We’re a couple weeks into the college soccer season, and already we’ve seen more than a few brilliant goals and performances from around the country. A No. 1 team has been upset, and we’ve got a new NSCAA poll leader after just two weeks of the season in the Creighton Bluejays.
And we’re seeing the same names bringing us video gold. Earlier, JPW brought you video of Buffalo’s Russell Cicerone returning to this space with a great free kick. Now Evansville’s Ian McGrath has forced us to acknowledge his distance wizardry for a second time in just a couple weeks.
Usually we’ll bring you teams that are hot or have done something extraordinary, but for this debut edition let’s begin with three teams who’ve looked strong to start the season despite tricky schedules.
1. Creighton (3-0) — Throw in exhibition wins over Bradley and Northwestern, and Bradley has given up one goal through six matches, scoring 19. Bonkers.
2. Notre Dame (3-0-1) — Yet to concede a goal, starter Chris Hubbard has only had to make nine saves through four matches.
3. Coastal Carolina (3-0-1) — Beat No. 22 Old Dominion, then VCU, then No. 18 Charlotte by 2-0 score lines before drawing No. 6 Clemson 1-1.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Daniel Johnson‘s goal for Louisville tonight versus Kentucky, which was a dipper from the former West Ham Academy man from Georgia.
Sticking with the theme of teams we’ve written about, Jamie Clark’s Washington Huskies went cross country to keep their record unblemished at 3-0-1. Like his Dad at Notre Dame, Clark’s charges have yet to allow a goal in wins over Gonzaga, UC Davis and Drexel plus a draw at Penn.
Sometimes you just catch a team worth watching, and Wright State has really impressed me early this season (most notably in last night’s 3-0 win over Cincinnati). Peguy Ngatcha has four goals in as many games, and goalkeeper Tyler Blackmer has shone between the sticks. In the buildup, Eric Lynch and Jackson Dietrich have shown good vision. Keep an eye on the Raiders.
DYK: The top three assist men in Division I this early season all come from the MAC? West Virginia’s Joey Piatczyc has five, while Bowling Green’s Bismark Agyeman and Buffalo’s Marcus Hanson have four a piece. Also with four, but not a part of #MACtion, is American University’s Liam Robley.
Maryland! The Terps have taken an amazing 82 shots — 20.5 per outing — to lead the nation in shots per game. The Terps have come out of the gate with a tough set of matches (Notre Dame, St. John’s, UCLA and Akron), and are 2-1-1.
Arsenal travel to Olympiakos who dropped down from the Champions League, while Wolves host La Liga strugglers Espanyol and Man United travel to Club Brugge who exited the UCL at the group stage after some impressive displays.
With a Champions League spot for next season up for grabs for the Europa League winners, there is always a little extra spice in this tournament from here on out, especially as plenty of giants have dropped out of the Champions League and joined the Europa League for the Round of 32.
Glasgow Celtic and Rangers both face tricky tests as Steven Gerrard‘s side face Braga and Neil Lennon’s Celtic head to Copenhagen.
Elsewhere there are plenty of mouthwatering ties at Jesse Marsch’s RB Salzburg drop into the Europa League and travel to Eintracht Frankfurt. Antonio Conte‘s Inter Milan head to Ludogorets, while Ajax travel to Getafe after narrowly missing out on reaching the Champions League last 16.
Below is the schedule in full for Thursday’s games, while you can click on the link above to follow all the action as it happens.
Full Europa League schedule
12:55 p.m. ET Club Brugge v. Manchester United
Ludogorets v. Inter Milan
Copenhagen v. Celtic
Eintracht Frankfurt v. RB Salzburg
CFR Cluj v. Sevilla
Sporting Lisbon v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Benfica
Getafe v. Ajax
3 p.m. ET Rangers v. Braga
Wolves v. Espanyol
Olympiacos v. Arsenal
Bayer Leverkusen v. FC Porto
AZ Alkmaar v. LASK
Roma v. Gent
APOEL Nicosia v. FC Basel
Wolfsburg v. Malmo
Montreal drew 2-2 at Deportivo Saprissa in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League last 16 game on Wednesday as Orji Okwonkwo and Romell Quioto put them 2-0 up inside the first 22 minutes but Saprissa struck twice in the final 10 minutes to draw level. Both of Montreal’s goalscorers went off injured and after a tough preseason a late collapse
Johan Venegas pulled one back for the Costa Rican side in the 80th minute and Ariel Rodriguez equalized in the 90th minute to set up an intriguing second leg at the Olympic Stadium next Wednesday as the winner will face the Seattle Sounders or C.D. Olimpia in the quarterfinals.
Via MLSsoccer.com, the Arsenal and France legend was happy with the spirit his young side showed after a tough offseason which saw them lose four of their five preseason games amid plenty of turnover in the squad.
“We tried to compete, it was always going to be a difficult second half, but overall, I cannot say anything to my team,” Henry said. “Obviously there are some things that we need to work on, on how we conceded the goals, but you could see how it was difficult at times to cover each other. But at the end of the day, as a coach, when you see your team fighting like that up until the end you can only be proud. Obviously there’s some stuff that we can work on, don’t get it twisted, but I have to be proud about how they played. Especially how we arrived there in the situation that we are in.”
Going away to Costa Rica to play an experience team like Saprissa was never going to be easy and Henry’s side are at least level for the return game but Montreal’s squad is looking pretty young and replacing the creativity and goals of Ignacio Piatti is going to be tough.
Check out the highlights of the dramatic Saprissa comeback in the video above.
Stars from Premier League giants Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal and Tottenham dominate our power rankings after some impressive performances and there are plenty of new entries and plenty of players from the same teams as these rankings are based on the seven games played over the last seven days due to the second half of the Premier League’s winter break kicking in.