The Truman State University men’s soccer team added two more losses to its record this past weekend.
The Bulldogs were shutout against Indianapolis University on Friday, losing 0-3, and lost a 1-2 nail-biter against Lewis University on Sunday. These two losses bring the Bulldogs to a 1-6-1 record for the season.
Head Coach Duke Cochran said the biggest struggle this season has simply been getting the result they’ve wanted.
Cochran added that his players have played well, but combinations of fouls and late-game mistakes have resulted in the final box scores.
Despite the three-goal loss to Indianapolis, the rest of the Bulldogs’ losses have been decided by just one goal, including three overtime losses.
“It’s kind of on the knife’s edge,” Cochran said. “At that point as a team, you just got to keep pushing because eventually it will break your way.”
Cochran explained that his team having more experience together will help those games go their way more often. With a young team, Cochran said the team leans on its leaders right now.
One of those leaders, forward Andrew Brennan, said the starting rotation usually consists of four to five freshmen. However, Brennan said the younger players are beginning to adapt to the college style of play.
“I think they’ve played really well and improved us in a lot of areas,” Brennan said. “Because of them, we’re definitely a stronger team.”
Brennan added that the extended offseason and limited preseason might have hindered the initial bonding process between the younger and more experienced players.
However, Brennan said he is making the most of this season and as a captain on the team, he has tried to set an example for his younger teammates.
“I’m making sure I’m doing everything I can to lead by example,” Brennan said. “And when things go wrong, I just encourage guys by saying we still got time here and we can still pull out a result.”
Brennan said this encouragement was greatly needed against Lewis after the Bulldogs conceded a goal within the first five minutes of the match.
While the record might not show the improvements, Cochran said several freshmen have had solid first-year campaigns, including forward Sam Newton.
Newton currently co-leads the team in goals with Brennan at three and has put up seven shots on goal so far this season.
Defenseman Dominic DeProspero echoed that his team has been playing well this season. However, DeProspero went on to say they just haven’t been able to put together a complete match.
“Whether it’s mental lapses or individual lapses, as a team we can’t seem to put together a full 90 minutes so when that whistle blows, we come out on the winning end,” DeProspero said.
DeProspero said the team might just need more time before those mental lapses start to dissipate as players gain more experience on the field and work together as a team.
In terms of play, DeProspero said experience is everything and players can find their way into a groove with themselves and their teammates.
Right now, both DeProspero and Brennan said one of the bigger challenges on the field is figuring out when to be aggressive.
Brennan said several conceded goals this season were results of the team getting too aggressive in their own defensive third of the field, giving opponents easy looks.
Brennan added that with experience comes the ability for a player to know when to clear the ball downfield rather than trying to make ill-advised passes.
Cochran said players hope not to make the same mistake twice and getting more time on the field will eliminate those mistakes.
“It’s been a little sad seeing the different mistakes we can make to cost us a game,” Cochran said. “But in that is the learning experience as you age up and mature.”
Cochran said most of the top teams in the conference have groups of players who have been around the Great Lakes Valley Conference and with each other for a while.
Meanwhile, DeProspero said the team has tried to get into more of an attacking mindset and pushing the ball downfield more into the opponent’s defensive third of the field.
In previous seasons and early on this year, DeProspero said his team tended to play more in its defensive shape, but recently has been attempting to shift the momentum into its offensive third, creating more scoring opportunities.
Brennan elaborated on this by saying he feels they have more of an identity offensively this season.
“We’ve really been trying to get more creative when we get in the offensive third,” Brennan said. “We know we have talented players that can produce moments and magic to score goals.”
Brennan added having that style and flair to their offense should help them moving forward in this season and beyond.
Despite the results this season, DeProspero said any of the team’s remaining games could go their way and this season has been preparation for both himself and the younger players moving into next season in the fall.
Cochran concluded that his team has played well this season and with the young talent on the team, the future is bright for the men’s soccer program.