UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- By the time the SMU men’s soccer team returns to the field against Tulsa on Wednesday night at Westcott Field, it will have been 10 days since their last game, a 2-1 overtime win against Marshall on October 10. The break was a welcome one for Mustangs head coach Tim McClements and his players.
“I think it’s been a good thing for the kids academically. We had a number of games on the road at the beginning of the year, so it gave them a little bit of a break to be a normal student,” McClements said. “It was also good to take some days off because we needed some rest to get our legs back.”
The Ponies currently sit at 11-1 overall and are 3-1 in Conference USA. Their only loss of 2010 came on October 2, a 2-1 defeat at Central Florida. So, their gaffer has been pretty pleased with how things have gone thus far.
“It’s been an excellent start. We have a really good blend of players,” McClements said.
“The chemistry right from the first day of the season up until now has been great. It’s been a mixture of things - the older players and their experience, the youth and the things that they bring to the table have made for an excellent combo.”
In 12 games, the Mustangs have scored 29 goals. Much of their production has come from freshman forward Juan Castillo (eight goals, three assists) and senior midfielder Josue Soto (four goals, six assists). But junior midfielder/forward Arthur Ivo (five goals, two assists) and freshman mid Robbie Derschang (four goals, two assists) have also contributed.
“Right out of the gate, Juan [Castillo] has scored goals. It’s great whenever you have a freshman that comes in and has that type of output,” McClements said. “We have a number of players who have added to the scoring column. [Josue] Soto has really done a great job. He not only scores but he’s a very good playmaker and has played in a number of different spots for us.”
But his team is equally solid in the back as they have allowed just 14 goals for a goal differential of +15. The SMU head coach attributes that to his back four and goalkeeper being mostly experienced players.
“It’s almost a team where our older players are in the back half of the field and our younger players are in the front half,” McClements said. “[Our goalkeeper] Craig Hill is a fifth-year senior. He brings a wealth of experience and has been around. He knows what it takes to get it done.”
And his back four isn’t too shabby either.
“Leone Cruz, he’s in his last year and has had a really good year. He hasn’t been plagued by injuries or anything like that,” McClements said. “He’s just really had an opportunity to shine and I’m really happy for him. Then, we have our left back, Ian Kalis, he was solid for us all last year. He’s started off the same for us this year, doing a great job. We moved Diogo deAlmeida into the back as a center back and he adjusted really well to the new position. Adam Still is solid as a rock back there and is a player that has been around. He’s a junior who has a lot of experience and is a really steady player.”
After Wednesday’s match with the Golden Hurricane, SMU will have just three regular-season games remaining before the C-USA Tournament begins on Nov. 12 in Memphis. And if this team keeps winning, a trip to the NCAA Tournament also looks likely, but the coach and his players chose to keep their focus a bit narrower as the regular season nears an end.
“The team has done a great job focusing on one game at a time. Maybe it’s been because of our experience the last few years and coming on the wrong side of scores,” McClements said. “We prepare for one game at a time. We’ve just been very focused on doing that. It’s gone our way more times than not. I think we’re just going to follow with that mentality throughout the season and see where it brings us. It’s a team that has a lot of potential.”