FAU Men’s Soccer: 2021 Season Preview

After making their first C-USA tournament in 2019, the Owls have a lot to look forward to this season.

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FAU men’s soccer will open its season hosting North Florida on Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. Photo courtesy of FAU Athletics.

Richard Pereira, Sports Editor

Editor’s note: The preview has been updated to show the updated number of games on FAU’s schedule, including a change to the record prediction to reflect that.

How they finished in 2019: 7-8-1 (3-4-0 C-USA), lost 2-0 in the Quarterfinals of the Conference USA tournament to the Kentucky Wildcats.

Create more scoring options

Forward Ivan Mykhailenko was FAU’s leading scorer in the 2019 season with seven goals. Now a senior, it is expected he will remain the top option for the Owls.

FAU ranked fifth in goals scored and shots attempted in 2019’s C-USA season, having 22 goals and taking 201 shots in total. Compared to the Florida International Panthers, who led the conference in scoring averaging 2.278 goals per game, FAU contrasts by averaging 1.375 goals per game.

The Owls will need to not only have more scoring options who can back up Mykhailenko in the front three but also have someone who can create scoring opportunities for them at any time. To keep up with other teams, this is key for their success on the offensive side of the ball.

Find consistent goalkeeping

FAU must have a goalkeeper they can rely on to defend the goal after the last starting goalkeeper, Hagay Jalon, graduated.

Jalon was successful as FAU’s goalie by becoming the first CoSIDA All-American from the team in 2019 and winning Male Student-Athlete of the Year in the 2020 Owlspys. Despite that, 16 goals were conceded under his watch as FAU allowed 1.88 goals per game in 2019.

The current goalkeepers on the roster are junior Neil Strauber, sophomores Diego Orduña and Shafique Wilson, and freshman Cameron Braswell. Whoever gets to be the first option at goal will be up to head coach Joey Worthen, as having a good defense is crucial to competing with the best in the league. 

Have better composure on the road

FAU did a good job standing its ground at home with a 6-3-0 record in 2019. The same can’t be said on the road, where the Owls were 1-4-1 in those games.

Six out of the ten games this season will be on the road for FAU, with the crucial games being against the likes of FIU, Marshall, and the Charlotte 49ers.

If the Owls want to be in the top four of the conference, they’ll have to show they can win games against strong teams on the road.

A chance to qualify for the NCAA tournament

Unlike previous seasons, there won’t be a C-USA tournament to decide who gets to qualify for the NCAA tournament this year.

Instead, the team with the best record in the conference will automatically earn a place in the tournament, which will begin at the end of April.

This adds more weight to the 12 games FAU has on its schedule. It tells them that every game counts from here on out, and they must be prepared for all of them and give it everything they got.

Establish a winning culture

FAU has experienced a lot of losing since its inaugural season in 1981, having an all-time record of 267-368-42.

Out of the 40 seasons they have played, only 13 winning seasons at .500 or above came for the Owls. The last .500 season for them was in 2013 with a 7-7-2 record, while their last best season was in 2004 when they finished 12-3-1.

There is hope on the horizon, especially after FAU made program history by qualifying for its first-ever C-USA tournament in the 2019 season. With that in mind, there should be optimism brewing around the team that they can do even better this year.

While it shouldn’t be expected for the Owls to top the conference and qualify for the NCAA tournament, if they can end the season with a record over .500, it would be a great start for them to begin the decade.

Record Prediction: 7-3-2 (3-3-1 C-USA), won’t qualify for the NCAA tournament.

FAU will kick off its season hosting the North Florida Ospreys at FAU Soccer Stadium on Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. To view its schedule, click here.

Richard Pereira is the Sports Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Rich26Pereira.