By Aaron Hughes |Staff Writer|
The CSUSB men’s soccer team is off to a rough start.
They’ve lost five of their first seven matches and will have to win all of their remaining 13 games just to equal last year’s record.
“We’re just looking to our next win and then try to get another one to get a little bit of rhythm going,” said Coach Noah Kooiman. “I really think that when we get at least two back to back wins under us things will change.”
One of the biggest differences in the team from last year is the amount of inexperienced players in the squad. There are currently ten freshman listed on the official roster.
The Coyotes younger players will have to step up in order to fill the gaps that have been left by last year’s players, particularly in attack.
“The players that we’ve lost were goal scorers, period. Obi Agwu, Alberto Cabrera, Jose Godinez, those guys we’re all starters but were very direct in their play. They were players who made their teammates look good by opening up space for the others,” said Kooiman.
Another issue is that many of the new players are unfamiliar with the formation Kooiman has implemented.
Modeled after FC Barcelona, the current champions of Spain’s La Liga championship and Europe’s UEFA Champions League Championship, the Coyotes play a 4-3-3 formation. The system consists of four defenders, three midfielders and three attackers.
“We play a Barcelona style 4-3-3 which includes a lot of movement off the ball, a lot of inter-changing and passing,” said Kooiman. “We’ve got to keep working hard for the younger guys to learn the attacking part of the system so that we can take some pressure off our back line.”
So far, the 2-0 win against Cal Poly Pomona is a result that shows Kooiman’s tactics can work.
“We’ve got a really good blueprint with the Cal Poly match. Even though we had a lot of attacking players here last year we know we can get the job done when everybody is on the same page and stays true to the system.“
The 2-0 win against Cal Poly Pomona was the Coyote’s best performance of the season. Cal Poly Pomona is considered one of the favorites to reach conference regionals.
“Pomona is expected to do very well this season, and we beat them at their place,” said Kooiman. “We won 2-0 but that was the first game that as a new group we played a 90 minute match with no mistakes.”
For the past two seasons, the Coyotes have progressed to the conference regionals and are hopeful that they can turn things around.
“If you look at the math, we’re still in it.” Kooiman said.
“We’ve played five games in an eight day period. Which is a lot of play, plus we’ve got guys with injuries. Our spirits are still high; we know we’re in it . . . the hope was that we’d start off a little bit better in conference play, especially coming off the past two seasons where we’ve gone to conference regionals. The team has played really well but they’re new and young,” said Kooiman.
While this year has started rough, the team is still trying to grow together and become a cohesive unit. If Coach Kooiman is able to achieve his goals and the team begins to play as one its still quite possible that they can exceed last year’s successes.