With an easy pre-conference schedule, head men’s soccer coach Jamie Franks could have padded his gaudy 61-12-10 career record this season, likely dominated the Summit league during league play and playoffs, and advanced one game into the NCAA Tournament before being bounced out. Instead, Franks has plans on hardening this season’s squad for the knockout rounds of the NCAAs.
The early reviews show a team struggling to score with only three goals to their opponents seven through six games. The Pioneers have been nearly doubled up in shots 96-54 and shots-on-goal 30-16. Confidence, especially on the offensive end, may be in short supply but the season is still young and Denver has time and home games to find an offensive rhythm.
The plan engineered by Franks was to sign-up DU men’s soccer (1-4-1) for the most difficult non-conference schedule in the country. Following a blistering 6-game road schedule all over the country to start the season, it doesn’t get easier with their first game this weekend at home against undefeated SMU this Saturday at CIBER Field (5 pm MT). SMU is ranked 8th in the coaches poll and the Mustangs are 6-0-0 and have impressive wins over #2 Duke, Lipscomb, and St. Louis. The team’s 21 goals are the second-most in the country. So, it will take a great effort by Denver in their first regular home game of the season.
Between regular Summit League contests, DU has scheduled non-conference games against Pittsburgh (ACC), St. Louis (A10), Tulsa (AAC), and Duke (ACC). Home games feature Pacific (WCC) and Rhode Island (A10).
Surely, Franks must be surprised as his offense has sputtered early – even if those matches are against nationally-ranked teams. While DU’s top three scorers graduated last season, DU did secure three forward transfers this season. Grand Canyon transfer Josh Drack was the 2017 WAC Freshman of the Year; Danny Barlow from New Castle England led East Tennessee State University in scoring last season with 19 points in 17 games; and Preston Judd, who transferred from California Baptist, led the WAC in scoring last season with 15 goals and 2 assists. Add DU’s offensive midfielders and returning players and DU should be able to show significant improvement on the offensive end as the season progresses.
On an encouraging note, junior goalkeeper Will Palmquist, the Summit League Player of the Week, has been a rock in goal for the Pioneers with a 1.17 goals allowed per game. And, defenders Bailey Heller and Callum Stretch have been solid on the back-line for Denver as well.
Add a DU squad that is young with 8 freshmen, 9 sophomores, and 7 juniors and no seniors. The best may be yet to come.
DU Women’s soccer (3-3-1) has been playing extremely well so far this season and have also played a very difficult schedule. They’ve dropped each of their last three games, all on the road, all by one goal to Washington, Portland, and Colorado State in OT.
That makes nine consecutive games on the road for men’s and women’s soccer before their return home this weekend.
If you like college soccer, Saturday night should provide a great opportunity to watch the Denver men play a nationally ranked squad (SMU) at 5:30 pm MT before DU women’s soccer faces in-state arch-rival Colorado Buffaloes at 7:30 pm MT.