Sports

Skilled men’s soccer non-conference offenses visit Stevenson Field

Bruno’s backline will have hands full, taking on two prolific offenses this weekend

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, September 12, 2014

Following its upset win over No. 23 Boston University (2-2-0), the men’s soccer team will return home to Stevenson Field for a pair of contests against Providence College and Lehigh University this weekend.

Both PC and Lehigh boast high-octane offenses that will thoroughly test the Bears’ (1-1-0) backline. The Friars’ (3-1-0) strength lies in their stellar trio of strikers up top. Fabio Machado, Markus Naglestad and Mac Steeves have collectively produced seven goals and four assists in just four games so far this season.

Naglestad has contributed four of the seven tallies, while Steeves has scored the other three. The two goal-scorers will likely push higher up the field and work the ball into dangerous areas. Machado has generated three of the trio’s four assists, suggesting he will tuck in behind Naglestad and Steeves and look to play dangerous passes in Bruno’s defensive third.

Lehigh (2-1-0) also plays a three-striker formation, but its most dangerous player is Jaime Luchini, a central midfielder. Luchini will drop below the strikers and wreak havoc in the center of the field. He has scored two of the Mountain Hawks’ four goals this season. He also leads the team in shots with 13 and shots on goal with nine.

Both offenses have vastly outpaced their opponents in a number of categories. Lehigh outshot its early competition 50-29 and created 17 more corner kicks over the course of just three games. PC has a goal differential of plus-six and has fired off 24 more shots than its opposition.

Despite the plethora of offensive talent that PC and Lehigh possess, the Bears will not employ any special defensive strategies to handle the likes of Machado or Luchini.

“We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Tariq Akeel ’16. “We think we are just the better team. Our game plan is going to be the same — it doesn’t matter who their strikers are.”

Co-captain and starting midfielder Daniel Taylor ’15 stressed the need for the backline to “stay in constant contact with each other” in order to succeed against two powerhouse offenses.

“We need a lot of communication,” Taylor said. “We have to talk to each other and track their strikers’ runs, but as long as we are prepared, we should be pretty well suited to stop PC and Lehigh.”

In addition to being prepared to defend three-striker sets, the Bears will also face a variety of formations that neither Siena nor BU employed.

The Friars have experimented with a few different formations this season, toying with three, four and sometimes five defenders on the backline and between two and four midfielders in the center of the field.

In contrast, the Mountain Hawks have trotted out a 4-3-3 formation and virtually the same selection of players in each of their three games this season.

“Maybe we’ll have numbers in the midfield, maybe we’ll be even, but we’ve dealt with all of these situations before,” Taylor said. “It’s all about understanding the situation and being prepared. As long as we have enough guys behind the ball, we should have good opportunities to go forward as well as defend.”

Having three strikers on the field may give PC and Lehigh an offensive advantage, but it can also leave gaps in the midfield. Bruno tends to play a traditional four-man diamond in the midfield, with central attacking and defending midfielders flanked by wingers on either side. As the Bears employ just two strikers up top, they should enjoy an extra man in the midfield.

A strong midfield presence will be important for the Bears. If Akeel, Taylor and Jack Gorab ’16 can win balls in the midfield, they will be able to push forward on the counterattack and might win free kicks in the attacking third, opportunities Taylor cited as two of Bruno’s biggest strengths on offense.

“We have to make sure our forwards stay involved,” Akeel said. “(Nate Pomeroy ’17) and (Ben Maurey ’15.5) are such a dynamic pair up top. The midfielders just need to get them the ball in dangerous positions and we should keep our scoring streak going.”

The Bears will face the Friars Friday at 7 p.m. and then will hold a scouting practice Saturday, in which they will run through how they want to handle Lehigh. The team squares off against the Mountain Hawks on Sunday, but Bruno is not looking past its first task of the weekend.

“PC is a tough game every year,” Taylor said. “We’re trying not to look ahead to Lehigh yet, because playing a Friday-Sunday is never easy. But if we stay focused on Friday and then take Sunday as a separate opportunity, I think we have a good chance of getting two wins this weekend.”

  • India McNulty

    Look at that headline. Brown University writing requirement?