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College Soccer Update: Xavier’s giant killers are giants themselves

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Head coach Andy Fleming and Xavier couldn’t change history, but they have certainly eased the sting of last season’s NCAA tournament exit while cementing themselves as both giant-killers and potential giants themselves.

The Musketeers knocked off a second Top-2 team this season when they toppled unbeaten No. 1 Creighton in Omaha this week, partially-avenging the 2-1 loss that knocked them out of last year’s NCAA Tournament in the third round (Xavier beat No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend on Sept. 15).

“I said we can’t go back and change what happened, but as far as the difficulty of winning in Omaha and beating an unbeaten team,” Fleming said. “If there were eight boxes to check to make up for the loss, we checked off six, which was fine cause we couldn’t (change last season).”

Xavier is 10-4-1 this season, yet another strong run during Fleming’s five years in charge. He took over a side that won five games in the two seasons before he took over, one that saw the national standard for red cards taken.

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Since Fleming was hired in 2010, Xavier has gone 71-32-18. The six-straight double-digit win seasons is a standard for the program, and matches the total number of 10-plus win seasons in the 35 years since he took over. And the Musketeers have rebounded from the reds to become one of the least-carded teams in the country.

Fleming says he looked at Duke basketball for inspiration in terms of representing a university, and Boston University’s hockey program as a powerful program in a non-traditional power sport. And while he thinks others saw “a graveyard” in the open coaching job at Xavier, he wanted to fix the culture of a sleeping giant, one he compared to his last stop in Illinois.

“I saw this as a mini-Northwestern and I thought I could get people to come here,” Fleming said. “We try to develop ‘hires’ and ‘spouses’, people you’d hire into your company or want your kid to marry.”

This season’s star has been the defending, which is little surprise given the Musketeers posted the Big East’s best defense in 31 years last season.

“Defense is our catalyst,” Fleming said. “And Cory Brown, a center back from New Zealand in the U-23 World Cup this summer, is definitely going to leave here as the most-decorated player we’ve had here. He’s a very savvy, experienced player.”

The coach also points to the performance of South Florida transfer goalkeeper Dallas Jaye and U.S. national futsal teamer Walker Andriot, and says the side has seen great offensive contributions from Jalen Brown and Matt Vasquenza.

The side’s progression led Fleming to a pivotal point in any season. He has a physical “key to the team” that he’s passed to them at Friday’s training session.

Fleming has also powered a very personal cause at the school. His daughter Devin was born with Down’s syndrome, and each Spring the side stages “Devin’s Game” to raise awareness for those born with the disability.

“Every time I get asked about it at the right moment it gets me,” Fleming said. “This university exists to take teenagers and make them into adults, and show them perspective and broaden their horizons. To put things in front of them, not the flowers and candy but the challenges. One of the most empowering things and special things is I think this all happened for a reason. In 10-20 years if one of them has something happen with a wife or parent or have a child born with a disability, if I got through to one of them I’ve done my job. Devin has changed everyone’s life.”

Three stars of the week

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1, 2 and 3) Fabulous freshmen playmakers — Wake Forest’s Jack Harrison, Utah Valley’s Aaron Meyer (above) and UCSB’s Geoffrey Acheampong are in the race to lead D-1 in assists. The first two have 11, while Acheampong has 10. West Virginia’s Joey Piatczyc leads the league with 12, but West Virginia may well miss the MAC tournament and provide him few chances to improve on the total.

Other notes

— Creighton’s loss opens the door to a wealth of teams, including surging Wake Forest, Clemson and Stanford.

— Denver looks very good and remains unbeaten at 11-0-3, but will likely fail to leap up the table due to a perceived-soft non-conference schedule.

— Other No. 1s in this week’s poll were: Pfeiffer (Men’s D-2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D-3), Florida State (Women’s D-1), Gannon (Women’s D-2), Messiah (Women’s D-3), Rio Grande (Men’s NAIA), Lindsey Wilson (Women’s NAIA), Louisberg (NJCAA Men’s D-1), Genesee Community College (NJCAA Men’s D-3), Eastern Florida State (NJCAA Women’s D-1), Fresno City (NJCAA Women’s D-3).

— Nick DePuy from UCSB leads the nation in goals, with 15 in 18, after scoring three in his last two.

Still, the race for the scoring title remains fairly open:

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What we love about Tottenham

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up is Tottenham.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Time to take a closer look at Spurs.


