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Everything You Need To Know About UCF Men's Soccer in 2018

2018 UCF Men's Soccer Preview

Cal Jennings of UCF Men’s Soccer
Cal Jennings (Photo: UCF Athletics)

UCF Men's Soccer turned out to be one of the most remarkable stories in UCF sports last year. After a 1-5-1 start, they came within minutes of winning The American, according to their now-second-year head coach Scott Calabrese. It was quite the turn-around, and despite not making the NCAA tournament, now the Knights have to deal with something they haven't had in a while: Expectations.

Here's everything you need to know about the UCF Men's Soccer Team heading into the 2018 season:

Last Year

8-6-2, 4-2-1 AAC, 2nd in AAC, AAC Tournament Runners-Up

Scott Calabrese's first season at UCF got off to a very difficult start. They won only one of their first seven and had their home opener canceled twice due to weather. It wasn't until a 4-0 win over Stetson on October 4th that the Knights finally made their home debut.

Turns out that was the start of something special, as UCF flipped a switch and got blazing hot. After a 1-1 draw against Memphis in their next match, the Knights rattled off five wins in a row - three by shutout - culminating in a 3-2 win at #22 UConn:

The Knights snagged the #2 spot in The American on the final day of the season after a 2-1 win at Cincinnati.

Another win over UConn in the American Athletic Conference semis put them in the Championship Match against hosts SMU. Down 1-0 with under four minutes left, the Knights improbably tied it to send it to OT, but SMU came away with the victory on a blast from Emil Cuello:

The Knights finished with an RPI of 51, which left them out of the NCAA Tournament, despite their season-ending hot streak.

This Year

As with their counterparts on the women's side, UCF is favored to win the conference. The Knights are followed by SMU, UConn, USF and Tulsa in The American's preseason poll.

But this is an unexpected expectation, as SMU is picked to finish second in the league, but the Mustangs start the season at #8 in the preseason United Soccer Coaches' Poll. UCF received votes in that poll, as did conference mates USF and UConn.

Who's in Charge

Scott Calabrese

UCF Head Men’s Soccer Coach Scott Calabrese.
UCF Head Men's Soccer Coach Scott Calabrese. (Photo: UCF Athletics)
Photo: UCF Athletics

Year two of the Calabrese Era has all the trappings of a quick turn-around, but that's nothing new for Scott. He took FIU to the Conference USA Tournament Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth in his second year there in 2015. Prior to that, he led East Tennessee State to an Atlantic Sun Championship and NCAA berth in just his third year after founding the program, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt for that additional year.

Calabrese comes in at 95-73-22 for his career, so the 100-win milestone as a head coach is well within his reach in 2018.

Listen to Coach Calabrese preview the season with Jeff and Eric on the Black & Gold Banneret Podcast:

Who to Watch

#3 Cal Jennings (Junior Forward - Roswell, Georgia)

  • 2018 Preseason All-AAC
  • 2017 All-AAC First Team
  • 2017: 7 goals, 4 assists in 16 games

Jennings came on strong late in his sophomore year as a second scoring threat behind Matias Pyysalo, scoring all of his goals from October on. He had a pair of two-goal games and scored the dramatic OT winner in the AAC semis. Now he steps into the hole left behind by his teammate, with all the attention from opposing defenses that comes with it.

#8 Yoni Sorokin (Sophomore Midfielder - Jerusalem, Israel)

  • 2018 Preseason All-AAC
  • 2017 All-Region First Team
  • 2017 All-AAC First Team
  • 2017 AAC All-Rookie Team
  • 2017: 3 goals, 3 assists in 16 games

Yoni was a sensation in his freshman year in the middle, earning an all-conference selection. His play aided Pyysalo and Jennings in creating opportunities upfield, and he will be relied upon to direct traffic in transition.

#2 Andreas Steineger (Senior Defender - Oslo, Norway)

  • 2018 Preseason All-AAC
  • 2017 All-AAC Second Team
  • 2017: 1 goal in 16 games

The 6'4" Steineger was a huge key for UCF's back line, aiding two different goalkeepers to a combined seven wins by shutout in 2017. His immense size and leadership will be counted on if UCF are to replicate the defensive efforts that led to their late-season winning streak last year.

Who We'll Miss

Matias Pyysalo

Pyysalo carried the scoring load for this team the past two years, finishing his UCF career with 30 goals, 12 of them last season. While Cal Jennings spelled the scoring load toward the end of the year, Pyysalo's consistency is what the Knights will miss the most. It seemed he was there to make something happen every time the Knights needed it. The question is who will grab that torch this year.

Who's New That's Good

Matt Douglass (Freshman Goalkeeper - Montverde Academy)

Douglass was a part of three National Championship teams in high school at Montverde, and never lost a game playing for SIMA, the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy.

Sophomore Yannick Oettl and Junior Matt Rosenberg split goalkeeping duties last year, with Rosenberg going 6-2-1 down the stretch. They each might get a push from Douglass in the next couple of years.

Who's on the Roster

  • Nine seniors
  • Seven freshmen
  • 11 players from Florida, including three from the Orlando area and seven from South Florida
  • 12 international players, including three from France and two from Costa Rica

View the full roster here.

When the Big Games Are

Date Opponent Notes
Fri. 8/24 at Penn State Opener, 2017 RPI #100, PSU leads series 1-0
Mon. 8/27 UC-Irvine Home opener, 2017 RPI #115
Sun. 9/2 Virginia Tech 2017 RPI #25, UCF leads series 1-0
Fri. 9/7 West Virginia First-ever meeting, 2017: 9-6-4 (MAC), RPI #55
Tue. 9/11 at FIU Calabrese's former school, '17 RPI #24, Preseason #20
Sat. 9/15 at Stetson UCF leads series 11-2-2. W 4-0 last year.
Fri. 9/21 at Temple 4th AAC in '17. UCF won 1-0 last year.
Fri. 9/28 SMU '17: Beat UCF 2-1 twice, incl. AAC Championship in OT. Preseason #8 in Coaches' Poll
Tue. 10/2 Jacksonville UCF won 4-0 last year. 7-1-2 UCF all-time.
Fri. 10/12 UConn UCF won LY 3-2, 3rd place in AAC
Tue. 10/16 FGCU RPI #98 in '17, FGCU leads series 3-1-2
Sat. 10/20 South Florida USF W 3-2 LY, RPI #46, Preseason RV
Fri. 11/2 Cincinnati Senior Day, UCF 6-0 all-time.
11/6-11/10 AAC Tournament Hosted by #1 seed. Field expanded to six teams.

View the full schedule here.

The Last Time...

Last Conference Title: 2004 (Regular Season and Tournament). UCF is trying to win its conference for the first time since the program's final year in the Atlantic Sun under Bob Winch. That year, UCF capped a run of three straight A-Sun crowns.

Last NCAA Appearance: 2011. That was the second of two consecutive appearances for the Knights as members of C-USA under Bryan Cunningham.

What to Keep an Eye On

The home part of the schedule. UCF plays four of its first five and six of its last eight matches on the home pitch, including come of its toughest tilts, such as UConn, SMU, Virginia Tech, USF, and FGCU. The Knights are already coming in with high expectations, and a good start will only raise those expectations in the eyes of national soccer sages. A strong finish at home may help the Knights into the NCAA field even if they fail to win the conference tournament.

Even so, a #1 seed heading into the expanded AAC Tournament (from four to six) would allow the Knights to host and give them a tremendous advantage in the postseason.

Who to Follow

The Latest

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