Men’s soccer running toward new season

Just a few months after the World Cup, colleges across the nation are gearing up to start the season, hoping to recreate the magic the U.S. men’s soccer team had during its unforgettable run in the tournament. For the Wildcats, it’s business as usual as they plan to build on the success they have had the past few years.

As Chico State’s men’s soccer team prepares to take the field, here is an in-depth look at some of the key factors and notable games to look out for this season.

Returning players:

Third-year forward Matt Hurlow. Photo courtesy of Chico Wildcats

According to third-year player Matt Hurlow, the team will have 13 players returning, including five starters from last season.

Senior center defender Mike Janjigian. Photo courtesy of Chico Wildcats

One of the key players returning this season is center defender Michael Janjigian, a senior who was out last year due to an injury. Janjigian started all 18 matches for Chico in 2012. He also made Second Team All-CCAA and Second Team All-West Region that same year.

Junior center middle J.P. Medina. Photo courtesy of Chico Wildcats.

Joining Janjigian and Hurlow as key returners are center middles senior Justin Saul and junior J.P. Medina, as well as junior defenders Justin Walmsley and Sean Gallagher.

Hurlow emphasized the importance of the returners this year, and how they will take over for the players who left the team last season.

“The older guys are going to need to step up this year and fill the void that the old guys left when they graduated last year,” he said.

The newcomers:

The Wildcats will be working with the incoming first-years to help the team address one of the issues its been working on to get ready for the upcoming season.

The new players are going to be instrumental in assisting the team to get better at scoring, Hurlow said.

Last season, the team made 29 goals out of 273 attempts, finishing with 1.38 goals per game.

“I think something we need to fix is finishing,” he said. “We need to just finish, put the ball in the back of the net.”

Key games this season:

The men’s soccer team will work to capitalize early this season, with its first four matches at home.

“The first six or seven games this year are all at home,” Hurlow said. “Which sets us up great for playing into the tournaments, getting in, making our way through.”

In the last two years, the Wildcats have played stellar while having home field, with an overall record of 10-3-4.

One of the first games to look out for is the match Sept. 6 against Seattle Pacific University, which is the second game of the season, Hurlow said. Last year, the Wildcats beat the Falcons in two matches with a combined score of 2-0.

In their 12th game of the season Oct. 12, the Wildcats will play against rival school Sonoma State in Rohnert Park. The two teams will play against each other for the fourth time in two years.

Finally, this season the Wildcats will avenge their loss at last year’s tournament against San Diego State.

He still has the bitter taste of that loss lingering in his mind, Hurlow said.

“I definitely want to get San Diego back,” he said. “It wasn’t nice losing to them in the NCAA’s like that. Losing in the round of 16 on one (penalty kick), basically it sucks.”

That match will take place Oct. 5 in Chico.

As for the outlook of this season, he feels confident the team will be able to make a run this year, Hurlow said.

“I think CCAA’s is something we look forward to winning,” Hurlow said. “Also the NCAA. I think we can make a good run and we’ve got a good group of guys, and our practices has look solid.”

The season will kickoff Sept. 4 against Dominican University of California in Chico.

Jose Olivar can be reached at [email protected] or @jpuolivar on Twitter.