Men’s soccer team looking for improved offense this season


File Photo | The Daily Eastern News Jake Andrews fends off a sliding defender while making a move with the ball during Eastern’s 0-1 loss to Green Bay at Lakeside Field in September 2018.

Blake Faith, Men's Soccer Reporter

While defense is a focus of the program, Eastern men’s soccer head coach Kiki Lara developed more offensive strategies in the offseason that he hopes to implement this season.

The strategy is to be more aggressive offensively, making their chances count when they have numbers behind the ball.

“We want to be a little more direct, a little more interest in getting numbers beyond the ball,” Lara said. “Our idea is that we are really committed to flooding the numbers forward and making sure that we get there quickly.”

Two of last year’s leading scorers return to the 2019 team.

Redshirt senior Christian Sosnowski led the Panthers in scoring with three goals, and junior Shady Omar scored two goals in 2018. Sosnowski and Omar are among 15 players returning to this year’s team that have played a lot together over the last two years.

Senior Alex Castaneda only played six games for the Panthers last year, but led the team in assists. Lara believes that Castaneda can be a catalyst for the Panther offense.

“Castaneda is a very potent attacker, knows the program, he’s a returner,” Lara said. “He believes in what he’s doing and he will have a great year.”

Lara believes the Summit League has become up-for-grabs more and more every year because other programs have evened the playing field. Denver is the returning Summit League champion and has won five of the last six Summit League championships.

The Summit League will look different from last year. Denver’s Andre Shinyashiki led the NCAA in scoring with 28 goals in 2018 but graduated after last season.

Protecting Eastern’s goal is the returning, starting goalkeeper, redshirt junior Jonathan Burke.

“Burke had a great last season in goal for us making big time saves in conference play,” Sosnowski said. “He saved a penalty kick from Shinyashiki in conference play, where we ended up tying Denver at home amongst many other saves throughout the season and I believe he will continue doing the same thing this fall.”

Lara has expectations for his players to play their role and strive in their role. With the team being fully healthy, the coaching staff’s goal is to make sure everyone stays healthy throughout the season.

The men’s soccer team will play an away exhibition match Thursday against Valparaiso at 2 p.m.

Blake Faith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]