For Omaha men’s soccer team dealing with a new coach, new players and a new season, things haven’t been especially easy this year.
After going 10-6-3 last year, winning the Summit League title, and qualifying for the team’s first ever NCAA men’s soccer tournament, expectations were high for the Mavericks to repeat some of that same success this year.
Despite the talent that was lost from last year’s team, there were enough pieces remaining to make a good run at another NCAA tournament berth. In addition, with the hiring of new coach Bob Warming, a long-time legend at Creighton and Penn State, expectations for the season only increased.
Now with four games having been played this season, it appears that the Mavericks have some lessons that need to be learned if those same heights from last year are to be reached.
Omaha currently sits at 1-3-0 after losing 1-0 to UC Davis, 1-0 to Clemson, 2-0 to Missouri State and beating Utah Valley 2-0.
The biggest lesson to learn? How to score more goals. With their three leading goal scorers from last year gone, there were naturally going to be questions on who was going to fill the scoring void for Omaha. After the first three games, it was evident that those questions were still being asked.
One of the departed players includes Elvir Ibisevic, who led the 2017 Mavs in goals. Ibisevic chose to leave the team to play professionally in Europe this summer, dealing a crippling blow to Omaha’s offensive ability.
The Mavericks lost their first three games, all without scoring a single goal (one exception was an errant header scored into their own goal against Clemson). That was the longest season-opening scoring drought Omaha has had in program history.
However, it wasn’t due to a lack of trying. Omaha has been out shooting its opponents 37-24 over all three games, but the finishing just wasn’t going their way.
That drought was finally broken in the Mavericks’ most recent game––a 2-0 victory over Utah Valley. The goals in that game came courtesy of Diego Gutierrez and Martin Veys.
Both Gutierrez and Veys have been the Mavericks most dangerous threats on offense this season. Gutierrez leads the team in shots with 12, while Veys comes in second with 6.
Another factor in the Mavs’ slow start? Their opposition––the combined record of all four opponents is an impressive 11-4-3 (as of publication).
Additionally, injuries have been a thorn in the side of the Mavericks this year. At the time of the Utah Valley game, seven players were out due to injury. Among those players were senior forward Noor Hamadi, last season’s second leading assist-giver Miguel Gomez and team captain Cole Nelson.
Omaha’s next game will be an away game against a competitive UCLA team. After that, the Mavericks will return home to play the No. 6 Denver Pioneers in a match that could decide the Summit League season title winner.
With some more talent in the finishing area, Omaha could return to the top of the pecking order. Until then, fans will just have to wait and see.