After starting the season on an 11-game losing streak, the Western Illinois University men’s soccer team now finds themselves in a position to compete for The Summit League regular season championship.
If the Leathernecks win, they will split the title with the Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles, clinching the No. 1 seed in The Summit League Tournament next week, and getting to host The Summit League Championships next year. If ORU wins, they outright win the regular season championship, clinching the No. 1 seed for themselves, and hosting the tournament on their field in 2020.
Western (4-12-1) will travel to Tulsa, Okla. to take on the first place Golden Eagles. History is on the Leathernecks’ side, though. These two teams have only played each other one time and it was back on Oct. 28, 2017. Western won the game 1-0 with a goal from graduate Alejandro Pacheco, assisted by his brother Fernando. Although Western left victorious, the Golden Eagles did outshoot them 12-9.
It’s been two years since that game and now both of these teams look completely different. On one hand are the Leathernecks. After suffering a rough start to the season, they managed to turn it around with a four-game win streak to put themselves right back into title contention. They got hot at just the right time and have had some key players step up and into the spotlight.
One of those players is Western’s leading goal scorer, junior forward Ryan DeBois. He’s played a modest 671 minutes and scored seven goals on only 17 shots. Twelve of those shots have been on frame leading to his .412 shooting percentage and a .706 SOG percentage.
Following behind DeBois in the goals department is junior midfielder Daisuke Otsuka with three. Otsuka leads the team in shots with 33 and SOG with 17. Four other Leathernecks have two goals on the season: Paul Kirdorf, Enric Ferrer, Mitchell Moynihan and Kyle Owen. The four of them have combined for 57 shots total (20 SOG) and three of them usually play in the defense.
Western will be taking on a very potent offensive duo, so senior goalkeeper Tim Trilk will have to be as sharp as he’s ever been. He’s made all 17 starts this season in between the posts, logged more than 1400 minutes and made 78 saves on the year. He’ll have to be on his A-game to keep up against the league leaders.
Speaking of league leaders, ORU has a lot of them. Let’s stick with goalkeeping for a minute. Western will be up against the best goalkeeper in The Summit, sophomore Miles Motakef. He hasn’t made the most saves in the league with only 38, but that’s just a testament to how good ORU’s defense is. He’s logged nearly 1200 minutes over the course of 13 starts and boasts the best save percentage in the league at .706. Motakef has picked up two shutouts and has only allowed 12 goals, leading to the best goals against average in the league as well at .90.
On the other side of the field for the Golden Eagles is their lethal attack. Leading the way is freshman Reed Berry with 11 goals and five assists. That adds up to be 27 points, which leads The Summit. Right behind him is junior Dante Brigida with 22 points, 10 goals and two assists. Redshirt senior Tanguy Guerinneau leads the team and The Summit with his 12 assists. The three of them come together to create a daunting front three that is sure to trouble Western’s defense.
Overall, there is no weak link when it comes to ORU. They’ve scored 40 goals in 15 games for a 2.67 goals per game average. They also average 14.9 shots a game.
It’s no doubt this will be a tough game for Western, but they know that and they know what’s at stake. They have a chance to head into The Summit League Tournament as the No. 1 seed, something they haven’t done since 2011.
The season has had its ups and downs, but the Leathernecks have a chance to end the regular season on a high note. The game against the Golden Eagles is tomorrow night at 7 p.m.