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Men’s Soccer opens regular season play:Tigers look to continue their success, return to College Cup

Contributed by Isabelle Davis

Junior defender Patrick Bunk-Andersen (3) is one of several returning Tiger players. 

On a night where the Tigers benefited from their opponents’ errors, the Clemson men’s soccer team defeated Cal State Fullerton 2-0 in their season opener.  

The offense, which usually looks lethal, did not make a impression on the game. Both of the Tigers’ goals came off miscues by the Titans. 

Senior Jason Wright capitalized on a mistouch by the Fullerton goalkeeper to open the scoring, and then Malick Mbaye converted a penalty  in the second half. 

Outside of those opportunities, the Tigers failed to create chances within their offensive third. 

While Clemson was able to maintain a lot of possession in the midfield, very few good chances came of it. 

The Tigers lost possession in attack multiple times without even getting off a shot; it almost seemed as if they wanted to take a few too many passes instead of firing off shots. 

What was particularly noticeable, given the height advantage Clemson had over the Titans, was the inability to make set pieces count. Not only did the Tigers fail to score off a set piece outside the penalty kick, most of them were not even put in dangerous positions. 

The Clemson forwards also found themselves offsides seven times, something that will need to be cleaned up as the season moves forward. Making dangerous runs is the key to getting the offense back to its usual level of intensity. 

The defense looked solid behind a good performance from junior goalkeeper Ximo Miralles. 

Despite some questionable losses of possession which put them in tough situations, Fullerton was never able to threaten on a consistent basis. While both teams had 13 shots, most of the Titans’ came from distance or set pieces, and only three were on goal. They were never able to maintain pressure in their attacking third.

The easy loss of possession by the Tigers is still a cause for concern, however, because another team may make them pay for those careless mistakes in the future. 

On multiple occasions, Clemson defenders or midfielders were caught in possession in their defensive third, giving Fullerton more opportunities than they would have had otherwise. 

The Tigers were able to recover each time and prevent disaster, but they must be more careful in the future. 

Despite these issues, there were many flashes of great defensive work that shut down most of Fullerton’s attacks. The Tigers also had 15 fouls whistled against them, though no cards were given. 

The lineup for Clemson featured many veteran players, as well as some less familiar faces. 

Wright, who scored the first goal for the Tigers, is a senior transfer from Rutgers University and was also a member of Jamaica’s U17 and U20 squad. 

While he is new to the program, he will likely be a staple in the lineup as he was a prolific goalscorer for the Scarlet Knights. In his three seasons there, he started all 57 games, scored 29 goals on top of 13 assists and was the top scorer for the team all three years. 

Wright and Diego Campos will likely be the two biggest threats up top for Clemson this season. 

Defensively, the Tigers are anchored by veterans Tanner Dieterich and Patrick Bunk-Andersen. The most significant losses for the Tigers from last year are in the midfield. With the departure of co-captain Iman Mafi, Alex Happi and Thales Moreno, the middle of the field could be expected to see a drop this year. 

However, their replacements are not new to Clemson soccer. Oliver Shannon, a senior, will be the anchor in the midfield with help from veterans Mbaye, Grayson Raynor and Michael Melvin, all of whom have significant playing experience. 

With South Carolina visiting Historic Riggs Field on Sept. 1, that will be the first major test for this squad. 

Though the Gamecocks are not ranked in the Top 25, a rivalry game can always prove dangerous. 

The Tigers will have to clean up the fouls and work harder to create dangerous opportunities in the attack if they want another chance to return to a College Cup final. 

The Tigers and the Gamecocks face off at 7:30 p.m on Sept. 1. 

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