The Fairfield University men’s soccer team will hope to rebound this season after falling just short of making the MAAC Tournament last year. The team got a win in their final match of last season, but didn’t match competitor Iona’s goal total, resulting in a tie-breaking loss to the Gaels.
The Stags lost a few key seniors to graduation such as midfielder Daniel Shaw, forwards Jon Clements and Reco McLaren, but they will retain some talented rising senior players such as midfielders Hrvoje Glavan and Jake Zuniga as well as forwards Ryan Perkins and Jordan Ayris for one more year.
McLaren, who led the stags in scoring last season with eight goals and three assists, is one of a group of current and former Stags that went on to play in the Professional Development League this summer to hone their skills. Goalkeepers Joe Martin ’17 and Matt Turner ’16, McLaren, and defender Matt Danaher ’14 are playing on teams in the United States, while defender Ben Whitcomb ’17 is playing for a Canadian club. This presents a tremendous opportunity for the student athletes, as they will look to use their time in the PDL to become better players. Hopefully, they will be good enough to make a team out of college.
The team averaged 1.69 goals-per-game, which was higher than their opponents’ average of 1.44 goals-per-game, but still has room for improvement. If they are able to score just one more goal every few games, it will take the pressure off of their goalkeeper, who, by the way, is no slouch. Martin, last year’s starting goalkeeper, had a goals-against average of 1.29 and a save percentage of .720, which is decent, and was able to keep the Stags in some games that would have been lost otherwise. If he has another good year and the team’s offense does its part, this year’s team will do well.
One area that the Stags need to improve on is the amount of yellow cards that they receive. The team was booked 26 times last season. Such undisciplined play can change the entire outlook of a game, so the Stags need to be more careful next season to see that they don’t pay dearly for their mistakes.
Another area that could use some work is the limited number of shots that the team takes each game. While it is true that that no team has complete control over how much they shoot the ball (as any number of factors can keep a team from getting into shooting range), the Stags took the seventh-fewest shots out of the 11 teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), which isn’t usually a recipe for success. Last year’s squad seems to be an aberration in this regard, considering that the team led the MAAC in goals, but regardless of this figure, the team would do well to get into better shooting areas, as the only way to score goals is to shoot the ball.
The Stags also led the conference in corner kicks per game and were tied for second in points scored per game. These stats show that the team is doing all the right things, but just needs to execute better if they want a shot at winning a title. With the team losing some of its key players, having a successful season next year may prove to be difficult, but if the remaining players step their game up and continue to work hard, there is no limit to what they can achieve.