By Nicholas Poblete/Staff Writer
After being crowned Conference USA regular season champions, the undefeated FIU men’s soccer team will travel to Norfolk, Virginia, to compete in the C-USA Tournament, starting Nov. 8 to Nov. 12.
With a record of 11-0-4 and C-USA record of 6-0-2, the undefeated Panthers earned a bye for qualifying as the first seed, qualifying straight to the semi-final.
“Going undefeated is difficult for any sport,” Head Coach Nylen said. “It is a great accomplishment for the team, and for the guys, and it speaks volumes of how they have carried themselves.”
The top seven teams from the regular season will compete for the C-USA title. FIU will have to wait till Nov. 8 to see who will be their opponent in the semi-final.
The Panthers defeated six out of eight conference rivals. The only teams to deny FIU the three points were Charlotte and Kentucky, both games resulting in a tie after double overtime.
Dominating the C-USA regular season table, FIU finished the season with 20 points, five points over second-place Old Dominion.
FIU also dominated in individual statistics. Junior forward Santiago Patiño finished the regular season with 15 goals in as many games, averaging a goal per game. Sophomore midfielder, Alessandro Campoy, topped the assist table. The sophomore assisted on eight occasions in 15 matches.
After the final match of the regular season against the University of Kentucky, the men’s soccer team were given a couple of days’ rest, in order to face the final stretch of the season in optimal conditions.
“With so many games in the month of October, we haven’t been able to train as much. That’s just part of it,” Nylen said. “But now, without a game until next Friday we can have some good work days.”
Finishing the regular season as undefeated champions has been a feat within itself, but the local and national attention the team has acquired has created a target on its back, according to Nylen.
“Within the conference, everyone wants to knock off the top team,” said the first year head coach. “We’ve been dealing with it I think for the majority of the season, so I don’t see us wavering in that regard.”
The day after conference final, NCAA’s selection show on Monday, Nov. 13, will announce those teams that will participate in the national tournament. The top 48 teams ranked by the NCAA will compete for a chance to be crowned national champions. Currently, FIU is ranked 14th by NCAA. If the season were to end today, the Panthers would be participating in the national tournament.
The C-USA tournament will be an opportunity for the Panthers to claim silverware, but also a chance to ensure their presence in NCAA’s national tournament.
Ranked No. 7 in the nation by United Soccer Coaches poll, the men’s soccer team will look to continue its impressive run of form for the remainder of the season in order to climb NCAA’s ranks, allowing the Panthers to host an eventual national tournament match.