Readers from last year will remember my columns that tended to look down upon the men’s soccer team.
This year’s team isn’t providing any material for me to complain about. They’re actually winning. Aside from a 4-0 loss to the third-best team in the country, they have played exceptionally well.
Better than I thought they would. Ricardo Cardoso is well on his way to another standout year. Kevin St. John is stopping shots. Before the season, Michael DeVore decided not to return to the team due to philosophical differences with coach Adrian Bush. DeVore led the team in starts last season, leaving an experience gap in the goal.
The 3-1 record disguises a team that is playing well together and finding their groove. Last year, arguments within the team and fights on the bench tore through the chemistry of the players.
But this season, there’s a fire in this team that has been missing for years. After the 2001 National Championship, it had been all downhill. Now the team appears to be climbing back, fighting for dignity and respect.
There is a connection between Ryan Maxwell and Cardoso. Add to that the fact that Cardoso can simply take over any game he wants, and you have a recipe for success. He has taken 11 shots, with eight being on goal, in four games this year. To soccer know-it-alls, that’s impressive. Highly impressive.
Communication is key on defense. Last year’s team fought and placed blame on each other when opposing teams scored. This year’s team seems to try to pick each other up after giving up a goal. It’s a huge contribution to the team chemistry.
Looking at the stats can provide a good view of the trends the team is following. Spartans have ripped 63 shots to an opposing 35. St. John has 11 saves while Tampa shots have forced 25 saves by opposing goalies.
Hopefully the men’s team will be playing into December. The women’s team most likely will be and the volleyball team is on track to as well. Wouldn’t that be something? The cross country teams are aiming to qualify for Nationals as well. When was the last time Tampa put every team from a season into the National Championships?