The Loyola men’s soccer team has a real chance to become the 2019 Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) champion. This year is much different than previous seasons, but there’s one thing missing — consistency on offense.
That’s not to say the team has a bad offense by any stretch of the imagination. The team has impressed offensively this season and is headlined by junior transfer Justin Sukow and senior Aidan Megally, both of whom have scored four goals.
They’re so close to being the best team in the league. The defense is solid, as it traditionally has been under head coach Neil Jones. The offense is good too, it just has to take that next step.
In comparison to their opponents, they’re not performing as well as they could be. The current scoring leader — Missouri State University — is averaging 2.29 goals per game. But, in comparison to last year, Loyola is performing much better. Last year, they scored 1.11 goals per game, this year they’re averaging 1.44 goals per game, showing a statistical improvement.
The offense isn’t far off, though. Sukow, Megally and sophomore Billy Hency are scoring, the team just needs a little “oomph” in order to really get the front half moving.
Senior forward Chase Wright is struggling to put the ball in the back of the net, yet the team is still confident in him. It speaks volumes when their starting forward isn’t scoring, but the offense is still improving.
What needs to happen is, Wright needs to pick up the pace and the team needs continued good play from Hency, Sukow, Megally and the other winger sophomore Fabian Becerra.
Becerra has been out the past four games due to injury. He was one of the team’s leading scorers last year, and Jones said not having him has hurt the attack. Having him back in the lineup could help the Ramblers get that much needed offensive push.
Also, the team’s defense is solid — and has been so far this season. When watching the men play, their backline is fluidly working together.
Loyola ranked second in the MVC preseason poll, but that’s not to say the Ramblers can’t win the conference. Now, if the team wants to win the conference and make it to the NCAA tournament, it needs to convert more on offense.
Its biggest competition this year is Missouri State — which is currently undefeated. Four of their seven wins came by two goals or more with their best offensive performance against Western Illinois University in a 4-0 victory.
The Ramblers biggest lead? Two goals, which is Missouri State’s average. Just look at the game they’ve played against each other already Sept. 22. The Bears won 2-1 in a game that Loyola got the first goal.
Loyola has the talent to beat Missouri State — the game went into overtime. If Loyola wants to have a chance at beating the Bears in the conference, it can’t rely solely on defense.
The offense isn’t bad, by any stretch. It’s honestly the best it’s been in a while. Megally was even named MVC offensive player of the week Oct. 1, so something’s obviously going right.
Last year, Megally led in scoring for the Ramblers with five goals and We’re only about halfway through the season and he’s already at four goals and 10 shots on goal — another sign of hope for the Ramblers.
Also, the addition of Sukow has done wonders for the team. He’s leading the team with four goals and second in assists with two. The pair have had a combined 44 shots for the season.
The offense has only given a glimpse of what it can do. Once everyone’s healthy and they can get in the groove, this team has the potential to be the dominating force in the MVC. They just need to score more goals and be more consistent — less overtime wins and more outright wins.