Denver soccer finely tuned the split start to the 2017 season. In the Summit League Opener, the DU Pioneers’ play resembled its previous style and culture that propelled the program’s outstanding success within the past few seasons. With a calm, 1-0 win over the Eastern Illinois Panthers Denver (6-5-0, 1-0-0 Summit League) reinstated a critical confidence of play as the Pioneers controlled the match.
“The point of the out-of conference is to find out what you have and then the point of the in-conference is to find out to get better each day and each game and that’s what we’ve done all season,” Head coach Jamie Franks said. “For us, I think we’ve learned some valuable lessons from about the past three weeks or month and we’re addressing those things and they aren’t things that will happen over night. These kids have a lot of talent and a lot of experience so as long as we stay resilient we’re going to continue to get results.”
DU was the last team to embark on conference play as the Pioneers look to reclaim their fifth-consecutive Summit League regular season and tournament titles.
Junior forward, Andre Shinyashiki instigated two early chances for Denver. Within the first eight minutes of action the Sao Paulo, Brazil native shook a defender and launched a long-range, driven shot on frame, but Eastern Illinois goalie Mike Novotny collected the strike. Five minutes later, Shinyashiki hit a one-timer off of a through ball that was fed to him, but his shot was also denied by Novotny.
Denver’s whopping first-half 8-1 shot advantage over Eastern Illinois (2-5-5, 0-2-1) appears misleading. The Pioneers didn’t fabricate an attacking surge until the final minutes of play where they earned most of their shots on frame.
DU returned in the second half implementing substitutions, redshirt senior Eric Kronenberg joined the lineup having previously replaced Blake Elder up top. Kronenberg got on Denver’s scoresheet for the first time since the 2014 Summit League Final after 34 months and two knee surgeries on Sept. 15 in DU’s win against UC Davis.
Kronenberg ran onto a through ball played by Shinyashiki, and placed his shot near-side, putting the Pioneers on the board seven minutes into the second half.
“I was talking to Andre [Shinyashiki] before the second-half that there was space to play the ball into the nine [yard box] and then flick a ball through, so I told him I was going to make runs off of him,” Kronenberg said.” Andre got the ball into the middle and then I made a run between their left side center back and their left back just took a touch and then put it into the near post.”
For the remainder of the game, the Pioneers maintained composure and dominated possession. The rhythm of play pulsated under the Pioneers’ influence as Denver was strong on the ball and forced Eastern Illinois to chase restlessly until the final whistle.
In comparison to other matches Denver has played this season this game was disciplined and temperate. Tonight’s performance resembled the culture of Pioneer soccer that Coach Franks has instilled since taking the helm in 2015; of poise, precision and passion.
“Obviously it’s kind of a new season when you start conference play. I think the first 10 games of the season didn’t go the way we anticipated or the way we expected them to,” Captain Alex Underwood said. “I think moving forward we’re going to look back on those 10 games and we’re going to grow from them because of some of the adversity and a lot of the honesty that has taken place over the last two or three weeks here.”
Denver will hit the road for a four-game homestand beginning with the University of Tulsa on Oct. 10.