After starting the season an impressive 6-2-1, the Northwest College men’s soccer team suddenly finds itself at a crossroads. The Trappers have lost four straight to Region IX opponents to drop …
After starting the season an impressive 6-2-1, the Northwest College men’s soccer team suddenly finds itself at a crossroads. The Trappers have lost four straight to Region IX opponents to drop to 6-6-1 with just three games to play in the regular season; last weekend’s 3-1 loss at Gillette Friday and a 2-0 loss at Sheridan Saturday have first-year head coach Ben McArthur scrambling to right the ship as the postseason looms.
“The bottom line is, we’re struggling finishing the ball. That, and we’re giving up silly goals,” McArthur said. “We have to buckle down here, and figure out how to get better quick.”
Against Gillette (8-5-1, 5-5 in Region IX play) Friday, the Trappers spotted the Pronghorns an early 2-0 lead, both goals coming on set pieces (a corner kick and a free kick) by Jordan Milby.
“Anytime you give up set piece goals, it’s tough,”
McArthur said. “We dominated time of possession, we out-shot them. We just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”
The score remained 2-0 until the game’s 80th minute, when Gillette’s Leno Degatano found the back of the net for the Pronghorn’s final goal. The Trappers had seemed to cut the lead to 2-1 just minutes before on a penalty kick, but an infringement call nullified the score.
“The referees made a questionable call, and after the game even apologized for it,” McArthur said. “That would have made it 2-1 with 10 minutes left — instead, they [Gillette] literally went down 30 seconds later and scored to go up 3-0.”
NWC finally got on the board in the 83rd minute on a goal off a corner kick, knocked in by freshman defender Chase Hains with an assist by Rob Sessions and Alejandro Fernandes. It was the first collegiate goal for Hains, a freshman from Buffalo.
“We scored late and pushed on them, but we just couldn’t get over the hump,” McArthur said. “We out-possess just about every team we play, we just lack some teeth right now. We’re lacking that cutting edge we need in front of the goal to finish off these games.”
NWC’s inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities continued Saturday against Sheridan (3-6-1, 2-5-1 in Region IX play), as the Generals managed one goal in the first half and one in the second for the 2-0 win.
“Sheridan scored a pretty decent goal about midway through the first half, and that was their first opportunity,” McArthur said. “I think we out-shot them in that first half 12-2, and we were losing 1-0 at the half.”
The Generals scored an insurance goal in the game’s 59th minute, when Bryce Taylor scored on a free kick from midfield.
“It was a sloppy goal on a set piece, a free kick that they bounced into the box that we didn’t handle like we should have and it ends up in the back of the net,” McArthur said. “Just like that, it’s 2-0.”
The Trappers out-shot Sheridan 25-12 for the game, but were unable to avoid the shutout.
“We gotta have some guys that have some confidence in front of the goal, some guys who can put the ball in the back of the net,” McArthur said. “And we have to figure out how to clean up those easy goals we’re giving up.”
The weekend was not without its bright spots: The play of defenders Chanwhi Jung and Brandon Pyron continues to inspire confidence.
“Those two continue to play fantastic,” McArthur said. “It’s crazy that I’m talking about two defenders playing great and we lost games. But if you look at the five goals we gave up, four of them were on set pieces. We’re getting beat on sloppiness.”
The Trappers are at home this weekend against Northeastern Friday and Western Nebraska Saturday for their final two games at Trapper Field. McArthur said this week in practice has been all about finding what put his team in the best position for success.
“As a coach, you evaluate yourself — what have we done the past two weeks, because it clearly hasn’t prepared our guys properly,” he said. “The past couple of weeks, it seems like we’ve been in injury-prevention mode. This week I threw all that out the window. We’ve been getting after it in practice, very intense, competitive practices.”
“We’ve got three games left, we’re hoping we can make the tournament,” he added. “We want to win as many of those as possible, obviously, to ensure we can get in.”