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With the Jays first 2009 fall exhibition game coming up tomorrow against the Red Fury All-Stars, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the 2009 version of the Creighton Bluejays soccer team. Since August of 2008 the Creighton Bluejays Men’s soccer team has played 34 total matches (including exhibitions, 4 against professional teams). The record is a stellar 26-3-5. I have a strong suspicion that we’re going to be seeing them at the top of most college soccer polls by the end of the season.

This suspicion stems partially from the fact that this might be the most talented and complete Creighton team since, well, maybe ever. Its also partly from the fact that Creighton’s schedule is weak.

2009 Creighton Men’s Soccer Schedule

The Jays schedule is weak. Very weak.

Aug. 22 Red Fury All-Stars
Aug. 24 Kansas City Wizards
Aug. 27 NEBRASKA CLUB TEAM (Exh.)
Sept. 1 LOYOLA
Sept. 5 CAL POLY
Sept. 19 MISSOURI STATE
Sept. 25 at Washington
Sept. 27 vs. Portland
Sept. 30 BRADLEY
Oct. 3 EVANSVILLE
Oct. 7 at Missouri State
Oct. 10 EASTERN ILLINOIS
Oct. 14 DRAKE
Oct. 17 at Evansville
Oct. 21 at Bradley
Oct. 24 at Eastern Illinois
Oct. 31 UCLA
Nov. 7 at Drake

The Missouri Valley is going through one season of double round robin conference play in advance of a couple of new teams joining next season. As a result ten of Creighton’s 15 regular-season matches will be against Missouri Valley Conference teams.

The MVC teams do bring back a significant amount of their talent from last year. Drake and Evansville in particular bring back 10 and 9 starters respectively from last year’s teams and have a combined schedule that should allow the voters to see where the MVC stands vis-a-vis the Big Ten.

Evansville
8/27/2009 #27 Michigan State (neutral)
9/6/2009 @ #9 North Carolina
10/28/2009 @ #6 Indiana

Drake
8/27 @ #6 Indiana
Sep 04 #24 MICHIGAN
Sep 25 @ #8 Northwestern

With two games each against a definite top ten team in Creighton there should be no complaints about the strength of those two teams schedules. Missouri State (9 returning starters) and Bradley (8) both also play SMU and Tulsa.

Arguably, its possible that Creighton’s schedule isn’t so much weak as it is hard to judge until after September. If the Valley teams can do a little damage to the Big Ten in early season games, and I think they can, this year’s scheduling problems might not look so bad by season’s end.

“Traditionally, the Valley’s RPI hasn’t been very high,” Warming said. “In today’s environment, you don’t have to be as good as a BCS team to get to the NCAA tournament in any sport. You probably have to be better.”

“That’s why the only thing I’m concerned about right now is winning the first few games against teams that should have very high RPIs. That could help us at the end of the year. We have a great team, but it’s going to be a difficult year.” (More…)

Bob Warming on the Jays Scheduling Issues

Warming was recently interviewed about the Jays’ schedule. The questions basically stemmed from fans interested in knowing why the Jays play only 15 regular season games.

The main points:

  • The NCAA allows men’s soccer teams to play 20 games, three of which may be exhibitions. Warming said he prefers to use all three exhibitions because it allows him to experiment with playing time early in the season without having the games count against the teams W-L record.
  • The Jays have only 15 regular season games this year. They had an early season game with a potentially high RPI team fall through. Warming chose not to play another game as the only teams available did not have high RPI potential.
  • Warming feels that playing less games in the compact college season can be an advantage because it allows teams more time to prepare and keeps legs fresh.
  • The Jays scheduling and training is negatively impacted by the need to travel longer distances than most other teams.
The Team

The 2009 Creighton Roster

Creighton returns three fifth-year seniors in Chris Schuler, Byron Dacy and Seth Sinovic. Schuler redshirted as a freshman at Indiana in 2005 before transferring to Creighton. Dacy led the Bluejays in scoring in 2005 and 2006 before missing the 2007 season with a knee injury. Sinovic received a medical redshirt after playing only one game as a freshman.

All three players are on the 2009 Herman Watch List.

Two other seniors, Akin Akinrinade and Jeff Thayer each started 16 games last year and will be counted on to make big contributions at right back and up top, respectively. Thayer, along with sophomore Ethan Finlay (19 starts as a true freshman) are Creighton’s top returning scorers, with 16 points.

Schuler and Sinovic led the team in minutes in 2008 and are stalwarts on a Bluejay defense which led the nation in shutout percentage (.650) and finished second with a 0.48 goals against average last year.

The Bluejays can be expected to deploy a dual-defensive mid formation. With Andrew Duran back from a knee injury suffered early last season, the Jays essentially return seven “starters” for the back six.

Akin–Duran–Schuler–Sinovic
——Jordan–Castillo——

or

Akin–Deremer–Schuler–Sinovic
——Jordan—Duran———

In this formation, the outside backs have significant opportunities to get forward. Sinovic had three goals and six assists while mostly playing left back last year.

Creighton has lost only three players from last year’s 16-2-2 NCAA quarterfinal squad, all three of whom mostly played in the midfield.

Gotsmanov, Andrei 18-18 1464 mins
Walters, Tim 20-20 1478
Wittig, Jeremy 11-0 89

All-American and leading scorer Gotsmanov started at center-mid and forward. Walters started mostly on the left wing.

Gotsmanov position is likely to be filled by the combination of a healthy Dacy (only a part time starter last year) and a healthy Duran (missed second half of season). Kris Clark (7 starts as a true freshman) might be the truest approximation of the role played by Gotsmanov last year. Sophomore Nick O’neill, who played sparingly in 11 games last year should see some time spelling Dacy up top and on the wing.

The Jays front four have few defensive responsibilities. Thayer and Dacy should start up top with Finley wide right.

Akin–Duran–Schuler–Sinovic
——Jordan—Castillo——
Finley—————–?
———Thayer—Dacy——–

Walters left wing position is likely to be filled by a combination of Clark, junior Tucker Sindlinger (3 starts) and freshman sensation Dion Acoff.

The loss of Gotsmanov and Walters leaves a significant void in the attack. The success or failure of 2009 Creighton Bluejays will likely be determined by the health of Dacy, whether Finley is ready to take the next step and whether Acoff is the real deal.

If Dacy can bring his game back to the level that it was at his first two seasons, it will put a tremendous amount pressure on opposing defenses and likely provide the Jays with any number of dangerous free kick opportunities.

From what I’ve read about Acoff’s exploits this summer with the US U-18’s I find myself believing that he is going to force his way into the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

This Year is the Year

This would seem to be a Creighton team that has everything it needs to go all the way.

——–Holt————-
Akin–Duran–Schuler–Sinovic
——Jordan—Castillo——
Finley—————–Acoff
———Thayer—Dacy——–

The only hole in the starting lineup is at left wing and there are plenty of options to fill it. Assuming Acoff eventually grabs a starting role, the bench is deep: Deremer, Sindlinger and Clark combined to start 28 times last year. Not many people would look at any of those three players and say: “weak spot.”

Simply put, the Jays have at least fourteen starting caliber players who can expect to get significant time. At least fourteen players who will have a legitimate right to be disappointed if their season doesn’t end in a national championship.

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