The 2019 University of Memphis men’s soccer team began their season with a dominant 4-0 win over Campbell University, their first season opening win since defeating the University of Alabama at Birmingham 1-0 in 2016. However, they ended their season opening weekend with a 4-2 loss against Wright State. Senior Ben Roberts led the team this week after notching his first goal of the year, and despite the Tigers’ sixth ranking (out of eight) in the American Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, Roberts feels the mental strength of the team will determine how the squad will play this year.

“Everyone is looking in the same direction: winning with this team,” Roberts said after the Tigers’ win versus Campbell. “It being my last year, I want to shine and go out there and get a trophy. I think it will come based on the mentality of the lads altogether. We’ll fight for [a championship].”

In addition to the mixed season opening weekend results, four players made AAC weekly honors, with Roberts named Defensive Player of the Week and Jovan Prado named Rookie of the Week. Gurman Sangha and Peter Chang both also made the Weekly Honor Roll through their efforts.

Campbell Recap

Memphis’ defense stole the show despite a four-goal barrage against the Camels, denying them a single shot throughout the match. It has been 18 years since this feat has been accomplished for the Tigers, and Richard Mulrooney, Memphis’ sixth-year head coach, was unaware of this stat until he was asked about it after the match.

“The shutout speaks for itself, and I didn’t know we didn’t give up any shots,” Mulrooney said. “It speaks highly of the team. It was an overall effort and something to build upon.”

Roberts, originally from Liverpool, England, scored on a header to put Memphis ahead, and goals from Sam Ashton, Prado and Sangha tallied the last three goals in the second half. Prado, a forward from Houston, Texas, also contributed an assist for Sangha’s goal in the match, and the newcomer hopes to achieve in his first year for the Tigers.

“I came here with big expectations and big ambitions and coming out the first game getting my first goal and my first assist is really something special to me,” Prado said. “I’ll try for [AAC Rookie of the Year], but it’s really helping the team score goals, doing my jobs and trying to get a title.”

Other notable players who recorded an assist in the game were Artur de Luca, Christoforos Kourtis and Brendan Dexter.

Wright State recap

It was a close match last Sunday, but Memphis eventually lost to the Wright State Raiders 4-2. Both teams’ goalies were on their heels as the Tigers’ Parker Lackland faced 22 shots with nine on goal and the Raiders’ Joel Sundell shot 17 with eight on goal. Chang tallied his first goal for the Tigers in the first half, giving them a brief lead. Wright State responded with two goals of their own before the half ended, and an early penalty kick goal scored by Memphis’ Sangha brought the score to a tie in the 48th minute. However, the Raiders again took the lead in the 58th minute, forcing the Tigers to go through more offensive substitutions in the final half until Stefan Rokvic sealed the Raiders’ victory in the final minute to hand the Tigers their first loss of the year.

Asked about the game loss, Chang said the early goal made his team overconfident throughout the rest of the game.

“I think after the first goal we had, we overthought it, and that brought us down once we thought [the game] was in our hands,” Chang said.

What’s next

The Memphis Tigers men’s soccer team has a pair of neutral site games in Birmingham, Ala. this weekend in the UAB Tournament. They will face the Milwaukee Panthers Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. and end with a 2:30 p.m. matchup against the Mercer Bears Sunday Sept. 7.

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