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2022 UD Men's Soccer Preview: Searching for Traction Again
2022 UD Men's Soccer Preview: Searching for Traction Again
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
08-23-2022
Smile 2022 UD Men's Soccer Preview: Searching for Traction Again

The UD Men’s Soccer team opens 2022 play against Cal Poly on Thursday at a tournament hosted by Ohio State University. The Flyers are looking to rebound after a disappointing 6-9-3 (3-4-1) campaign one year ago. Dayton snuck into the A10 Tournament as the #8 seed via a three-way tiebreaker but subsequently lost to top-seeded Saint Louis, a Billikens squad that eventually reached the NCAA Quarterfinals. With only a pair of Top-3 A10 finishes since 2015, the program has reached a period of malaise and could use a resurrection of performance and stability to re-establish Dayton as one of the annual contenders for the A10 crown.

LOOKING BACK

The Flyers started well in 2021 by going 3-0-1 in the first four matches, but followed it up by going 0-5-1 in the next six contests. Conference play showcased more inconsistency with victories usually followed by defeats. Head Coach Dennis Currier’s program has always been known for scoring lots of goals, but 2021 was best remembered for surrendering them; UD earned just two shutouts all season and couldn’t keep opponents off the scoreboard. While the UD offense was also inept at times, the inability to keep the score down on the defensive side of the ball ultimately sealed the fate of the entire season. You can’t gain traction with a GAA of 1.83.

MOVING FORWARD (OFFENSE)

For things to change in 2022, both offense and defense must reset and re-emerge as top-tier units in the A10. That remains to be seen, but the Flyers outscored Bowling Green, Akron, and IUPUI 11-3 in the preseason – the Falcons are tied for #25 in the United Soccer Coaches preseason national poll. Hope springs eternal.

To put the ball in the back of the net, UD will have to do it without the services of Kingsford Adjei (5g, 3a), a dynamic and shifty striker who tied for the lead in points with Forster Ajago. Adjei was a mainstay in the Flyer offense for several seasons and brought a flair for individual brilliance at times. With Adjei graduated, Ajago (6g, 1) returns for his senior year and must assume even greater scoring responsibility in the attack. Senior MF/F Andy Sanchez (2g, 4a) is another scoring option that brings leadership and experience to the field – a helpful set of intangibles with the loss of midfielders Jake Feiner and Pape Gueye to graduation. Eren Elbustu (2g, 1a), a 6-2 attacker from Germany, appeared in 14 matches and started six. His role could also increase.

Senior Seth Antwi (1a) started all 18 matches in the midfield in 2021 and played the second most minutes on the team. The coaches trust him, but he’s also capable of stepping up and providing more in the way of offensive scoring punch when the situations merit. Joey Tawah (8 starts) did not return. The staff has other options on the roster to find some offense, but most are largely unproven.

WE NEED A DEFENSE

The good news for the Flyer defense is they return numerous experienced players. But is that also the bad news? In fairness, UD’s defensive woes were as much a lack of overall team defense as they were specifically relegated to the back-line personnel. That said, fullback play must improve and there’s plenty of room to allow for it. Here’s what we know: Dayton lost defender Elias Harryson to graduation and will no longer have his services. The big-framed Swede had consummate trust of the coaches, started all 18 matches last year, and played the most minutes on the team. Senior Ntezey Swalita (1g) returns for his senior year and started 14 matches in the back line.

Junior Geni Kanyane also returns and started 14 matches in 17 appearances. Senior Xavier Zengue also has experience with 13 starts in 17 appearances in 2021. Kelley Connor (9 starts, 15 appearances) did not return. The coaching staff has options in the back line but are they ready to step up and produce clean sheets? Dayton suffered terribly in the defensive half of the field a year ago with loose marking, mental mistakes, and trouble slowing down quick counterattacks in open space. It wasn’t a lack of size or speed – all the returning players on defense have enough of those traits to get the job done. Consistency, preventive maintenance, and execution were the usual stumbling blocks.

