All right, Queen City Army, it’s time to start making your plans now to make it out to Transamerica Field to root on the Charlotte 49ers men’s soccer team. The 2013 schedule was released and stands to be one of the tougher ones in some time.
Last year’s squad ended their season in the second round of the NCAA tournament as they couldn’t get past Georgetown. This time around, second-year head coach Kevin Langan and the boys in green have their eyes set on getting back to the College Cup–and this time winning it. They’ll need to get past the challenging Conference USA, though.
We’ll check the conference slate tomorrow, but let’s break down the non-conference schedule, which includes two NCAA tournament teams and six teams that finished with an RPI of 80 or lower. Yes, there are no easy ones to be had.
Tuesday, August 20–Winthrop (exhibition)
Saturday, August 24–Davidson (exhibition)
Friday, August 30–Denver (11-6-3, 5-4-1 MPSF)
The Pioneers have some key returnees coming back from last year’s squad (Zach Bolden–five goals, 20 points; Brian Hoyt–four goals; Cole Chapeski–three goals; Oliver Brown–1.11 GAA, four shutouts), so they’ll definitely make for a difficult match. By the way, this is a rematch of last year’s contest at Transamerica Field where this happened:
Wednesday, September 4–UNC Greensboro (5-10-2, 3-4 SoCon)
With star Hakan Ilhan (seven goals 21 points) graduated, it’s up to Oddur Gudmundsson (five goals) and Lukas Zarges (three goals) to carry the balance of the team scoring in 2013. But scoring was a problem late in the season for the Spartans last year as they averaged 1.5 goals on 14.9 shots in 17 matches.
Saturday, September 7–Coastal Carolina (20-3-2, 10-0-0 Big South)
The Chanticleers are always in the thick of it nationally and parlayed their success last year into a 3rd-round appearance in the NCAA tournament after blowing the rest of the Big South away. Keep an eye on Ricky Garbanzo (13 goals, 31 points) and Italian keeper Federico Bertele (0.76 GAA, six shutouts) among others on a squad poised to make it back to the tournament again. By the way, Coastal hasn’t lost a home match since dropping a 2-1 result against App State on September 16, 2011 (18-0-1 at home since).
Sunday, September 15–Memphis (8-7-3, 4-2-2 C-USA)
The Tigers would have been a conference opponent if not for their move to the American Athletic Conference. Regardless, they’ll have the services of Mark Sherrod for one more year (12 goals, 28 points in 2012); Chandler Gagnon and Benjamin Ciosanski (four goals each) can find the net as well. Despite losing in the first round of the C-USA tournament, the Tigers held their own in conference play and are hardly a team to look past.
Saturday, September 21–Campbell (12-5-2, 7-3 Big South)
These two teams won’t only be meeting on the gridiron–they’ll be meeting on the pitch as well. And the Camels have firepower: mainly in the form of Panama’s Ricki Gaez (eight goals, 19 points), Jhuvon Francis (five goals) and Bryce Miller (four goals).
Tuesday, September 24–UCF (8-7-3, 5-3-0 C-USA)
Like Memphis earlier in the year, if not for their move to the American, the Knights and Niners would be conference foes in 2013. UCF struggled to a mid-table finish last season, and this year they’ll be without leading scorer Deshorn Brown (thirteen goals), who made the jump to MLS and is now playing for the Colorado Rapids.
Tuesday, October 1–Wake Forest (11-4-5, 4-1-3 ACC)
The Deacs’ season came to a disappointing end in the NCAA tournament as they lost to Coastal Carolina in the second round on penalty kicks despite a 15th seed. But with their top three scorers–Sean Okoli, Michael Gamble and Luca Gimenez (26 goals, 62 points combined)–returning with the bulk of a defense that allowed just 19 goals in 20 games (along with seven shutouts), there’s no reason to think they won’t be among the nation’s elite once more.
Tuesday, October 22–Clemson (6-9-5, 3-2-4 ACC)
A rare late-season non-conference match sees the ACC’s Clemson Tigers visit Transamerica. Aside from the graduated Austin Savage’s eight goals and Ara Amirkhanian’s five, no Tiger scored more than three goals last season. That’s going to be a problem in a league as deep and talented as the ACC.