By Adam Schabel – Managing Editor
The Cleveland State University men’s soccer team got off to a slow start to begin their 2018-19 campaign; however, they are trending in the right direction.
Cleveland State opened their season with back-to-back road games against Northwestern and Loyola Chicago. They dropped both matches before coming home and losing to Cincinnati and Green Bay. The Vikings found themselves in an 0-4-0 hole.
“To begin the season, we were playing some very good technical soccer, but the results were not going our way,” senior Noah Pio said. “We couldn’t find the back of the net, and we had a lot of defensive errors.”
Cleveland State then traveled to Milwaukee, where they tied 1-1 in double overtime. The Vikings’ first win came in their sixth game of the season. They defeated Bowling Green by a final score of 2-0, giving them a 1-4-1 record on the season.
The Vikings then lost to Wright State, a nationally ranked school, 4-1 before winning three-straight matches against the University of Illinois at Chicago, Ohio State and Pittsburgh.
“Around mid-season, things began to click with the group and we started getting results,” Pio said. “I think this attributes to just believing in [head] coach Kirks’ [Harwat] messages from the start of the year which was to focus on all of the little details on and off the field.”
Sophomore Thomas M’Barek echoed a similar sentiment.
“The recent good results are just the reward of the hard work we have been putting in since the beginning of the year,” M’Barek said. “We had a rough beginning and we were playing well, better than our opponents, but ended up losing because of individual mistakes. Once we started to take care of those mistakes, we started to win.”
Cleveland State followed their three-game winning streak with a tie at home against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and road losses to Loyola Maryland and Northern Kentucky.
Pio sees some areas where the team can improve.
“Areas that I see improvement for the team is to just focus for 90 minutes,” Pio said. “I think really having all 11 players on the field committed and focused for the whole game is really important coming down the stretch of this season.”
M’Barek believes the main reason for the teams’ struggles is because they are so young.
“It is a young team that needs experience to grow up. Mistakes are made because some players are not familiar with particular situations,” M’Barek said. “Unfortunately, the only way to earn experience is to play: so sometimes you have to pay the high price in order to grow up and learn. We also need to be more efficient offensively. This area of the field was one of our weakest points, but we are getting better every game.”
After 13 games, the Vikings hold a 4-7-2 record with two games remaining in their regular season.
Cleveland State will take on Oakland at home on Saturday, Oct. 27 before traveling to Michigan to take on Detroit Mercy in the season finale on Nov. 2.
“Unfortunately, we only have two games left, two games that will decide the future of our season,” M’Barek said. “We can still make it to the Horizon League tournament and I know all the players believe in it.”