Men’s Soccer struggles with young team

By William Kennedy

After a seven game winning streak, Macalester men’s soccer lost 2-1 against area rival St. Thomas Tuesday. The Scots (6-3-1, 3-1 MIAC) had hoped to remain the conference’s only team without a loss or a tie. With the defeat however, Mac finds itself tied for fifth place in a league that is shaping up to be extremely competitive.

Despite being favored in a pre-season coach’s poll to win the MIAC, Macalester had no allusions about running away with the title. While Macalester has long been a MIAC powerhouse, Gustavus Aldophus College entered the 2006 season as the only ranked team in the league, and last years MIAC champion St. John’s will likely challenge for the title again. Hamline, St. Thomas, and Augsburg have also made a push toward the top of the conference in the early season, suggesting the top of the league may remain crowded all season.

Along with strong competition, Mac also faces some internal challenges. “We’re a very new team,” veteran mid-fielder Magnus Oppenheimer ’07 said. “A lot of guys who hadn’t played varsity before are now starting.”

That inexperience played a major role in Mac’s slow start as the Scots dropped a pair of games to non-league teams from Wisconsin: UW-Whitewater and Edgewood.
“The first two games were just poor,” Oppenheimer said. Later he added, “Everyone is progressing, especially the new guys.”

Sure signs of progress began to emerge as the Scots went on a five game winning streak immediately following their second early loss.
“The humbling nature of our slow start gave the guys a bit of incentive,” associate head coach Ian Barker said.
With Oppenheimer’s return to the lineup after recovering from a preseason injury, the Scots continued their unbeaten streak with a 0-0 tie against Luther and a 2-0 win against Augsburg. However, the Scots are still a long way from being in a position to consider themselves the MIAC’s top team.
Mac’s winning streak can be contributed in part to a soft early season schedule. With few exceptions, the majority of the Scots’ opponents during their winning streak are below .500 teams. Furthermore, the Scots struggled to beat many of these mediocre teams, often failing to find a passing rhythm throughout the duration of the games. Mac’s defense also showed early signs of weakness, which proved costly against St. Thomas.

After falling behind 2-1 early in the first half, Mac had occasional flashes of coherent team play, but could neither score, nor keep their opponents from threatening. The end result was a third consecutive defeat at the hands of the Tommies.
Macalester will need to address these shortcomings quickly if they hope to remain among the leagues top contenders. The Scots play fellow MIAC leaders Gustavus today and St. John’s next Wednesday. These two games will provide a good indication of where the Scots stand.
According to the team’s leading scorer, Carson Goerki ’10, the future is hopeful. “We’ve stared to understand how each other operate,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of us deciding to play.”