Column: Men’s soccer team showed good signs of progress

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

Finishing the preseason without a win is not the worst thing the men’s soccer team could have done.

But finishing the preseason without scoring any goals, while also giving up four in two matches, would have been the worst case scenario for the team who is trying to score more.

Head Coach Kiki Lara has said that maintaining defensive grit is the most important thing for the team, but even finishing the preseason with two clean sheets, with no goals of their own, would have been a less-than-desirable start to the season for the Panthers.

A good defense in soccer can be categorized as such even if one or two goals are given up. Without any goals to back up the defense though, no amount of grit will save a victory, so what the Panthers needed Tuesday was to get at least one goal.

And Erik Isaksson kept the Panthers from going scoreless this preseason.

The sophomore defender headed in a goal for Eastern with just over six minutes left in the match, off a free kick from sophomore midfielder Jake Andrews, who kicked the ball from about 13 yards short of midfield.

Isaksson finishing his chance for a goal is on par with a theme Lara and some players have talked about.

After a 2-0 loss to Wisconsin in the Panthers’ first exhibition match on Aug. 14, Lara said the team had chances that should have resulted in goals. Then before Tuesday’s match, Lara said he needed to see improvement by his team on taking chances when they get them. Even senior midfielder/forward Kris Luke said the Panthers need to finish better.

So with Isaksson’s goal, the team can get a confidence booster seeing the ball hit the back of the net. But it does not mean everything is in perfect condition for the Eastern attacking third. 

The other aspect Lara and players mentioned that needed to improve was what Lara called “build up” play, connecting the ball from the defense to the forwards to advance the ball and score. By connecting more passes and getting the ball further downfield, the added chances for Eastern will come. 

In Tuesday’s match alone, Eastern had eight shots in the contest, with five of them on goal, one more than DePaul. Eastern also had four more corner kicks than DePaul Tuesday (5-1).

The Panthers already made an improvement in increasing shots on goal in a match, going from just two in the match against Wisconsin to five on Tuesday. The final step for Eastern’s build up play is to finish with the ball in the net, instead of finishing in the goalkeeper’s hands or wide of the goal.

The Panthers’ first regular season match is Monday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. in Cincinnati.

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]