The season reached its end and the FIU men’s soccer team (6-10-1) (2-6-1 in Conference-USA play), like they did last year, found themselves on the outside looking in of the C-USA tournament. FIU finished eighth in their conference and were four points shy of a clinching a tournament berth.
Coming off FIU’s best season since the 2005 campaign (8-8-2) the Panthers had lofty expectations, especially due to the successful offseason recruiting Head Coach Ken Arena had. This years recruiting class was listed by TopDrawerSoccer.com as one of five classes in the country with tremendous potential. The recruits include junior transfer from the University of South Florida Roberto Alterio. Alterio led the FIU offense in scoring this season with seven goals. The Panthers ranked 45th in the nation in total goals with 27.
On the defensive end, freshman defender Marvin Hezel proved to be an integral piece to this young Panther squad. Hezel played all 17 games and logged in the most minutes of any player on the team (1492). Hezel, a 6-foot-3 defender was also able to use his great size to help the FIU offense. Hezel was used often in corner kicks, his length allowed him to head in three goals on the season. The three goals place him in a tie for third on the team. Hezel spoke on his scoring.
“It was hopefully the beginning,” Hezel said. “In Germany I scored headers so I really hope I could go on like this.”
The Panthers season was a frustrating and disappointing season. At no point in the season did FIU have a winning record; the Panthers floated around .500 until falling to tough competition at the end of the season.
FIU began the season on a scoring rampage. In FIU’s first nine games they scored a total of 18 goals. However, the Panthers would then begin an eight game stretch of C-USA play. During said stretch, FIU only was able to score nine goals and was shutout in five of their last six games.
The Panthers were the complete opposite on the defensive side of the ball. FIU began the first eight games of the season playing horrid defense. Through those eight games FIU was one of the worst defenses in the nation allowing 17 goals in nine games. Yet, when they entered the most grueling stretch of the season FIU was able to put it together on defense. During the remaining eight games FIU allowed 10 goals, including two shutouts.
The offense and defense were rarely on the same page for FIU. Although there would be games where it would all click at the same time, such as in the games against Marshall were FIU won (4-0) and Kentucky (4-1). Unfortunately, those games were few and far between. After the Marshall win, team co-captain junior forward Quentin Albrecht spoke on the season.
“We played well against many teams, I think we played well the whole season but finally we got lucky too,” Albrecht said.
It should be noted that this season could have very easily gone a much different way. Seven of FIU’s 10 losses came by one goal or less. In many games for FIU they would dominate the ball but simply could not get the ball to go in the goal. The Panthers outshot opponents in those seven losses (106-54). If a couple of balls go in then we would be looking at a completely different season.
“We are much better than we were last year,” Arena said. “ And we are much better than we were at the beginning of the year. We have lost some very close games and I would say at least half of the close games we have had the better of the play. This team is going to fight to the end this year were all confident and believe that any given game could be like the Marshall game. So we just got to stick to it, put our head down, and work hard.”
All in all the season is not what most hoped for, however, there were signs of encouragement for FIU’s future. With one more year under the belt of these young talented players, the Panthers should be a much-improved team next year.