,” he said. “They won the conference last year; they’re well-built and a little bit more experienced. It’s just a tough place to play.”
Eastern enters this game at 3-11 and 1-3 in conference play. They have two more Summit League games remaining this year; both are must-wins against the two best teams in the conference, Denver and Omaha.
Eastern dropped its last game against Green Bay 1-0 after only getting one day of rest for it.
“We really had a short turn around from a game on Sunday and I thought we were a little banged up and fatigued around the 65th and 70th minutes,” Lara said. “For us it’s just about good recovery and getting guys back to where they need to be and putting on another performance that’s at least consistent in terms of effort.”
This is just the third time these two squads will be meeting each other, as they had a 1-1 tie last year on the Eastern practice field due to flooding on Lakeside Field. Denver won the matchup at home in 2013 2-0.
Freshman Andre Shinyashiki leads the team in goals with five. He is also the team leader in shots with 30. The second-leading scorer on the team is redshirt junior Karsten Hanlin with four goals. He has also recorded two assists on the season. Redshirt juniors Chandler Crosswait and Alex Underwood each have four assists putting them among the league leaders.
Lara needs a strong performance on both ends of the field in order to compete with Denver.
“We need to be organized defensively to understand what they are trying to accomplish offensively for us to counter that,” he said. “We have to go in with the mindset that we can produce scoring chances and take the opportunities we get and score them.”
Redshirt senior goalkeeper Dan Jackson has played in all 14 games this year and leads the conference in four different categories. He has eight shutouts, three conference wins, no losses and a 47 percent goal against average. He has only given up seven goals in more than 1,000 minutes played this year.
Eastern sits three points back from the fourth-place team in the conference, so this game is must win if they hope to see themselves in the Summit League Tournament at the end of the year.
The game is set to start at 8 p.m. in Denver, Colo.
Mark Shanahan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]