Photo: Courtesy of Brotherly Game
DU (0-1-2) started their season with six straight contests on the road, beginning August 30th and not returning to CIBER Field until September 21st against SMU. They have played Washington (#13, L 2-1), Seattle (Tie 0-0) and Indiana (#2, L 2-1/1OT). Today at 5:00 pm MT they face Notre Dame (#11). The Pioneers finish the road gauntlet against Stanford (#4) and Cal next weekend.
The last DU team to tackle this kind of schedule was DU men’s lacrosse last season when they went on the road after they played Cleveland State February 24th, returning to campus March 30th against Georgetown. Denver went 2-2 on the road, giving up a home game to boot in order to play Notre Dame in a California tournament. The Pioneers never seemed to regain their confidence or footing for the rest of the season.
But Franks (career 61-14-11) has higher ambition than playing in the the NCAA tournament, he wants to go to the College Cup and win a title.
“The goal of the program is to win a National Championship, ” said Franks. “To be able to win six knockout games, we have to go up against the best, it’s not about having the best record going into the NCAA Tournament, it’s about being the most prepared we can be for knockout style football in November and December, and this schedule will do that for our group this fall.”
The challenge facing Franks is a relatively weak Summit League Conference with only one conference foe, Omaha, with a high level soccer pedigree. So Franks has decided to use the non-conference schedule to ready his team for NCAA knock-out rounds.
The biggest on-field issue for Denver to this point is on the offensive end after losing his top three scorers from last season (Andre Shinyashiki 28 goals, Kenny Akimatsu 4, and Moshe Perez 3). Only Stephan DeLeone scored more than one goal last season with 3 for the Pioneers.
Scoring on the road against top notch opponents is difficult and oftentimes requires chemistry and confidence, ingredients in short supply with a relatively inexperienced front line. With three contests under their belt, Denver has 29 shots but only 12 shots-on-goal and two goals scored. That conversion rate needs to improve.
If you are looking for ‘break-through forward scorers’, Josh Drack and and transfer Preston Judd (California Baptist Transfer – leading WAC scorer) may provide much-needed offensive punch. Danny Barlow, from Newcastle England, is a promising junior striker transfer from East Tennessee State but so far has limited minutes. Barlow could become a key offensive piece as the season progresses.
This is not a time to panic, especially with Franks at the helm, but the DU offense must get untracked and take some pressure off a solid defensive group.
Lets hope that DU finds the net early and often tonight in South Bend.