This Weekend’s Action: Valparaiso returns home this weekend for the final two matches of the regular season, hosting #13 UIC on Friday afternoon before closing out the regular season against Detroit on Sunday afternoon. Both games will be played on Brown Field, Valparaiso’s football stadium which was resurfaced with ProGrass during the summer of 2008.
The Matchups: UIC holds a commanding 14-2-1 lead in the all-time series against the Crusaders, but narrowly escaped with a 1-0 (2ot) victory in Chicago on Oct. 31, 2007. The teams combined for just three shots on goal through the first 106 minutes, but the Flames’ Pavle Dundjer took a feed from Cesar Zambrano in the box and found the back of the net in the 107th minute for the game’s only tally.
Valpo trails in the all-time series versus Detroit by an 8-4-0 count, but earned a 1-0 win in Detroit on Oct. 3, 2007 in the two squads’ last meeting. Paul Leitelt netted the game’s only goal in the 26th minute off assists by Mario Diaz and Adrian Ortiz, while Ryan Schwarz stopped three shots to earn the shutout.
Recapping Last Week: Valpo allowed just one goal in 200 minutes of action over two matches last weekend, but could not find the back of the net on its side, as the Crusaders fell 1-0 at Green Bay Thursday evening in Horizon League action before earning a 0-0 (2ot) tie at #24 Michigan State on Sunday afternoon. The Phoenix got a goal in the 11th minute for the decisive tally in Thursday night’s contest. Kyle Zobeck made three saves against Green Bay and five stops to preserve the scoreless tie at Michigan State.
Following the Crusaders: WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will be broadcasting both of this weekend’s matches over its airwaves. Links for live audio and statistics for both matches will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com. WVUR is slated to broadcast nine Crusader men’s soccer matches this season, while live stats for all Valpo home matches and select road matches can be accessed through the official Valparaiso athletics website.
Getting Results Out of League: With Valpo’s tie against Michigan State on Sunday, the Crusaders closed out their non-league regular season slate at 5-3-2. This year is the first time since Valpo joined the AMCU in 1988 that it has finished with a non-conference record better than .500.
...and Against Top-25 Squads: The Crusaders’ draw against the 24th-ranked Spartans marked the third consecutive result they have earned against a top-25 club. Valpo earned a 1-0 win over then-#25 Bradley earlier this year and played to a 1-1 tie against #19/17 Michigan State last season on Oct. 21.
Playing at “Home”: When Valpo takes to Brown Field on Friday against #13 UIC, it will be looking for its third straight result at home against ranked foes to go with last year’s draw against the Spartans and a 2-1 victory over #22 Wisconsin on Sept. 13, 2002. This will also be the third different facility these three home games have been contested at, as Valpo took on Michigan State at Eastgate Field, while the showdown with the Badgers was played at Thomas Jefferson Middle School due to the need for a field with lights because of Wisconsin travel delays.
Close Games: Through 16 matches in 2008 to date, Valpo has seen the final margin be two goals or fewer on 15 occasions, with the only outlier being a 3-0 victory over Western Michigan. The games have gotten even closer in Horizon League play as well, as five of Valpo’s first six league contests have been ties or decided by just one goal.
Zobeck In Net: Freshman goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck has kept the Crusaders in many of their games during the 2008 season and is putting together one of the best statistical seasons in school history. The freshman has had to play every minute in net for Valpo and holds a 1.37 goals against average, good for fifth among league netminders and on pace to set Valpo’s single-season record. Zobeck also ranks fifth in the league with a .777 save percentage and has earned four shutouts, tied for third-most in a single year in Crusader men’s soccer history.
Picked Sixth: Valpo has been projected to finish sixth in the Horizon League this year by the league’s head coaches. UIC was a unanimous choice to win the league title, followed by Green Bay, Loyola, Butler and Milwaukee. The Crusaders were trailed by Wright State, Detroit and Cleveland State in the polling.
Tournament Teams Highlight Schedule: Four of Valpo’s 18 opponents on the 2008 slate reached the NCAA Tournament last season. The Crusaders downed the first two such opponents they have faced, defeating DePaul (1-0) on Aug. 31 and #25/RV Bradley (1-0), which advanced to the 2007 Elite Eight, on Sept. 12. Most recently, the Crusaders earned a 0-0 (2ot) tie with #24/RV Michigan State on Oct. 26. Valpo takes on #13/13 UIC, which also reached the Elite Eight last season, at Brown Field on Friday.