“This is easily the toughest schedule that UMBC soccer has ever had and … [of] any team in UMBC athletic history. ” The words of Coach Pete Carinji after UMBC’s Retrievers upset No. 19 West Virginia University 3-1.
The boys do not seem to be finding this run of games difficult at all, but they will do well to keep the undefeated run going as tougher tests lie ahead. With the season still in its infancy, it is important to look ahead and see how the coach, as well as the fans, expect the season to turn out come November.
In these early stages of the season, the Retrievers (5-1-1) have shown sufficient sharpness in attack, averaging two goals a game, being top two in corners and top ten in shots. Undefeated at home, UMBC is giving the fans entertainment with blossoming attack play. In addition, the defense is doing its job as UMBC has conceded one or no goals in six of the seven games.
“We’re pleased with where we are right now. We are 5-1-1 and that’s pretty good. Training is going well, really working on our finishing. We really haven’t come [to attack as free] as we should but … I think the guys are starting to get it,” said Coach Carinji.
They really are starting to get it. In the last game against Navy’s Midshipmen, sophomore striker Tre Pulliam impressed with a goal and an assist, and prior to that, junior Kyle Saunderson scored two goals from set pieces in a 3-1 win. Does the coach expect these guys to deliver in the same manner throughout the season?
“From a defensive end, [senior] Tom Paul has done well, Kyle Saunderson, [two good] anchors in the back, Jon Bell is one of the best left backs in the country. Period. [Freshman goalie] Ciaran [O’Loughlin], his adjustment has gone well. I would just like to see some of the forwards/midfielders get more involved in the offense. There are still some guys that … are just not playing at the level that I think they are capable of.”
He could be talking about senior Sammy Kahsai, who has seemed profligate with his shooting of late, or sophomore Jordan Dove, who got sent off within two minutes of coming on against West Virginia. But coach would be drawn to mention the non-performing players saying “We’ll keep that in-house. ”
Despite this team being on the younger side, consisting of seven freshmen, Coach Carinji opines that the new players are acquainting themselves well with the team. “I think the new players get along great. The chemistry of the team is fantastic, especially off the field, … [and we are only] five weeks into this. ”
So with this great chemistry, how does the coach compare this team to some of the best UMBC soccer teams over the years?
“I think 2014 was a final four team. That was a veteran team. This team is still probably young … But we are playing a really tough schedule and so there is no comparison to any team I’ve had [with] the schedule being this tough.”
The Retrievers have done well to win games against solid opposition in West Virginia and Navy, two teams who were recently nationally ranked. However, they would do well to continue their two game winning run against No. 3 ranked Maryland and No. 6 ranked Western Michigan. These are the caliber of teams that UMBC aspires to join, and in the coming games, the Retrievers will find out just how ready they are to join the big boys.