The men’s soccer team (4-7 overall, 1-0 WCC) has improved after a tough start to the season. The Lions came off of two consecutive road victories after winning in extra time at New Mexico (3-9, 1-3 WCC) last Tuesday and Sunday’s victory at Santa Clara (4-6-1, 0-1 WCC).
The Lions are a young team and expectations will continue to grow with their progress, so it will be important to continue the development of their young players. The team’s maturity will be tested throughout conference play, as the Lions look to improve after their record last season (5-12-3, 2-5 WCC).
“Three of our captains are seniors: Miles Chow, Cole Souza and Antonio Porreco, and I think those guys have done a really good job this year of kind of leading the way,” said Head Coach Paul Krumpe. “We also got Matt Gooden and James Tanaka who have been terrific as well. I am really pleased with the leadership of the five seniors in this group.”
Gooden, a senior defender and a civil engineering major, started all 11 games for the Lions in 2018.
“I've been pretty fortunate to be put in this position as a senior on the team,” Gooden said. “So, I'm doing my best to be a leader on the field and show the young guys how to go about being a professional ... off the field as well.”
With 15 freshmen and eight sophomores, compared to just five juniors and five seniors, the team is predominately underclassmen and their youth could be a reason for a slow start to the season.
“We're very young, so for every trip we have traveled so far with 20 players, 15 have been freshmen and sophomores,” said Krumpe. “It's taken a while for a lot of our younger players to get up to speed to the college game and we are finally getting to that point now.”
The Lions have performed well under pressure, especially late in games. Sophomore forward Kris Fourcand scored a penalty kick in the 92nd minute in the team’s 2-1 extra time victory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The men’s soccer team followed up their first extra-time victory by scoring two goals in the final two minutes of the Lions 2-1 win in their conference opener against Santa Clara.
LMU has been outscored 21-12 this season, averaging just 1.09 goals per game while allowing 1.91 goals per game. LMU scored five goals in their previous eight games before scoring four goals in their two victories last week, adding to their total of 12 goals on the season. The team is focused on increasing their shot attempts—after shooting 9.9 shots per game in comparison to their opponents’ 12.4 shots per game.
“We've been having some trouble scoring goals and I think that's our biggest weakness right now ... We have definitely addressed it multiple times in practice sessions so it's still a work in progress in terms of our attacking play,” said Gooden. “Once conference starts, we've got to start hitting the ball through the back of the net, because every game counts and every goal counts, especially because the goal differentials for teams in the league might be the difference in who wins the conference.”
Fourcand currently leads the team with three goals, followed by both freshman forward Jack Sauls and sophomore forward Francis Avoce with two goals each. Redshirt senior midfielder Antonio Porreco leads the Lions in assists (4), shots (16) and shots on goal (10). In 10 games, junior goalkeeper Paul Lewis has 42 saves with a .700 save percentage, allowing 18 goals and averaging 1.80 goals allowed per game.
One of the more glaring issues for the team is their 144 fouls with 27 yellow cards and one red card through the first 11 games, while their opponents have 118 fouls with 15 yellow and three red cards. The LMU red card was given to Souza for exchanging punches with Fullerton’s Robert Coronado during the final minute of the Lions' 1-0 loss.
"What happened at the Fullerton game should never happen and it's just very inexcusable for both players involved in the fight,” said Gooden.
It certainly will be interesting to observe how the Lions' young roster continues to grow, especially now when competing against conference opponents. LMU will face a tough challenge this weekend as they continue their five-game road stretch traveling to the Pacific Northwest.
“It's very difficult in our conference and anywhere nowadays to win on the road, but like I said, you can get the team together, you can bond as a group, you can have a little bunker-in mentality and sometimes really good things happen like they did in New Mexico for us,” said Krumpe.
The Lions will play against No. 11 Portland (9-0-2 overall, 1-0 WCC) in Portland, Oregon. on Friday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. and in Spokane, Washington on Sunday, Oct. 14 against Gonzaga (2-7-2, 0-1 WCC) at 1 p.m.