Defensively, there were question marks. Offensively, there was concern. Through two games, the Billikens and their fans have reason to relax on both fronts.
In the season opener against Tulsa, both sides were even for 85 minutes, with Sascha Otte and Anthony Manning leading the defensive charge. Offensively, the attack was strong, but Tulsa’s goalie Jake McGuire was putting on a Tim Howard-esque performance with 7 saves. Fortunes changed for SLU in the 86th minute when a ricocheted corner kick found its way to the foot of junior Filip Pavisic, who buried it in the back of the net.
Overall, the Billikens out-shot Tulsa 14-9 overall, and 8-1 for shots on target. All-American Robert Kristo contributed to that tally with 4 shots of his own, none of which found its home. The number is encouraging though, because, just like in basketball, shooters shoot, and the more shots from Kristo the better. Filip Pavisic had 3, while Kingsley Bryce and David Graydon contributed 2 attempts, and 3 others keyed in on single tries. Again, very encouraging offensively. A more spread-out attack will do magic for SLU, as it’s going to open up better opportunities to the premiere goal scorers like Kristo and Bryce.
In the next matchup against Virginia Tech, it was much of the same. Although the Hokies out-shot the Billikens by 1 shot, freshman sensation Sascha “Backsteinmauer” Otte made 6 saves, living up to the preseason hype. This effort, along with the game against Tulsa, brought the first of many accolades to the German native as he was named A-10 Rookie of the Week. He’s the first Billiken goalkeeper to win the honor since Ross Kaufman won it twice in 2006.
Kristo made up for the lack of goals in the first game by netting two goals against the Hokies. The first came early, with Kristo connecting on a sweet feed from Raymond Lee, which Kristo sank into the left side of the net. Just 13 short minutes later, Kristo was able to stick a header off a restart from David Graydon. Overall, Kristo had 5 shots in a game, a sign that he hasn’t lost confidence.
The effort over the past week has turned heads nationally, as the Billikens went from unranked to 15th in the nation in the NSCAA poll. Going forward, the goal is to improve defensively, and keep offensive productivity as high as possible. The latter won’t be of too much concern, as the Billikens already have 24 shots through 2 games. Defensively, there is still some tinkering to do. Otte has proven very good early, but the meat of the schedule, especially conference play, brings about tougher opponents. After all, they were picked by the league’s coaches to win the A-10 this year. SLU travels to Memphis on September 6th for their first road game, and another chance to live up to the hype.