Note: As MAAC play enters its second week, the “Back of the Net” column plans to give inside access to Manhattan Jaspers men’s soccer outside of game coverage.
At about the mid-point part of their season, the Manhattan Jaspers have been shutout in their last four games, a total of 402 minutes.
They need a goal and soon.
What’s Going On? What Can Be Done?
The continually developing freshmen and the team’s strength in possessing the ball have both helped in creating a number of goal chances. Neither are the problems that the team is dealing with when it comes to scoring.
The main problem is something head coach Jorden Scott has emphasized at team practices: playing more of an attacking style.
They are tied for 11th out of 11 MAAC teams with an average of 0.50 goals per game and ninth in shots on goal with 12.83 per game. This makes them a whole two goals behind the number one goal scoring team in the conference, the Rider Broncs, who are averaging 2.43 goals per game and 14.86 shots on goal.
Broncs head coach Charlie Inverso said that for his team it starts with their personnel. He said he has nine players who are scoring, automatically placing opposing teams in a bind because there is not one player who can be focused on.
“The more adept you are and the more guys that you have that can score in different ways, the better off you’re going to be,” Inverso said. “If basically all you’re relying on is just one guy or one way of scoring, you’re going to be easier to stop.”
Inverso said the troubles that schools like Manhattan and Rider face is that a 6-foot-2 inch striker who can score goals willingly is not coming anytime soon.
“They’re hard to find,” Inverso said. “As much progress as we’ve made in developing players in this country, we still have a long way to go and often times the guys that are really gifted in this country aren’t going to go to mid-major school like Rider or Manhattan. Often times it’s just not going to happen. And if you do happen to have a kid from this country with that gift, he’s usually turning pro instead of going to college.”
Scott has said he is instead trying to develop a player with goal scoring “instinct.” An interesting and smart way to work around the political obstacles low to mid-major college athletics come across.
“We’re just missing our final piece of the jigsaw, individual abilities, not moments,” Scott said. “There are so many things that factor into that moment that it’s hard to train that one specific thing.”
A couple of possibilities could be sophomore Daniel Laguna Kennedy and freshman Joe Hulme, though Hulme is much more comfortable on the defensive side of the ball. Hulme should get a lot more attention solely because of his breathtaking natural ability to cut and slash his way through defenders quickly and fluidly.
But junior captain Alex Shackley said no one has emerged just yet.
“Right now, we’re struggling to find that guy,” said Shackley.
Most of the Jaspers see Kennedy as “that guy.”
“More often than not, he is the one with the opportunity, and so I think that he has to burden some of that,” Scott said.
Although he did acknowledge that the offensive production couldn’t all be placed on Kennedy and that others must contribute.
Until “that guy” and those goals come along, the Jaspers have to keep focus on soccer, fundamentals and ball movement to build confidence.
Scott said goal scoring for them is going to happen one of two ways.
“It’s either going to be a moment of brilliance or going to be an absolute disaster of a mistake by the other team,” said Scott. “It’s one or the other. There’s nothing in between for us at the moment.”
And senior Andrew Santos said it does not matter how pretty the goal looks as long as it goes into the back of the net.
“It’s just going to take one goal off your knee, your back, your shoulder,” said Santos. “You just got to see the ball go through the net.”
Senior captain Tommy Amos is encouraged by the goal chances that have come their way.
“We’ve created our chances, we’re getting them and we know soon they’ll drop,” said Amos.
As for Kennedy he thinks they have just been “unlucky.”
“We’ve hit a couple of crossbars,” said Kennedy. “But this also happened last season…so once everything clicks on, I think we’ll be fine.”
MAAC Play, Week Two and Beyond
With week two of MAAC play already upon the Jaspers, Scott said he is looking to get a road win against the Monmouth Hawks. Especially, because he thinks they could be one of the top teams in the conference.
“That’s like the test,” Scott said.
The further the Jaspers get into conference play his message to them is simple.
“It’s a race to five wins. Do we want to win the conference? Absolutely,” he said. “But let’s get to five wins first and then deal with it afterward because five wins gets you into top six guaranteed.”