Struggling men’s soccer: Searching for answers

Photo by OMavs

Matthew Norrie

UNO Men’s Soccer was on the road early last week playing at Florida Gulf Coast. The Mavericks fell to the Eagles 3-2 despite an early lead by Omaha. The Mavericks started off strong by scoring only 11 minutes into the match. Elvir Ibisevic secured the goal with an assist by Xavier Gomez. Florida Gulf Coast and Omaha kept battling it out until the 44th minute when Albert Ruiz of the Eagles scored with assist from teammates Miguel Perez and Robert Ferrer to tie it up 1-1. The goal right before the half surely shifted the momentum of the game.

The Eagles maintained control of the game for the next 20 minutes scoring two more goals in the 59th and 61st minute by Clement and Riley. UNO did not let FGCU’s success go unanswered. Miguel Gomez took a shot at the Eagles goal that was deflected by goalkeeper Jared Brown. It landed six yards away right by Ibisevic who tapped it in to bring the Mavericks within one of FGCU. Ed Gordon also gained his first career assist on the goal. Despite Ibisevic’s second goal of the night, UNO could not finish the rally and fell to the Eagles 3-2.

Xavier Gomez is currently leading the Summit League this season with his five assists. Ibisevic has a season total of eight goals, which is only one short of tying the UNO record for total goals in a single season. It will be impressive if he sets a new record with only four games left in the regular season and tough opposition ahead. UNO still maintains a 7-3-2 record on the season as FGCU improved to 5-3-1. UNO will have to pick up their offense as they travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan on Oct. 14 to play the Wolverines who are ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten with an 8-1-1 overall record.

The Mavericks then will host Western Illinois at home in what is a must-win for the Mavericks. They are currently 0-0-2 in conference play. To secure a bid, they must get a win against a very good Western Illinois team.

The Mavericks have been struggling ever since they reached their peak ranking at No. 10. Since they beat Bradley at home on some late goal heroics by Hamzat and Ibisevic, Omaha has struggled to find the back of the net consistently. Up until the penalty kick in the Fort Wayne game, the Mavericks had gone almost two full games without a goal, something they didn’t have any problems with in the beginning of the season despite the tougher competition. Certainly the word is out that Omaha can play, so they won’t be sneaking up on anyone anymore.

A few lineup changes have occurred; one being the attribution of Diego Gutierrez, a highly-touted Nebraska prospect. He has added a presence that can get the ball out on the wings and provide crosses into the box. He also has very good pace to push play when they need it, and above average ball skills to get past defenders. Even with Gutierrez’s skill, Omaha has not yet adjusted to teams playing for a draw against them. Many times you will see that teams may leave seven or eight guys back behind the midfield line and only let three guys try to produce one goal on a counterattack. It is very hard to score when the other team floods the box. This is something the Mavericks aren’t used to, but will quickly have to adjust to.

At 0-0-2 in conference play, this isn’t the start they were hoping for. When the Mavericks welcome Western Illinois, they will have to beat a very good soccer team. Western Illinois has beat both the teams the Mavericks have tied with in conference play. They beat Fort Wayne 3-1 and dominated Eastern Illinois 2-0. With only the four top teams securing an automatic bid, it would be unfortunate if a top- 25 team like Omaha would fail to make the conference tournament. Even worse, Omaha is hosting the Summit League Tournament at Caniglia Field in November. There is nothing worse than hosting a tournament you didn’t qualify for.

Omaha will get a tough test at Michigan, and they usually play up to their competition. Hopefully they can right the ship just in time to be the team we all know they can be.