Men’s soccer has had a historically poor start to its season. Chapman is without a win through its first five games, the last three of which were at home.
This marks the first time since 2005 that men’s soccer has gone five games without a win and the first time since 2004 that it has gone three home games without a win. Chapman’s 4-0 loss to Colorado College Sept. 10 also marks the first time Chapman has lost by a four-goal margin since 2012.
The suspensions of two assistant coaches and six senior players – most of whom are starters – is the clear cause. In its opening three home games without them, Chapman drew against a Pomona-Pitzer team Sept. 6 that it beat twice last year before losing to California Lutheran University Sept. 9 and Colorado College Sept. 10.
To be fair, Chapman also opened its conference season last year with a draw and lost two out of its next three games, without any players suspended. That team was also unable to beat Cal Lutheran, but it still went on to reach the second round of the NCAA championship for the first time since 1998.
Unfortunately for Chapman, the conference season was shortened this year from 16 games to 14 games, meaning that Chapman’s slow start is magnified more now than it would have been in the past.
It could be argued that having six players out during this crucial, early period will cause Chapman’s starting lineup to suffer as the suspended players take more time to gel with the newcomers, and that might prove to be true. But those six players have been playing together for almost four years and head coach Eddie Carrillo said they will slot right back into the lineup following their suspensions. The cohesion between them should be almost instinctive at this point, and having already missed three games in their final season, they will be eager to win.
The suspensions of these players may prove to be positive in the long-term, because they allowed inexperienced players to get invaluable conference experience at the outset of the season. In addition to that, Carrillo got a chance to evaluate those players to determine who fits into his rotation and who doesn’t, which he earmarked as a priority Sept 3.
This early experience is crucially important. Having a group of bench players with game experience will be essential in keeping the team’s energy high and ensuring the rotation doesn’t result in a drop in quality when starters sub out.
That said, the team needs to improve immediately.
Since Chapman joined the conference in 2011 and the conference schedule went from 14 to 16 games, the fourth-placed teams have always won more than half of their games, meaning Chapman probably needs to win eight or nine games this year to make the playoffs. Having already lost one conference game and drawn another, Chapman has little room for error.
Chapman has not missed the playoffs since 2013, but with a poor start in a shorter season than the team is used to, it could be a real possibility this year.
If the team can regain its confidence quickly, it will have a strong defense anchored by two captains and three to four seniors, a midfield of technically-gifted and experienced players, a platoon of forwards who are both crafty and pacey, and an energetic bench that has some early conference experience under its belt.
This should be a very good team, but it needs to sort itself out and it needs to do so quickly.