Harry Kane: Since emerging in the first-team scene under Mauricio Pochettino during the 2014-15 campaign, Harry Kane has skyrocketed in Tottenham’s list of greats. The Spurs youth product hit the ground running under the Argentine, finishing as the club’s leading goalscorer of the aforementioned season, and becoming an instant fan favorite.

Kane – who is currently recovering from a left hamstring injury – didn’t stop there; he made sure he was far removed from being a one-hit wonder. As a result, the 26-year-old has lead Spurs in scoring for five straight seasons, placing him third in Tottenham’s all-time goalscoring list. Outside of Jermaine Defoe, no other player in Spurs’ modern day history has had such impact on the offensive side of the game. 

Jose Mourinho: Wherever Jose Mourinho goes, the lights and cameras follow. That reality is no different at Tottenham, as the storied Portuguese manager has brought all of his pros and cons with him to Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium.

After runs with Chelsea and Manchester United, one might have thought that his and Spurs’ paths would never cross, but in November 2019, after Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking, Mourinho became the boss at Tottenham. Life thus far at the helm of the north London side hasn’t been ideal for him, crashing out of Champions League play and sitting eighth on the table. But a manager of Mourinho’s stature is definitely not worth crossing off – whether he’d be at Chelsea, Manchester United ⬇️or Spurs.

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium: In addition to having a proven goalscorer and manager in their ranks, Tottenham have the privilege of playing home games in England’s newest and most technologically advanced football stadium: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The 62,000-capacity state-of-the-art stadium features a retractable field, a microbrewery, an in-house bakery, heated seats with USB ports, the longest bar in the UK among others unimaginable extras for a sports venue. The stadium opened in April 2019, and replaced the legendary White Hart Lane.

What we love about Watford

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up is Watford.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Time to take a closer look at the Hornets.


Troy Deeney: Troy Deeney is – and has been – the face of Watford since his move from Walsall in 2010. A move that came about after Deeney, a Birmingham native and Birmingham City supporter growing up, submitted a written transfer request to exit a then-League One side to make his way to the Championship. His first year at Vicarage, however, was rough. The striker managed to score only two goals in 36 league appearances, raising questions about whether or not Deeney was built survive outside England’s third division.

Since that trying first year with the Hornets, Deeney hasn’t looked back, making his way into the “Watford’s best players ever” conversation with a remarkable 129 goals in 388 appearances. Only club legends Luther Blissett – considered by many as the best Hornet ever – and John Barnes have more top-flight gals than Deeney himself. 

Historical, last-gasp win against Leicester City: May 2013, Vicarage Road. Leicester City’s Anthony Knockaert goes down in the box after minimal contact with a Watford defender. A penalty is called in the visitor’s favor. The aggregate stands at 2-2 as the clocks ticks the final seconds of a two-legged Championship play-off semifinal between the Hornets and the Foxes. Knockaert’s shot from the spot – directed right down the middle, with pace – is blocked. His second chance as well. Watford recover and immediately go back the other way.

 

Only seconds remain before the head official sends the match to penalty kicks, but Watford is looking for the final blow. Fernando Forestieri desperately sends a textbook cross inside the box. Jonathan Hogg meets the ball midair and heads it into an incoming Deeney, who seals a goal – and celebration – for the ages.

The Watford-Elton John connection: While Manchester City may have Oasis brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher rooting them on, Watford count on the support of multi-generational musician Elton John. A lifelong Hornet supporter, the English rock legend has done more than just “support” the club from the stands, though. 

In 1976, Elton John became Watford’s chairman and director. He eventually sold the club in 1987 before re-purchasing it a decade later from Jack Petchey. John no longer owns his childhood team, but he remains a part of the club as the honorary life-president.

Premier League Rivalries: North London derby

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One of England’s longest-running and most competitive encounters, the North London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal makes for one of greatest rivalries in Premier League.

The matchup dates back to the early 20th century and has added tons of thrilling chapters to its book of history. Since the start of the Premier League era, both clubs are constantly competing not only to outdo one another but to make a name for themselves at the top echelons of European football.

The North London derby is much more than two rivals facing off for 90 minutes, it’s the dichotomy between the two ways of living in modern-day north London.

Pro Soccer Talk’s Joe Prince-Wright dives into the derbies origin, its development and its actual reality.

The 2 Robbies Podcast: Adapting to life without football

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Robbie Earle & Robbie Mustoe touch base on how their each adapting to day-to-day life without any professional football action worldwide amid the coronavirus pandemic (0:40), how the game moves forward from here (4:50) and what certain players, coaches and teams have done to help out amid trying times (14:00). Plus, discussion on what they’ve been doing to stay active and healthy while living safely in isolation (23:00).

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To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]