Only a special pair of opponents could overshadow the Georgetown men’s soccer team’s upcoming Dad Bod Day promotion. Akron University (1-1) and No. 1 University of California, Los Angeles (1-0) comprise such a pair.
The Hoyas (0-1-1) will take on the Zips Friday and the Bruins Monday, both at home. Both opponents have had recent success — Akron won the national championship in 2010, while UCLA lost in the title game last season — and have produced dozens of professional players. This weekend certainly presents a difficult challenge for No. 12 Georgetown.
“[Akron] is an amazing group of players, and they believe in what they’re doing, and they are going to come in and try to do it. UCLA is number one in the country. They have got 33 guys that everyone would love to have on their team,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said.
After having nine players get drafted in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft over the past five years, Akron has established itself as a legitimate college soccer power. The Zips ended last season as Missouri Athletic Conference champions, and they split their first two games this season, falling 4-1 to Old Dominion University (1-1) Aug. 30.
UCLA, meanwhile, once again stands as one of the top teams in the nation. Though they were the favorites to win the 2014 national championship, the Bruins fell just short, losing 1-0 to Virginia in the championship game. Nevertheless, drawing talent from the soccer hotbed of Southern California has consistently led the Bruins to the top of the rankings.
The Zips will turn to senior defender Andrew Sounders in the back line and junior midfielder Adam Najem to make plays and create offensive opportunities. Sophomore forward Abu Danladi leads the Bruins’ offense and is a potential top-five draft pick after his second season. Georgetown senior defender and co-captain Cole Seiler believes these matchups, especially against Akron, will be exciting to watch.
“I think [Sounders] will have his hands full with [senior forward Brandon Allen],” Seiler said. “[Against] Najem, it will be an interesting battle to see how our center mids match up against him, for sure.”
Coach Wiese and his team are looking forward to Akron and UCLA’s style of play in the upcoming matches. After Florida Gulf Coast and South Florida played heavily defensive games that frustrated the Hoyas on both sides of the ball, the Zips and the Bruins will likely play a more open type of game.
“Akron has horses where they aren’t going to be like, ‘We have to change for Georgetown.’ … I think Akron is going to believe in what they’re doing,” Wiese said. “[UCLA] is going to come in and say, ‘We do what we do.’ That’s the fun of the challenge for us.”
Georgetown is entering these tough tests on a down note, having tied Florida Gulf Coast University and lost to No. 24 University of South Florida on a road trip to begin the season. For Wiese, looking to rebound against a difficult opposition presents an exciting and positive challenge. “One of the disadvantages of playing a hard schedule is that you can lose games that you are playing OK in,” Wiese said. “The advantage … is that you find out a lot about what you need to do and what you are doing well. That’s where we are right now.”
The Georgetown lineup has seen significant turnover from last season. With the season still young, the lineup has not yet settled. Freshman goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski has taken over in net for the Hoyas, while freshman defender Peter Schropp started against South Florida. Freshman midfielder Kyle Zajec has also seen playing time in the defense. The performances of these young players will be crucial in the upcoming matches.
“[The freshmen] have definitely come in and helped us out when called upon,” Seiler said. “All three of them have been doing really well.”
At the end of these upcoming contests, the Hoyas will have faced two of the traditional powers in NCAA soccer and will have had the opportunity to earn a pair of marquee wins. Akron and UCLA, however, will surely prize a win away against Georgetown.
Georgetown will also face potential injury issues, the trip to Florida having taken a toll on a pair of players. Senior defender and co-captain Josh Turnley injured his shoulder in the season opener and missed the next match, while junior defender and co-captain Joshua Yaro exited the South Florida match after just half an hour with a leg injury. There is no official word on the extent of either injury, but both men are extremely valuable players who the Hoyas will certainly hope to have on the field this weekend.
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