Tigers Soccer Opens Exhibition Play At Louisville Monday
Aug. 17, 2014
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – After only five days of preseason drills, the University of Memphis men’s soccer squad is putting what it has learned into practice Monday when it travels to Louisville, Ky., to face the Cardinals in exhibition action. The Tigers’ first exhibition match kicks off at 6 p.m. (CT) from Cardinal Park.
Although preseason practices just started Aug. 13, first-year head coach Richard Mulrooney is encouraged about what he’s seen early on from his squad.
“Preseason has been a positive so far,” said Mulrooney. “The players showed up in shape which always makes it easier. The upperclassmen have meshed well with our newcomers, and that helps when molding a new team and developing chemistry. We know we have a special group, and if we can put it together – and we’re not there yet – we can achieve some major things and that is exciting to think about.”
Three upperclassmen Mulrooney is relying on for leadership early on are senior midfielder Chandler Gagnon, redshirt junior goalkeeper Cody Uzcategui and sophomore midfielder Raul Gonzalez. Gagnon has played in 53 career matches and made 48 starts, and Uzcategui posted a 1.27 goals-against average and made 48 saves in his 17 starts last season. Gonzalez was named to the 2013 American Athletic Conference All-Rookie Team.
“The players have been leaving it all on the field in our practices, so it’s just a matter of managing the minutes so we aren’t worn down before our first regular-season match at UAB at the end of the month.”
Before the regular season begins, the Tigers have two exhibitions, with the first at Louisville Monday. The Cardinals, ranked No. 14 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Top-25 preseason poll, are playing their first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2014-15. Louisville returns seven starters from last season’s squad that posted an 11-5-4 overall record and won the American Athletic Conference regular-season title with a 5-1-2 league mark. The Cardinals earned an NCAA Tournament berth and advanced to the second round.
Among the Cardinals’ top returnees are forward Ricardo Velazco and defender Michael DeGraffenreidt. Last season, Velazco led Louisville in points (23), goals (7), assists (9) and shots (77) and ranked among the top-five in each statistical category in the American Athletic Conference. He was an All-American Athletic Conference first team pick and an NSCAA All-Midwest first team selection. DeGraffenreidt was named to the All-American Athletic Conference second team and the league’s All-Rookie Team in 2013.
Memphis dropped a 2-1 decision to the Cardinals in conference regular-season action last season.
According to Mulrooney, Louisville is a talented team with many weapons.
“Louisville is a team with players that know how to play the game at the highest level,” said Mulrooney. “The Cardinals won our conference regular season championship last year, so that alone tells you how talented they are. Louisville has some impactful players that, if given too much time or respect, will make you pay. But, it’s a good preseason game for us, and one that we are excited to play.”
Although Monday’s match is only an exhibition, Mulrooney would enjoy a win, but more importantly, he wants to see improvement from his squad.
“You always play to win and that will be one of our goals Monday,” said Mulrooney. “A win would be great, but if we were not to win and become better from it, then we’ll see it as a positive.”
Following Monday’s exhibition, Memphis returns to the friendly confines of the Mike Rose Soccer Complex Aug. 23 to host Christian Brothers University in a 7 p.m. (CT) exhibition match.
Memphis opens regular-season action Aug. 29 with a non-league match against former conference rival UAB in Birmingham, Ala. Match time for the season opener is 7 p.m. (CT).
The Tigers host their home opener Sept. 3 against SIU-Edwardsville. On Sept. 6, Memphis hosts Saint Louis as part of its 2014 Alumni Weekend. During that weekend, the Tigers will celebrate the 10th anniversary of their 2004 Conference USA regular-season and tournament championships. Both matches – Sept. 3 and 6 – are slated for 7 p.m. (CT) kick-offs.