2019 Preview: Diverse Embry-Riddle squad embarking on journey to Cal Pac glory
College Men's Soccer
The Embry-Riddle men’s soccer team returns for the 2019 season with a diverse and experienced team. With local players from Prescott and across the United States, accompanied by players from Spain, England, Ecuador, and other international locations, the team boasts an impressive international lineup. With Coach Dan Balaguero and most of the starting eleven returning from a respectable 12-7-1 (8-3 conference) season, the Eagles show remarkable potential for the season ahead.
With most of the starting lineup returning, including All-Conference selections Simon Jensen (Defender), Marc Birkvald (Defender), and Jacob Baker (Midfielder), the Eagle’s are in prime positioning to continue the late-season success from last year. Winning five in a row and seven of their final nine before falling to Marymount in the California Pacific Conference finals, the team will be looking to carry the momentum from their second-half surge into the upcoming season.
“The goals for us are quite simple,” says Coach Balaguero, “We want to win the Cal Pac. We’ve gotten a little bit closer every year, so this year for sure we’re trying to win the conference, both the regular season and the tournament.” With Coach Balaguero entering his third season with the team, a veteran lineup, and some promising young talent, a conference championship and national appearance is a strong possibility for a talented Eagles squad.
STRONG ON BOTH SIDES
With so many key players returning for another season, the Eagles look to have plenty of talent and no weak-links on the offensive for defensive ends. With top scorers Jacob Baker and Mason Laaksonen, and assist-leader Chiedu Ikeme all returning to the team, expect an offense that will produce plenty of goals for Embry-Riddle.
All-Conference defenders Simon Jensen and Marc Birkvald are also returning to lead the team on the defensive end, joined by goalkeeper Alastair Stark protecting the net. With so much returning talent on both ends of the pitch, it appears that this team can only improve on what was already a strong previous season.
THE ROAD AHEAD
While an impressive season and a conference championship is well within reach, the path to get there won’t be without it’s challenges. Both of the first two games are on the road against competitive programs, and conference rivals Marymount and California-Merced both received national votes in the preseason poll.
The Eagles will also have to face off with two nationally ranked teams, No. 13 Southern Oregon and No. 22 Arizona Christian. The difficulty of the opponents are great, but with the talent this team has, all of them are beatable.
The difficult schedule may also provide plenty of preparation for a potential run in the national Tournament.
Embry-Riddle (0-0, 0-0 Cal Pac) opens on the road against (RV) The Master’s University (0-0)Friday, Aug 23, at 1:30 pm
Jake Whitaker is a stringer for The Daily Courier. Contact him via email at email@example.com.