SLU Soccer Mid-season Report


One game into A-10 conference play, and over halfway through the regular season, the Billikens are doing better than we expected. But not better than Coach Mike McGinty expected.

If you remember from my preseason report, Coach McGinty was the first to state that this would be a “special season”. Now, entering the home stretch of the regular season, he hasn’t relented his thoughts about the Billikens. “This is the strongest team I have had since my arrival,” says the Coach.  And it’s hard to refute that. 8-2 is the team’s best start since 2008, and two wins against top 5 nationally ranked teams since the rankings started in 1997.

Maybe we weren’t surprised by the hot start, or even the top 5 wins, as SLU has beat seven top 10 teams in the past seven years alone. But the biggest surprise has been in goal, a spot of worry for many to start the year. Rumors circulated around who would take over the starting role after the departure of Nick Shackelford. Some thought it would be David Andre, a talented sophomore who played well in a few matches a season ago. Others talked about an incoming freshman from Germany, by the name of Sascha Otte. Andre seemed like the choice to start, at least to begin. Otte was unknown, and a freshman. He wasn’t the “next big thing” for SLU soccer yet, and he certainly wasn’t Brickenmauer.

Fast forward to now, and he’s a cult legend at SLU, and one of the best freshman goalkeepers in the nation. But there’s more to the goalkeeping unit than just the Sascha Show. “…David Andre is very capable and could play for us at any time,” says McGinty. “Having competition at that position makes it great as the coach to know that we can go with whoever is hot.” A second option that Coach trusts pushes Otte to perform at a higher level, as close to perfection as possible. And that’s what championships teams need.

On the other side of the ball, there’s been a lack of surprises, and more of a sigh of relief that Robert Kristo has entered his “final form”, to steal a Dragon Ball Z term.  Despite a nagging ankle injury that has forced him to miss a couple games, and sit out a couple halves, Kristo has been nothing less than magical. He moves across the pitch as if he can score whenever he likes, and in all honesty, he does score whenever he likes. The best example of this wasn’t the game winning goal against Creighton (arguably the goal of the year in the NCAA) or his masterpiece of a score in the first 14 seconds against Indiana. Homecoming against Central Arkansas. The Bears are putting up a surprising fight, and the game enters halftime at 0-0. Kristo enters the game. 58th minute, he handles a cross and helps find the ball a nice home in the back of the net. 22 minutes later, Kristo catches finds the back of the net again off of a cross. Most impressive was the double and triple teams that he fought off to score. Looking across the NCAA, it’s hard to find many people better at their trade. “He needs to keep improving, but right now he is certainly a candidate for player of the year.” That’s Coach McGinty’s way of saying, “I have the best player in the country.”

So overall, at the midseason mark, what’s the diagnosis? Look back at the skills I said they’d need at the start of the season. Score often? Check. Kristo’s a monster. See previous paragraph. Play solid defense? Half-check. Brickenmauer is as good as his defense allows him to be. When opponents have point blank shots, there’s little he can do. Defensively, Anthony Manning needs to show more leadership, and they can’t give up as much ground to the attack as they have. Goalkeeping? Check. Lastly, winning games on the road. Road play has been a roller coaster ride. They beat #3 Creighton on the road, but lost to a lower ranked Indiana and a Memphis team that embarrassed them. “We need to manage games a little better on the road, but that’s something we know we can improve on.”

Looking ahead, the potential is there, as I’ve been stating the past 3-4 weeks. It comes down to putting it all together at the same time. Hopefully the Billikens have turned off the Rams and tuned into the Cards to learn how to win down the stretch. Because if this is as “special” of a team as the coaching staff, players, and fans believe, a little David Freese-esque clutch ala 2011 wouldn’t hurt.