Valparaiso (3-5-5, 0-2-2 Horizon)
The Crusaders Host UIC in Important Horizon League Contest
Friday, Oct. 25 - vs. UIC (11-3-0, 4-0-0 Horizon) at 7 pm CT
This Week in Crusader Soccer: After more than a week since their last match, the Crusader men return to action on Friday night to take on Horizon League foe UIC. UIC comes to Brown Field undefeated in league play, while the Crusaders are in search of their first league win. The match will carry plenty of significance, as each point is vital in this stage of the season.
Previously: The Crusaders traveled to Lexington, Ky. to face off against Kentucky. Eric Nieto put the Crusaders up early with a fantastic strike that found the top left corner of the Wildcat goal. Two critical mistakes early in the second half led to Kentucky equalizing and eventually taking the lead. Valpo would create chances to level the game at 2-2, but could not produce the game-tying goal. The match at Kentucky was the Crusaders' 11th game on the road.
Following The Crusaders: Friday night's match against UIC will have free live video available through the Horizon League Network. Live stats for the match will be available through ValpoAthletics.com. Over the course of the 2013 season, all of the Crusaders' league games will have free live video on the Horizon League Network, including three matches at home. Visit @VUMSO on Twitter to view comments and photos leading up to Saturday night’s match.
Head Coach Mike Avery: A former Horizon League Coach of the Year, Mike Avery returns for his seventh season at the helm of the men’s soccer program. As the winningest head coach in the program’s history, Avery has led the Crusaders to 47 wins, multiple winning seasons, and the program’s first-ever Horizon League Title. Under his watch, the program has seen 25 All-League selections, four Horizon League Goalkeeper of the Year honorees, one Defensive Player of the Year selection, and one player sign an MLS contract with FC Dallas.
Series Notes: UIC - holds a 3-17-2 all time series advantage over the Crusaders. The two teams last met just a season ago when the Flames were able to escape with a 1-0 victory at home. Under Avery, Valpo is 1-4-1 against UIC.
Scouting the Opposition: UIC - The Flames enter Friday night's contest undefeated in league play, with wins coming against Cleveland State, Wright State, Detroit, and Milwaukee. Overall, the Flames sit at 11-3-0 on the season. Leading the Flames in goals scored is Slobodan Aleksov with seven. The Flames have six players who have at least two goals to their name including Jorge Alvarez and Bob Novak with three apiece. Jesus Torres leads the team with eight assists. UIC has scored a total of 24 goals through 14 games. Andrew Putna has played every minute in goal for the Flames and has only conceded 11 goals for a .77 G.A.A.
Regionally Ranked: For two consecutive weeks, the Crusaders were ranked #10 in the NSCAA Great Lakes region. Valpo last appeared in the region rankings in October of 2011; the year the team won the Horizon League title. The Great Lakes region is widely considered to be one of the toughest regions in college soccer.
Notables: Eric Nieto's goal against Kentucky was his first of the 2013 campaign. Diego Calix earned his first start of the season at Kentucky. The junior midfielder logged 24 minutes in the match.
TOCO Benefit Match: Friday night's game will mark the Crusaders' fifth annual benefit match for They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO). Admission to the match will be free and all proceeds generated will go directly toward TOCO's annual Holiday Toy Drive. The first 100 donations of $10 or more will receive a special TOCO/Valpo Athletics winter beanie. The goal for TOCO this year in its annual Holiday Toy Drive is to deliver 200 bicycles and helmets to underprivileged children in St. Lucia.
A Tale of Two Halves: At times during this season, games have been a tale of two halves. In the first half of games, the Crusaders have been slow to start and are unable to find the game. As a result, the team has conceded early goals. In the second half of games however, the Crusaders look to be a completely different team. They control the run of play, keep the ball for extended periods of time, and create plenty of quality chances. In the second half of games, the Crusaders almost double their amount of goals scored (7 to 4), increased their amount of shots (78-46) and corners taken (33 to 22).
Finishing Chances: Valpo now sits with just 12 goals scored in 13 matches. The Crusaders are creating plenty of chances but are missing the final touch needed to find goal. What's promising is that seven players have accounted for the 12 goals scored. Eric Nieto, Adrian Graham, Julio Velasquez, and Jordan Aidoud each have one goal this season, while Todd Vervynckt has netted two goals to his name. Leading the team this season are Charles Barden and Nick Suker with three goals apiece.
Ranked Opponents: The Crusaders have played four teams that have been ranked in the Top 25 of the national rankings. Three of those games have come on the road. The Crusaders played #24 Michigan State, #12 Tulsa, #19 Dayton, and #24 Milwaukee. Valpo is 1-3-0 against Top 25 opponents – then win coming in a 2-1 victory over Michigan State.
Home Sweet Home: The Crusaders will have played 11 of 13 games on the road before returning home on October 25th to play a match at Brown Field. The Crusaders' match against UIC will be the team's third home game of the season. Valpo will have two more games at home following their match vs. UIC. The Crusader men host Western Michigan on October 30th and Detroit on November 9th.
Looking Ahead: The Crusaders continue their two-match home stand on Wednesday, October 30th vs. Western Michigan. The Crusader men then return to action on Saturday, Nov. 2nd at Cleveland State. Following the match at Cleveland State, the Crusaders will have just one league game remaining on the schedule.
Champions in the Classroom: In 2012, Todd Vervynckt was selected to the Horizon All-Academic team, the CoSIDA Academic All-American Third team, and the All-District V first team. Vervynckt is in the Mechanical Engineering program at Valparaiso.