Reinaldo Llerena // Staff Writer
The men’s soccer team often plays a game of cat and mouse when on the field.
Head Coach Scott Calabrese’s defensive tactics and plays are rival to those of a cat stalking its prey. Similar to zone defense in basketball and football, Calabrese wants his team to trap the ball in a certain part of the field to make defense easier for his players.
“During a game, we want to defend from the front and pressure the ball,” Calabrese said. “Sometimes, we want to send our forwards wide to stop clears, sometimes we don’t.”
In 2015, the Panthers allowed just 26 goals all year.
“Our defensive scheme depends on who we are playing that day,” Calabrese said.
Goalie Arthur Clapot had 31 of his team’s 50 saves in the year. Goalie Robin Spiegel had the remaining 18 saves on the team. This means that teams had to save the ball 35 more times than the Panthers on the year. Thus, the Panthers kept the ball away from their net and controlled possession of the ball on the opposing side of the field.
Calabrese said: “When I first arrived at FIU, there was a sporadic commitment on defense. Getting my players to commit fully on defense was a major challenge in 2014. We have steadily improved since then, and I’m very happy with my players.”
The Panthers’ commitment on defense led them to a 12-7-1 record last season. The team also held its opponents to an average of 1.30 goals per game and limited opponents to a 40 percent shot-on-goal percentage. By comparison, the Panthers had an average of 2.05 goals per game and a 43 percent shot-on-goal percentage. However, opponents only had 76 shots on goal throughout the season while the Panthers had 126 shots on goal during the 2015 season.
The Panthers will play against Furman University in the Nike/Aaron Olitsky Memorial Soccer Classic on Friday, Aug. 26 at 5 p.m. The team will play its first home game versus the University of Wisconsin on Friday, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. at the FIU Soccer Stadium.