After finishing second in the Big East in goals scored last year and returning their top seven scorers, the St. John’s men’s soccer team expected to have a potent offense.
So far this season, that has not been the case.
Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Villanova yielded only the sixth goal of the season for the Red Storm, as the team had been shut out the previous three games against Big East teams of varying skill level.
But don’t ask head coach David Masur about it.”We’re not concerned about the (scoreless) streak,” he said. “We don’t talk about the streak. We don’t know about the streak. We’re not focused on streaks. We’re focused on playing as well as possible and trying to do the things that are necessary to win games.”
When asked if he changed anything offensively to try to get the offense going, his response was a flat, “No.”
But while Masur might say he’s not doing anything differently, he has made some personnel changes to ignite his team’s offense. Junior Adam Himeno, normally a starter, came off the bench against Providence. It was just the fifth game of his career that he did not start. He was back in the starting lineup against Villanova.
Junior midfielder John Tardy, a transfer from Clemson, saw his first action of the season Saturday, playing 57 minutes off the bench and putting up a shot on goal.
Defender Joel Gustafsson, the preseason Big East Defensive Player of the Year, was moved to forward in the second half of Saturday’s game. The move paid off, as he made a key entry pass that led to a free kick in the 64th minute. Junior Tadeu Terra put home the free kick to end the scoreless drought.
Terra’s goal marked the first time that St. John’s has hit the back of the net since he scored a put away goal against Georgetown on Sept. 18, a span of 15 days and nearly four games. Since then, the Johnnies had been shut out three games in a row, against opponents of all different abilities. They were shut out by the good (Connecticut, 4-1 in the Big East), the mediocre (Providence, 2-2-1 in the Big East) and the bad (Seton Hall, 1-3-1 in the Big East).
The Red Storm, ranked in the top five in every major preseason poll, and number one by College Soccer News, figured to expand upon their successes of last year, when they scored 39 goals, good for second in the Big East. Instead, the team has found itself at the bottom of the conference in most offensive categories, included goals scored and goals per game, and slipped out of last week’s NSCAA/Adidas Coaches poll.
The Johnnies have had to rely on their defense and goalkeeper Derby Carillo, who has five shutouts in nine games. Of the team’s five ties, three have been of the 0-0 variety, where the offense’s ineptitude was saved only by the strength of the defense.
Masur said the offensive issues are mostly from the neck up.
“We gotta be smarter and tougher in the attacking third of the field,” he said.
But with scorers like preseason All-American Nelson Baccera, (23 points last season, 4 this season) and Trevor Chiduku (15 points last season, none this season) yet to come around, conventional wisdom says it should be only a matter of time before the offense gets rolling.