Eastern men’s soccer team travels to Denver

Shady+Omar+dribbles+past+midfield+in+the+Panthers%E2%80%99+1-0+win+over+Saint+Francis+Sept.+10+at+Lakeside+Field.+It+was+Eastern%E2%80%99s+last+win.
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Eastern men’s soccer team travels to Denver

Shady Omar dribbles past midfield in the Panthers’ 1-0 win over Saint Francis Sept. 10 at Lakeside Field. It was Eastern’s last win.

Shady Omar dribbles past midfield in the Panthers’ 1-0 win over Saint Francis Sept. 10 at Lakeside Field. It was Eastern’s last win.

Bryan Bund

Shady Omar dribbles past midfield in the Panthers’ 1-0 win over Saint Francis Sept. 10 at Lakeside Field. It was Eastern’s last win.

Bryan Bund

Bryan Bund

Shady Omar dribbles past midfield in the Panthers’ 1-0 win over Saint Francis Sept. 10 at Lakeside Field. It was Eastern’s last win.

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

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When it comes to men’s soccer in the Summit Conference, there are two teams that are considered the teams to beat by the other four programs in the conference: Omaha and Denver.

The Eastern men’s soccer team already had a shot at one of those teams, when it tied Omaha 0-0 earlier this season, and it will have a chance to seek an even better result Saturday against Denver.

Last season Denver made it to the final four in the country and was ranked the third-best team in the nation at the opening of this season.

However, with a 5-5 record, the Pioneers have played below expectations for their program. Eastern coach Kiki Lara views them as being better than what their record shows.

“Any time you go to a final four the year before, you have been to that kind of pinnacle of college soccer, there is something to you,” Lara said. “There is going to be something that we haven’t seen yet this year.”

Denver on offense this year has scored 13 goals on 98 shots. The 98 shots taken by Denver ranks second to last in the conference, ahead of only Eastern which has 77.

Andre Shinyashiki has been the focal point of Denver’s offense this season. The junior leads his team in both goals and shots, with three and 30 respectively. Alongside Shinyashiki is redshirt sophomore Ryan Barlow, who has also had three shots find the back of the net this season and is second on the team with 11 shots.

Lara feels that his team and its aggressive defense matchup well with the Denver offense.

“We match up very well because we can play with anyone in the country defensively,” Lara said. “But I mean we are going to have remain focused. We weren’t very focused against Western defensively as we have been in the past. We are going to have to be that way against Denver because we cannot take a night off.”

It has been a rough go as of late for the Panthers in the goal column as they have failed to score in five straight games. However, this streak has come with shots frequently deflecting off crossbars and narrowly missing their marks.

“We are getting more shots, we are getting better looks, we are getting more looks,” Lara said. “It really is about just staying the course. We look at the season as a whole. We have gone from an ultra-defensive team that doesn’t really have a threatening punch to becoming a team that does have some threatening punches and some young guys stepping up and playing well and some veteran guys stepping up and playing well. It’s just rounding out the game and being patient and you know overall it’s still a very new team.”

The Panthers will still be without starter Alex Castaneda, reserve goalkeeper John Burke and Marcus Menniti, who suffered a pulled groin.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]