GOALKEEPING QUESTION MARKS

Things won’t get easier however because the Flyers lost Marc Kouadio as well, a terrific goalkeeper who transferred to East Tennessee State in the offseason. Kouadio played every minute of every match last year and did all he reasonably could to keep the Flyers in a lot of matches; on too many occasions he didn’t get enough help in front of him. His departure is a significant loss and forces the Flyers to break in a new starter between the posts. The Flyers also lost all three backup goalkeepers in the offseason – Jake Lofgren, Sean Ellis, and Josh Morgan. The staff brought in three new players to guard the net – junior Dario Caetano (Portugal), grad student Hayden Korfhage (Centre College), and frosh Sep Habibi (Aurora, CO). One of them needs to emerge – quickly.

UNITED NATIONS ASSEMBLY

Dayton brought in several new faces from as far away as Liberia, Estonia, Brazil, Norway, and Ghana – as well as a couple stateside players. As has been the case with most Dennis Currier rosters, this one is once again loaded with internationals: 14 of 30 players on the roster hail from outside the USA.

2022 SCHEDULE

The Flyers follow up the season opener against Cal Poly with a second match in Columbus against respected soccer brand South Carolina on Sunday August 28th. UD hosts the Dayton Flyer Classic the following weekend with matches against St. Thomas (9/2) and Evansville (9/4) at Baujan Field.

UD hits the road to play Kansas City on 9/10, then returns home for a match against Eastern Illinois on 9/13. West Virginia gets sandwiched in between A10 play – on 9/27 as UD hosts the preseason #6-ranked Mountaineers on what’s been an ongoing series between the two programs. The same can be said for preseason #8-ranked Kentucky as UD visits Lexington on 10/12. Detroit wraps up the non-con in a late-season home game on 10/25.

A10 play starts on 9/17 with a home game vs St. Joseph’s (PA). That’s followed up by two additional home games against Rhode Island and George Mason on separate weekends. Away matches at St. Bonaventure (10/5) and A10 newcomer Loyola (10/8) follow. UD hosts VCU (10/15) and A10 favorite and preseason #10-ranked Saint Louis (10/22) before finishing conference play at UMass (10/29).

It’s an odd schedule with a good portion of non-conference play sprinkled in the traditional conference scheduling window, but there are some good opponents to make some noise – most notably South Carolina, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Sweep all three and the Flyers are making a name for themselves nationally. That’s ambitious however and not something fans have grown accustomed to enjoying.

BOTTOM LINE

The Flyers were picked 6th in the A10 Preseason Poll (behind [in order] SLU, URI, VCU, FOR, and LOY) which indicates a lack of confidence by the bean counters in Dayton bouncing back from a sub.-500 season just a year ago. Furthermore, not a single Flyer made the preseason All-Conference team. If teams want to win conference titles, they must be able to rattle off the names of their All-League stars that are game-wreckers on a nightly basis. Dayton does not enjoy that luxury. This is likely a win-by-committee type of team that must perform better than the sum of the parts. There is experience returning but the experienced players must demonstrate more poise and eliminate the mistakes that allowed results to slip away a year prior. In most cases, stupid gets you beat far more than smart earns you a victory. By managing and minimizing those bugaboos, UD can go from a 6-9-3 team to a 9-6-3 team without touching anything else.

Goalkeeping will be interesting to follow as UD baptizes someone new between the ipes. Can UD score goals against the best teams on the schedule and limit those same opponents from posting two or more goals on the scoreboard? That’s the big question. Respect must be earned but it won’t be earned beating the Eastern Illinois’ and St. Thomas’ of the world. The Flyers must claim some honest scalps in the college soccer fraternity and that means beating teams that spend their Novembers in the NCAA Tournament. Until Dayton can prove that, 6th place in the A10 Preseason Poll is probably a fair starting point. If there's underlying hope to beat those expectations, it comes from the strong results in the three exhibition matches.


Predicted A10 Finish: 6th
A10 Tournament: A10 Quarterfinals
Postseason: None
__________________

C. M. Rieman | Publisher | 937.361.4630 | Get the latest here:

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