Offense showing improvement for Panthers


Dillan Schorfheide

Eastern senior Kris Luke dribbles around a Green Bay defender in a 1-0 loss on Sept. 2 at Lakeside Field. The Panthers are 2-2-2 on the season.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

At first glance, it would seem as though Eastern’s men’s soccer team has had a worse start to this season than it did a fall ago.

After all, last year the Panthers finished their first six matches with a 2-0-4 record, while leaving the first stretch of this season with a 2-2-2 record.

But looking at the numbers, there is definitely improvement for the team, especially when it comes to the offense.

At this point last year, Eastern had four goals on the year, and this season, the Panthers already have five goals, which is half of last year’s total for the whole season.

Head coach Kiki Lara does not hide the fact that the offense was sparse at times last year; at one point, Eastern went seven straight matches without a goal. So this year, he said he has been wanting to see his team get and capitalize on more chances.

But concerning last year, forward Shady Omar has some thoughts as to why the Panthers struggled offensively.

“I think that we struggled last year because the offense didn’t really work as a unit,” Omar said. “We had individualistic players and (a) major issue we had was the midfield couldn’t really link up and (find) the forwards so we created less chances.”

Linking the ball through the midfield and up to the forwards has been another focal point for not only Eastern’s attackers, but its defenders as well, so that they can help keep possession and get the ball out of the defensive third to alleviate pressure and create scoring chances for the attackers.

The statistics do not lie.

Last season, Eastern averaged 7.7 shots per game, and had a .384 shot-on-goal percentage. So far this season, the Panthers average 10 shots per game and a slightly lower .367 shot-on goal-percentage.

On top of that, Eastern is averaging .833 goals scored per match so far this year, while the Panthers averaged only .53 goals scored per match last year. 

“This year the forwards work together as a unit to create more chances and we are more fluid with our movement, which helps us create a lot of chances,” Omar said. 

The improvement in offense this year has not only helped give Eastern better chances to win, but it has also given the Panther defense some breaks in the action. 

While a tough and disciplined defense is something Lara and the team prides itself on, a constant pressure from the opponent can wear down any defense. But with the Panthers getting more pressure and shots and shots on goal against its opponents, the defense does not have to constantly play on its heels to prevent goals.

The best example of this was during the season opener against Cincinnati, which ended in a 2-0 win for Eastern.

Especially during the second half, the Bearcats had a decently constant pressure on Eastern’s defense, but at various times, the defense was able to clear the ball out and the build-up play carried the ball to Cincinnati’s defensive third, giving Eastern a few scoring chances. The few opportunities for the Eastern attack gave the defense a needed breather to get ready for the next wave.

The best, recent opportunities to see how much Eastern’s offense has improved have been against Mercer in the Panthers’ 2-1 win on Sept. 9, and against IUPUI on Sept. 12, which ended in a 0-0 draw. In both matches, the Panthers fired 14 shots.

“We are getting better and better as the season goes on,” Omar said. “Movement up top is key and we have that along with hunger and desire to score.”

Eastern will have a chance Tuesday to continue its upward progress offensively when the team travels to Dayton, Ohio to play Wright State.

Wright State has opened its season with a 4-0-1 record and has a leading 7-5 record over Eastern in the two schools’ matchup history. The last time the two teams met was last year at Lakeside Field, when the Raiders beat Eastern 2-0.

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